What I learned about Valentine’s Day, I learned in kindergarten.


Growing up, there was no Valentine’s Day in our Punjabi household. What my parents knew of Valentine’s Day they learned mostly from what my siblings and I shared with them. I remember the time spent in class leading up to the Big Day filled with making Valentine’s Day cards for all my classmates, and adorning the classroom with red and pink heart-shaped decorations. Valentine’s Day was about sweet treats and telling your peers that they were nice.

During high school, Valentine’s Day and all its hoopla evolved into a very important holiday for my friends – it was all about romantic relationships, high school dances and long-stemmed red roses. It was saccharine, cliched “Hallmark holiday-ness” at its finest.

I did my best to not feel pressured to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the conventional way. I didn’t expect my significant other to shower me with gifts and make grand, affectionate gestures. Instead, I tried to focus on taking a moment to show loving appreciation not only for my significant other, but for all my loved ones: parents, siblings, grandparents and girlfriends included. Today, that still stands.

I treat February 14 as a “love day” – like any other day, with a little extra sweetness added. If you choose to exchange cards and gifts and/or have a special date night on February 14, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whatever way you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Valentine’s Day, make sure your celebration comes from the heart.

A simple “I love you and thanks for everything you do for me” can go a long way too (try it!). You can say it with a hug… or with a cake! My mom always baked cakes. She didn’t get too fancy, usually using a box cake mix and adding her own flavours, like walnuts, slivered almonds, banana, poppy seeds, lemon or chocolate chips. She’d mix up several recipes, but her tried-and-true signature cake was a vanilla walnut cake. It was a great treat, especially when I was invited to help her make it.

In honour of “love day” and as an ode to my mother, one of my most cherished relationships, here is my version of her walnut vanilla cake.

walnut cake

Cardamom, Banana and Walnut Loaf Cake

3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Butter or baking cooking spray

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter  (or use a baking cooking spray) a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, except the walnuts. Then, combine everything together.
  3. Once combined, add in 3/4 cup of the walnuts and the chocolate chips and gently fold in the ingredients. Pour the mixture in your prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top.
  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The cake is ready when you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on the rack before serving.

I like my cake without frosting but if you’d like to indulge, check out this basic whipped frosting recipe or this cream cheese frosting recipe. You can also use my recipe for choco-cado pudding as a frosting – the thick consistency of the pudding works well and it’s a healthy alternative.

*The basic foundation of this recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Banana Bread


the Menu is Jugni Style’s lifestyle column written by Naveen Atwal, bringing you details on what to eat and how to make it. Plus tips on entertaining like a pro – or at least pretending you are!