On Friday the Buddha’s relics went back to Paris after a year-and-a-half extended stay at Dhagpo. The fact that we got to hang on to them for so long (safekeeping while the Grand Pagoda where they stay normally underwent construction) was a blessing in itself. It doesn’t do to always want more. But I got so used to their presence. To knowing this manifestation of wisdom and physical piece of the Buddha himself was right nearby. To seeing their glittery little enclosure every Saturday, doing prostrations in the Institute and singing aspiration prayers with all the other aspiring folks. To walking quora all together and tucking some special chocolate I scoped out into the silver offering bowl.
I know the relics are technically just a manifestation, and that even if they are real, historical artifacts and extremely blessed, I can also access that blessing by connecting to the meaning whether they are here or not. But I’m not so good at that yet. And sparkly things inspire me. So, yeah, I’m gonna miss them. Loss number one for the week.
Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Shamar Rinpoche’s death (Tibetan calendar, if you’re worried I’ve lost my basic math skills). Similar to the relics, all the good he has put in place for all of us remains whether his physical presence is here or not. But it’s still hard to accept that I won’t ever get to have tea with him in his rocking chair-filled living room in Virginia or serve him his favorite French salami when he visits Dhagpo or sit in the Institute and listen to him crack jokes while he educates us all or feel the silence sweep through the hall as we sink into meditation with him. Or so many other things. Loss number two for the week.
And also, my sister called me this week in tears to tell me that she needs time. That it’s hard that we live so far apart and we believe such different things at the very basis of our choices and that our paths have diverged so greatly in our short lives despite our deep love for each other. And so we’re taking space. Reflecting each on our own without the worry of having to figure out what to share or how or what moment with a nine-hour time difference and very busy, different schedules. We’re just…waiting to see what happens. And when things are a little bit more clear, we’ll pick up—not quite where we left off, but where we need to be. And this is good, and I’m proud of us for being mature enough to know that there are things we need to figure out on our own to make our relationship work, but also…loss number three for this week.
And so I find myself grieving, but strangely, for things I have not truly lost. The strength and love we develop through our relationships stay with us, whether the people who taught us such care and resilience are physically present or not. I know this, and I have faith in this fact to carry me through the transitions. But I’m also wobbly on my feet. I’m used to having support I can connect with tangibly. All these various losses leave me only with inner strength and some fuzzy question marks about what those words even mean.
And so I’m taking cliché flower pictures because it’s springtime and I have a camera and that seems to be what there is to do. And I’m making funfetti cake because it would make both Shamarpa and my sister smile if they were here and though I’m not sure what the Buddha would think of funfetti, I think he’d approve of the togetherness and gratitude that went into this cake.
Love you guys.
Funfetti Cake With Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting
Adapted from Chef Talk’s Perfect Homemade Yellow Cake
For the cake:
2 ¼ cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
3 ½ teaspoons (17 mL) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1 ¼ cups (300 mL) milk
1 1/3 tablespoons (20 mL) vegetable oil
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla extract
1/3 cup non pareil sprinkles
For the frosting:
3 ½ ounces (200 grams) bittersweet dark chocolate
¾ cups (180 mL) half-and-half
3 ½ ounces (200 grams) crème fraîche
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F (160˚ C).
Line two nine-inch (23 cm) cake pans with parchment paper and grease them with butter.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, vegetable oil, butter, and vanilla extract and beat (gently at first or it goes everywhere!) to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine. Pour the sprinkles over the top of the batter and fold gently to combine. Don’t overdo it with the mixing at this point, or the color of the sprinkles will bleed and you’ll have tie dye cake or worse…greenish purple mush cake.
Divide evenly between the two pans and bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes or until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before filling.
For the frosting:
Chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) chunks and place in a medium mixing bowl. Heat the half-and-half until simmering in a small saucepan. Pour the half-and-half over the chocolate and let stand for five minutes. Whisk to combine; go quickly to avoid the chocolate separating. Allow to cool to room temperature. Add the crème fraîche and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat to stiff peaks.
Peel off the parchment paper from each cake layer. If necessary, cut off the domed top of the cake layers to make flat layers for stacking. Place one layer face down on a platter. Spread half the frosting over the layer. Place the next layer on top. Spread the other half of the frosting over the second layer. Voilà!