The True Spirit of Giving

One of my oldest and dearest friends shared with me, Amy Chaplin's amazing Apple Cardamom Cake Recipe and now I'm sharing it with you. It's been a long time since someone made me a cake, especially with my high maintenance diet of NO gluten, sugar, or dairy. When my friend Annabelle gave me this delicious gluten, dairy, and refined sugar free cake for my birthday, I felt like someone gave me one of the most thoughtful gifts that I've ever received.


When someone gives from their heart, you can feel it. In turn, when we give from the heart, a powerful trifecta of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin zing up to our brains like little love fairies. Giving is a powerful pathway for boosting mood and improving overall health. These happiness neurochemicals aid sleep, sexual arousal, digestion, memory, learning, appetite, motivation, and decrease blood pressure and inflammation as well.


So this holiday season I asked myself, how can I give?


What came to my mind is an emotional block that I've had ever since my dad passed away four years ago in St. John’s Living Center in Jackson, Wyoming. I lost my dad right before Christmas and it broke my heart. It's still so vivid, awkwardly holding hands with my dad's football loving and kind male nurse with tears streaming down my face. It felt like a surreal out of body experience. Somehow, I pulled it together and immediately went through everything that needed to be done that evening. I arranged for the preacher to come to bless my dad's soul and I prayed for my Dad to go to the light. The last thing I wanted was for his ghost of a spirit sticking around in the sterile hallways of the care facility. Once I felt a sense that his soul was off where ever it's suppose to go, I called the mortuary caretaker to remove his lifeless body. We conscientiously shut my dad's steel cold eyes and I imagined his humorous smirk and two finger wave as he escaped his dementia riddled body and was off on his next adventure. The business like mortician and the caring male nurse lifted my dad onto a metal cart and wheeled him out of the building. I couldn't believe that this was the last time I would ever see my dad again. This is not a reality the brain wants to process. My dad's wish was for his ashes to be dispersed in the San Juan Mountains of his home, so his body was on its way to what I imagined as a huge metal furnace in the ground. I urgently packed up all his belongings before the sun rose and the daytime staff began to mill about with their morning patient check-ins. Haphazardly, I loaded everything up in my husband's pickup truck. With an unready acceptance of my new father-less fate, I hopped in the truck's passenger seat staring blankly ahead. I swore to myself in that moment, I would never go back into the Living Center ever again. I now have this emotional barrier like a force shield, preventing me from walking through the double glass doors of the care facility.

Now, four years later, I'm a mom and I wonder if I should maybe undo this painful pact in some sort of effort to let go of any of my mis-guided anger and resentment towards the care facility and hardworking staff. I obviously can't waltz into the Living Center this year even if I wanted to due to Covid, but I can take a step towards healing my wounds. After careful thought, I've decided to paint post card size paintings for the residents' rooms and thank you cards for all the nurses. The elderly residents may not be able to see any of their loved ones this year and if my Dad was still living there, I would love for someone to give him a thoughtful card or gift. A small painting may not be much, but it's something I can do and it also teaches my three year old early on, that Christmas is not about receiving, it's about giving to those who may need it most.

The cake my girlfriend Annabelle made me is a reminder that, as cliche as it sounds, we are all connected and we all want to feel our connection. Giving and receiving is how we all join together in this matrix-like invisible energy grid. It was like I was sending out radio waves to the universe, I wanted a birthday cake but I stoically abided to my recommitment of a life avoiding sugar. It was as if Annabelle was reading my mind and she came by with this amazing cake.


Here's this whole food, inflammatory Persimmon Apple Cardamom Cake recipe. This recipe is from Amy Chaplin's cookbook, Whole Food Cooking Every Day, with an additional Annabelle flare of persimmons.


Persimmon Apple Cardamom Cake Recipe:

Roasting the apples before adding them to the cake amplifies their natural sweetness. The fragrant cardamom and nutty almonds round out the wintry flavor of this warming cake.

Ingredients

TOPPING

  • 4 medium (1½ pounds) apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each (Annabelle used Persimmons instead)

  • 1 tablespoon melted extra-virgin coconut oil

  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

ALMOND CAKE

  • 2½ cups almond flour

  • 1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour

  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup melted extra virgin coconut oil

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds, roughly chopped

Preparation

For the topping:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Put the apples on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with the coconut oil and maple syrup and toss well to evenly coat. Spread out evenly and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the pan form the oven and gently turn the fruit over. Return to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, or until the apples are golden brown and tender.

3. Remove from the oven, slide the apples off the parchment onto a plate (they will stick if left to cool on the parchment) and set aside while you prepare the cake.

For the almond cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, creasing the paper against the sides of the pan as necessary.

2. Put the almond flour in a medium bowl and use your fingertips to work out any lumps. Sift in the oat flour, baking powder and cardamom and whisk to combine; set aside.

3. Beat the eggs in another medium bowl. Add the maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, almond extract and salt and whisk to combine. Pour into the almond flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula. Arrange the apples over the top and sprinkle with chopped almonds.

5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Cover any leftover cake and store for 1 day at cool room temperature or up to 4 days in the fridge; allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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