Always pushing on . . .

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream, Smashed Heath Bars, and Salted Caramel Sauce.
Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream, Smashed Heath Bars, and Salted Caramel Sauce.

Given a cappuccino or maybe a Manhattan and a comfortable enough chair, I could get philosophical about cakes for hours. I could use blocks of cake and spatulas of frosting to build all kinds of metaphors about why we settle for things like bakery cakes full of lard and artificial colors and flavors for our happiest occasions instead of wanting the real thing, made with honest ingredients. I could pontificate about why the artificial and falsely sweet are more common than the more elegant, softer sweetness that a humble, artifice-free life offers.  I could–and have–talked about how our tastes and character sheds light on our tastes and preferences for dessert. If you let it, dessert can tell you a lot about life.

Thankfully, there is one way in which cakes are not like life. With cakes, there comes a time when you need to stop beating the batter, put down that spatula, embellish no more. There comes a time when, if you continue to mess with the frosting, pipe more designs, sprinkle more sprinkles, you run the risk of making a beautiful thing look like the physical manifestations of the musings from a madman’s mind. You can only do so much, and then you are done.

In life however, that is not so. In life, while it is permissible–and required!– that we rest from time to time, it is imperative that we never stop. We must never stop asking ourselves to be better, kinder, wiser. We must never settle and stop asking ourselves to change and evolve. April is someone who knows that. April is someone whose soul is not restless, it’s moving. April is not the same person today that she was yesterday, or last month, or 2 years ago, because she is always reaching down the path toward a being a more loving, compassionate, and engaged person, toward a better understanding of our world, deeper relationships, and a more enriching life as an engaged community member.

Glittering, sparkling crystals of pink Himalayan salt dust the top of the cake, harmonizing and brightening the sweet lusciousness of the caramel buttercream.
Glittering, sparkling crystals of pink Himalayan salt dust the top of the cake, harmonizing and brightening the sweet lusciousness of the caramel buttercream.

When she asked me to make a cake to celebrate her husband’s completion of his MBA, it was therefore so fitting. What a delight to make a cake to help a family celebrate a joint accomplishment, embarked upon at a time of life when many of us are sighing and saying, meh, this will work. A cake that helps celebrate pushing for more as an individual and as a family because certainly, when a parent goes back to school, it’s something that requires the full support and team effort that a loving family can provide.

Asking ourselves to aspire to perpetual growth, whether as an individual or a family, is no joke. It requires constant examination and reexamination of our choices and decisions. It requires a laying aside of the ego because part and parcel with honest examination comes a readiness to admit failure and missteps. But if you elect to take on a quest like this, the reward is so great. Your kids see that one should never become complacent or afraid of change. Your family is bonded together by weathering storms of bad days and basking in the sun of good days. It sets a pattern and a family culture that knows the difference between a restless soul and a moving, searching, growing, learning soul . . . and that’s a lovely thing indeed.

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