A long time struggle of my has been around clarity and prioritization. When I was very young, my dad posed a question to me, my sister and brother which illuminated this issue very clearly. He asked – “would you rather be good/very good at 10 different things or the best of the best at 1 thing?” (I have already mentioned I am not particularly good at these “would you rather” questions anyway…). Kyle, Caleb, and my dad all agreed unequivocally that it was better to be the top performer in one area. For me, it wasn’t that simple and I refused to accept that those were the only two options. So I remember very clearly insisting that I wanted to be the best at 10 things. I think my dad probably laughed, but realized that this is indicative of a much larger theme throughout my life and one that is wrought with a myriad of pros and cons. Life is full of tradeoffs or decisions which can be challenging and often the attainment of one thing, quality or option results in the exclusion of another. It’s what economists call an opportunity cost – when one alternative is chosen, others are lost.
Tradeoffs are apparent in all aspects of our lives. If we choose to go out for dinner and vacations frequently, we reduce the amount of money available for saving. If we choose to read the book, we might not have time to go to the gym. Although we may want to sleep more, we also want to spend more quality time with our significant other. And it is important to acknowledge that many, if not most, times the two values in competition are both important or worthwhile pursuits. When we face conflicting goals and need to make a decision about which value to honor it can be agonizing if not paralyzing. In fact, our inability to manage the situation can potentially result indecision or inaction, which of course in and of itself, is actually a decision to do nothing. Therefore, it is paramount that we devote the necessary time, energy and effort to clearly articulating our values and expectations for ourselves if we want to make the best decisions to support our highest ambitions, aims, ethics, and ideals.
Yesterday Jon and I celebrated our two year anniversary. As I said when we became engaged, sometimes in life it can be difficult to discern whether you are taking the right path or making the best decision or where you really need to be. Deciding to get married, plan the wedding in such a compressed time frame and move to Ireland was not one of those times. I met Jonathan within the first two weeks of moving to New England and we never looked back. I am beyond thankful him everyday – he strengthens me, challenges me, make me laugh and has taught me what unconditional love looks like. Choosing to pursue our relationship and him as my teammate, best friend, love and top priority is something I never regret.
The decision to accelerate the wedding planning process to only five weeks was stressful and meant that we didn’t end up with the prettiest reception venue I have ever seen, we didn’t have engagement photos taken, and we didn’t send out save the dates. I didn’t get to go wedding dress shopping with my mom and sister or interview bands or deejays. But without a doubt, in this case we kept the main thing, the main thing. With crystalized clarity of what was really important, we maximized the time and resources we did have available and worked to ensure the most important things were in place. We spend nearly all our free time on preparations and asked for help. And everyone was incredibly generous with their time and willingness to jump in and do whatever needed to be done. Any time I reflect on our wedding I am overwhelmed by my feelings of being incredibly blessed and loved by the many close friends and family that made last minute arrangements to be there and to help in any way possible to make our day a dream come true. It was clear and deeply moving to see that this was a priority for them.
As we planned the wedding, I knew there was another decision to be made which presented two presumably conflicting values – the desire to have a traditional wedding cake and my desire to eat healthfully. Thankfully, there was no major tradeoff here. I have extreme clarity in what I choose to eat and what things or events which are worth making an exception for. I wanted a cake of course, but I didn’t want the usual sugar, gluten, and dairy laden version. So I made my own paleo chocolate wedding cake which was decorated by my incredibly talented mother and enjoyed by all. And now it has become a wedding anniversary tradition for me to bake this cake in celebration and reflection of each year spent together (although as you will see below, I could probably use some more help with my own frosting technique!)
- Raw Cacao Powder 1 cup (100 g)
- Almond Flour 3 cups (285 g)
- Coconut Flour .25 cup (28 g)
- Coconut Sugar .5 cup (75 g)
- Baking Soda 2 TSP
- Salt 1 TSP
- Eggs 3 each
- Honey 2 TBSP
- Melted Coconut Oil .5 cup (120 ml)
- Full Fat Coconut Milk 1 cup (225 ml)
- Full Fat Coconut Milk 13.5 oz (400 ml)
- Honey 2 TBSP
- Fresh Raspberries 1 cup (125 g)
- Raw Cacao Powder .25 cup (25 g)
- Raw Cashews 1.5 cup (225 g)
- Melted Coconut Oil .25 cup (60 ml)
- Full Fat Coconut Milk .5 cup (120 ml)
- Honey .25 cup (85 g)
- Lemon Juice 3 TBSP
- Sea Salt .5 TSP
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and lightly grease two 8" round baking pans with melted coconut oil - coating the bottom and slides
- Mix together all the dry ingredients (cacao powder, almond flour, coconut flour, coconut sugar, baking soda and salt) in a mixing bowl
- Then mix together all the remaining ingredients (eggs, coconut milk, coconut oil, and honey) whisking well.
- Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet with a rubber spatula. You want everything to be well incorporated, but not overmixed.
- Pour the cake batter into the pans, splitting evenly between the two and bake for about 30 minutes or until done as confirmed by a clean toothpick inserted into the center. If it's not done in 30 minutes, keep a close eye, checking every minute or so to avoid overcooking and dry cake.
- Once finished transfer to wire racks and allow to cool.
- Add the coconut milk and honey to a small saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil
- Reduce the heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 1 - 1.5 hours or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
- Once thickened and slightly golden in color, mix in the raspberries and cacao powder, whisking well to incorporate
- Transfer to refrigerator to allow to cool completely.
- Begin by soaking the cashews in a bowl with just enough water to cover for at least four hours or up to overnight. Ultimately, the longer you soak them, the creamier the final result will be.
- Drain the cashews and add to a blender or food processor with the other ingredients, blending on high until completely smooth and creamy.
- Transfer to a bowl and place in the freezer for about 1.5 hours to allow to firm up.
- Then remove from freezer and whisk the frosting to whip it and use right away.
- Place the first cake on a serving dish and then carefully spread the chocolate raspberry filling over the top.
- Place the second cake atop the chocolate raspberry filling and then frost with the cashew whipped frosting. It should be the same consistency and texture as a more traditional buttercream frosting and relatively easy to work with. I have little to no experience frosting cakes and thus the reason my technique and final presentation leaves something to be desired.