baking california life sweets

Poppyseed Cake

17 December 2018

As it happens, I made this simple yet luscious poppyseed cake almost a year ago on a sweltering Sydney afternoon and I’m finally getting to posting it. It’s a lovely holiday treat, baked as a cake, muffins, or as a loaf — mini loaves, if you feel like sharing with friends or neighbors. The crunch of the poppy seeds is balanced by the soft richness of the cake, and you could top it with a cream cheese frosting although I liked it very much plain. Tea is appropriate and of course, coffee. Something that has stuck with me throughout my many international moves is a love for coffee. (And also, a cup of Irish breakfast tea on long-feeling afternoons.)

This morning my view is of fog-shrouded redwood trees and our overgrown yard rather than towering gum trees and a perfectly manicured square of lawn. Not better, just different. And while it’s been over four months since we left Australia I do have moments where I miss it very much. I miss being able to walk to everything “essential” (i.e. parks, grocery store, library, school). I miss the warmer Pacific and I definitely miss flat whites. I think we’ve left a bit of ourselves in each country and home we’ve attempted to make our own during these last five years (only five years!) and there will always be a bit of a wistful ache for those places and those particular times of life. Yes, I even feel nostalgic for my ant-infested house in Casablanca, as challenging as those months were. We all (save Elsie, she was too little) miss Riyadh, which I know perplexes most Americans when I share this (like that country, it’s complicated!). And Australia, though we lived there so briefly, is indelibly marked for me by warmth and coffee.

What a gift we were given to be able to live overseas, to really live there and dip a toe into the nuances and minutiae of daily life. What a gift to appreciate the conveniences of America and how much we truly have here. What a gift to be settled now, to let time stretch ahead without a looming move or major international travel, to cut down an imperfectly perfect Christmas tree for our first American Christmas as a family of four. Three years ago I found out I was pregnant with Elsie — and thus entered into the interesting experience of navigating the Saudi health system –; two years ago we celebrated the fairly dramatic cooling of desert temperatures for a brief respite; last year we swam at Sydney harbour beaches and baked cookies with the air conditioner running. We’ve cookies on the agenda for this week, and poppyseed cake, and it will be the new year before we know it. Make plenty of time for cake.