In which my Dissertation Invades my Cake

Milena’s Cooking Adventures

Happy New Year!

And deepest apologies for such a delay in posting. I’ve been settling into living in France, diving through layers and layers of bureaucracy, meeting new people, making new year resolutions, and generally setting up my little nest here. As 2019 reveals itself, I thought I’d look back at the past, back when my dissertation was devouring my life to such a point that I decided the only way to fight back was to bite back. Literally. Don’t worry, you’ll understand soon enough. Keep up.

I was heading to a community meeting, so I thought I’d make my favourite banana bread recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen). I had a cute heart-shaped pan, and then it came out looking so adorable I thought, why not add frosting and make it into a little cake? One thing led to another.

I frosted it…


made some fondant roses…


I got out a piping bag for leaves…



grabbed some decorations I had lying around…



And before I knew it, I was looking at a cake that was coquettish and charming.



And looked… so incredibly familiar.

20171103_201207 copy

I stared at it for a while.

20171103_201207 copy 2

I stared at it a bit more.

20171103_201207 copy 3

Then I went back to my research. About five minutes later it hit me why it looked so much like something I had seen before. Somewhere in the process of choosing frosting colours and aligning golden pearls and making fondant roses, the ballet I had been studying (the Ballets russes’ Le Pavillon d’Armide from 1909) had so thoroughly entered my head that it emerged in unconscious cake form.

Blue frosting? Golden pearls? Leaves? Yup, I had recreated Alexander Benois’s ballet costumes and sets in cake form.



I was eating my dissertation. And it was damn satisfying, I have to say.

Since I had leftover batter and frosting, I decided to make some cupcakes too, in a more usual style for me. “Usual style for me” equals a lot of dragons, naturally.


I brought them to the community meeting, where other people helped me eat not only the dragons, but also my dissertation.

It was probably, come to think of it, some grand metaphor about getting others to help you break down and digest your larger problems.

But I have to be honest: I was too busy eating cupcakes to get the message.


Eating My Dissertation: Another Banana Bread Variation

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3-4 ripe bananas, thawed (see my previous advice on using frozen bananas)
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 TBS bourbon (or 1 TBS amaretto if you prefer it sweeter/don’t like bourbon)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Mix butter into mashed bananas and hulk smash em all
  3. Mix in sugar, egg, almond extract, bourbon/amaretto, and spices
  4. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in
  5. Add flour, mix
  6. Pour into greased loaf tin or muffin tins
  7. Bake muffins for 20 minutes, then keep checking till done; bake loaf for 50 minutes-1 hour.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool entirely. Then frost as you will.

Marshmallow Fondant for forming little dragons, flowers, etc. (see recipe at Bigger Bolder Baking); stay tuned eventually for a How-To on forming fondant flowers and dragons. ^_^

Frosting Note: This particular frosting recipe was not my favourite, so I’ve left it out– I’d recommend using your favourite buttercream recipe, preferably one that includes amaretto or rosewater. I used rosewater frosting with just a hint of rosewater for this recipe, which goes very very well with the bourbon or amaretto banana bread.


Published by


I'm a PhD student in Musicology (what is musicology? Yeah, I get that all the time...) who manages her stress in healthy ways that definitely don't involve starting to bake at midnight, finishing at 4am, then remembering all the writing she has to do and eating cookies to cheer herself up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s