This week I launched happily and (somewhat) gracefully into a new year.
25. A quarter of a century.
While I have never been and never hope to become one of those people that hates birthdays, I also have in recent years tried not to expect too much from them. I mean, nothing can beat having a pirate-themed birthday party when you are 4 and get to decorate your own wooden treasure box filled with candy. Even so, Wednesday may not have been a bang of a birthday, but it exceeded my expectations in that warm, soft and fulfilled way that life seems to be bringing me joy lately.
Slices of the Birthday Day.
-Early morning writing, scribbling thoughts and reflections about birthdays past. Coffee frothed with coconut, guiding M through making pancakes with apples and honey, since he wouldn’t let me lift a finger to help. Breakfast in the quiet, filtered 7am sunlight.
-Teaching a morning barre class- energy spikes, a playlist of favorites, and a group of women whose determination is infectious.
-Simple lunch-in-a-bowl, followed by an afternoon of baking up one of the best cakes I have made in a long time, listening to glistening words of wisdom back and forth with music that moves me. Solo kitchen dance parties are one of the necessities of life, in my world.
-Present to myself- a large bouquet of flowers. Freshly unfolding lilies wafting through the apartment.
-Sporadic messages, texts and hellos from lovely souls around the world. Feeling connected, oh so lucky and thankful for the internet in this moment.
-One more class with my kids at the conservatory, getting them to unleash their show-time-faces that I know exist underneath that teenage shyness. More dance parties ensue.
-Back home to the comfort of kneading fresh whole-wheat pizza dough and a quick run-through of making the house presentable with M before we gather several of my favorite people around the living room for a glowing evening.
-Bubbling laughter, sweet + minty tea, piles on piles of pastries, sweets, slices of homemade pizza with cheese melting down the edges, wedges of cake disappeared within seconds and blissful sugar-induced comas to follow.
I am not going to write one of those lists of 25 pieces of wisdom that I have learned in 25 years (like I did when I turned 20), because, honestly, the biggest thing I have learned this year is to admit and accept that I am not yet fully wise and still have so much to learn. However, I have begun to see this as something beautiful. What is the rest of life if not for learning? Through experiences, people, places, and constant self-education, I want to be open to it all. Instead of listing things I already know, I am focusing more on birthday wishes for what I hope to know.
I was listening to an interview with Carlo Rovelli on the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett last week, talking about physics and the tiny wonders of the world, and he said at one point that “a human being is not a thing, it is a happening.” Rovelli explained that he believes the world is not made up of things in general, it is all about happenings. The experiences. The moments lived. If this is not something to take deeply to heart on my birthday, I don’t know what is.
Inadvertently, I have been talking a lot about mindfulness lately, so it seems fitting that this awareness of experience, valuing moments and the people with whom we share them, is one of the main wishes for my 25th year. I hope for this to be a year of learning more how to view myself and others as happenings, not as face-value objects. Deepening compassion, gratitude, communication and the enjoyment of the smallest pleasures. I'll admit I may have a lot of big events coming up already this year (news to come soon), but I am determined to experience them to their fullest and not take any opportunity for granted. Live the happenings.
Notes on Cake
Now technically cake is a material thing, but the process of putting your heart and soul into baking something delicious and sharing that love with some of your favorite people? That, my friends, is a happening.
This year I was craving a rich, mind-blowing chocolate cake, but perhaps something with a little twist. As a result, I found my spirit food. This cake recipe is perfection and the mocha buttercream swirled with smashed fresh raspberries is a revelation (if I can say that oh-so-humbly). It satisfies every craving at once and I am sure is going to be my new go-to cake recipe when I need to impress or show someone some love. Because, not to be overdramatic, but this cake is exactly what I imagined pure love could taste like.
Raspberry Mocha Cake
Makes one 2-layer 10-12" round cake
For the Cake
I used Michelle at Hummingbird High's One-Bowl Chocolate Cake recipe and it was fabulous. Because it is basically perfect the way it is, I won't repost the whole recipe here, but I did make a few adjustments. First off, I doubled the batter to fit my awkwardly-large round cake pans and it was perhaps a bit thinner than I wanted, but still made a nice layer cake. I also subbed in full-fat plain unsweetened yogurt for sour cream. If you need a solid, moist, full-flavored chocolate cake recipe, this is it, you guys.
For the Frosting
I also used Michelle's Mocha Frosting recipe as a base, but made more than a few adjustments so here is my adapted recipe:
- 70g (2.5 oz) chopped dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp instant coffee
- 1 cup (225g) softened butter
- 1/3 cup (75g) cream cheese
- 3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
In a double boiler, melt together the chocolate and instant coffee, whisking consistently. Once it is smooth, remove from heat and let cool for at least 5 minutes. In the meantime, with an electric mixer, whisk together the butter and cream cheese, then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until it's fluffy and spreadable. If it's too soft, add a bit more powdered sugar or let it sit in the fridge for several minutes, taking it out to stir occasionally.
Frost the cake immediately once it is completely cooled. Begin with the first cake round, spreading a thick layer of frosting evenly on top. Smash 3/4 of your raspberries in a small bowl with a fork, leaving some just to decorate the top. Spread half of the smashed berries on top of the first layer of frosting before placing the other cake half on top. Spread the remainder of the buttercream around the edges and evenly across the top. Dollop the rest of the smashed raspberries, then swirl with a smooth knife in whatever pattern you like. Decorate the edges with remaining berries. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge until the guests arrive.
Slice it up, share + delight.