A toast to vaccination with mini cakes!

A group of “Glebe Friends Forever” celebrated their vaccinations on Zoom with bubbly, noisemakers and banana mini cakes delivered to their separate doors. Photo: Marisa Romano

By Marisa Romano

Canadians are now rolling up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Beyond the complaints about the muddled rollout, initial uncertainties about availability and hesitations about potential side effects, we can now see the light at the end of the notorious tunnel.

A group of 60-plus Glebe Friends Forever (GFF) who received their first jab in early spring celebrated the event with a Zoom jamboree, complete with bubbly in flutes and special mini cakes in hand. The virtual party was in appreciation of the gift received: the hope of a return to a pre-COVID-19 life with hugs and kisses, dinners with children and grandchildren, backyard BBQs with neighbours and travel adventures.

The term vaccine derives from the Latin word for cow – vacca. The very first one was produced by the English doctor Edward Jenner at the end of the 18th century. His vaccination was protective against smallpox, the deadly disease that had been striking human populations forever. In fact, signs of scars caused by smallpox are present on 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies. When Jenner made his discovery, the disease was still claiming lives all over the world.

Jenner inoculated people with a small amount of liquid from the pustules developed on the skin of people who contracted cowpox, a “tame pox” passed to them by cows (vaccae); hence the name “vaccine.” Cowpox proved to provide protection against the more aggressive smallpox in humans.

Vaccination became popular almost immediately after its discovery and was soon practised in many countries around the world. But it was not until 1959 that the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a plan to eradicate smallpox globally, a plan which included a mass vaccination campaign started in 1967. Ten years later, the world reported the last case of naturally occurring smallpox (in Somalia). On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly declared the world free of the disease – almost two centuries after Jenner discovered his vaccine. To date, vaccination is considered one of the major medical accomplishments, and smallpox eradication is described as “the biggest achievement in international public health”.

During the implementation of the eradication program, countries that were declared free of smallpox suspended smallpox vaccination. In Canada, inoculation of infants was halted in 1972.

On May 8, 2020, as the WHO celebrated the 40th anniversary of smallpox eradication, the world was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pharmaceutical industry was working fast to generate vaccines to contain the new deadly virus. A toast was raised at the GFF virtual celebration to recognise both events. We boomers have not only been among the first to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine – a privilege indeed – but we are also among the last who bear the coin-shaped scars left on the arm by the smallpox vaccine. It is a reminder that life-threatening viruses can be beaten and that vaccines are an essential tool in disease eradication.

This is the recipe for gluten-free banana muffins. They were crowned with the classic vanilla cream-cheese frosting and delivered to the door of the GFF just before the Zoom celebration.

Moist and fragrant, similar to carrot cake in weight and texture, these lovely muffins become very satisfying mini cakes when dressed up with the creamy topping.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods that bring people together.


gluten-free banana mini cakes

Dry ingredients:

1/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/6 cup tapioca flour – about 2½ tbs
1/6 cup potato starch – about 2½ tbs
1 heaping tbs psyllium husks
¼ tsp baking soda
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate)

Wet ingredients:

½ cup milk
½ cup applesauce or mango/applesauce
(the one-serving cups from President’s Choice)
1 tbs olive oil
1 egg, beaten
4 ripe bananas


  • Mash the bananas and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, including the chocolate chips.
  • In a small bowl, mix the wet ingredients.
  • Add mashed bananas and wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir to blend.
  • Turn on the oven to 425 degrees F and leave the muffin mixture to “rise” until the oven is preheated.
  • Once the oven is at temperature, fill the muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes.
  • Cool and top with your favourite vanilla cream cheese frosting

Notes: Chocolate chips are optional; blueberries or other berries are good alternatives. Psyllium is available at health food stores.

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