apple crumble cake.
apple crumble cake.
christmas candy & strawberry milk chai tea.
world peace.
sam & mum.

There’s a Japanese word, natsukashii, which I’m going to translate as nostalgia even though there are different words for nostalgia in Japanese and my dictionary translates it as ‘longed-for’ or ‘good old’ (as in ‘the good old days’). It’s not the right kanji, but natsu also means ‘summer’, so I think of it as ‘summer feeling’; like the summers you always remember as sunny, even if they weren’t, and the places you hung out with your friends and how entirely secure you felt in their love for you, and how nothing mattered. And how you know it probably wasn’t like that, really, but that’s how it’s going to be in your head, and that’s what you’re going to look back on and ache privately for. That’s what ‘summer feeling’ means to me (although I disclaim that my Japanese is at a level of moderate suck, so I can’t guarantee that that’s actually what natsukashii means). And that’s how I feel now, except perhaps the Christmas equivalent.

I’ve never actually spent a Christmas without my family before, and this is probably one of those parts of growing up that people forget to mention in the grand scheme of thing, but are quietly adding up to make you feel very young and very old at the same time. Suddenly, the last twenty feel more important, like it’s absolutely crucial that I wake up at 4am and read the same book while my heart flutters with excitement for three hours until we’re allowed to open our stockings, and it’s absolutely crucial that my sisters and I then all crawl onto and into my mum’s bed and show her our treasures and she acts like she’s totally never seen this shit before in her life seriously omg Christmas magic. The Aga runs cold from acting as turkey life support over an extended period of time. My aunt brings a plastic bag of meticulously cut carrots that look like she’s used a ruler (she probably has). The moment we’ve finished eating, my uncle says, well, that’s that all over for another year! and we boo and throw cracker toys at him. I’m in charge of dessert; there is a small delay between courses because I just have to photo this okay don’t judge me. We take the dog out in the afternoon, bellies full, and then watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. The fire is on. There is more cake, because there is never enough cake.

This year, I don’t know. And that’s not to say that I’m emo-ing it up over here and I’m gonna spend the whole day sobbing into a stocking and refusing to talk to anyone, but it’s the not-knowing that throws me off. Or perhaps it’s the knowing-what-I’m-missing. Or perhaps it’s as simple as homesickness: not the flailing and bawling I-need-my-mum type, but the quiet, things-are-different type. It’s the uncertainty that comes from celebrating with friends who aren’t quite friends yet – potential friends, yes, and lovely people – and it’s all a little personal and awkward but you don’t have anyone else around.

I think what it really means is that this is the first Christmas of my life that I'm supposed to be an adult for.

Whatever, man, whatever. I can rock adulthood. I can make vegan pound cakes for my new neighbours (I have new neighbours!) and write Christmas cards in Japanese for my colleagues (I have colleagues!). And when all else fails I can dance around in front of the heater in pyjamas to Christmas music and talk to myself an absolutely obscene amount (I TALK TO MYSELF SO MUCH, OMG. IS THIS A PROBLEM? I GENUINELY DON'T KNOW), and generally do things that I wouldn't do socially. Because there will still be the Doctor Who Christmas special. And there will still be cake. And it will still be Christmas.

Apple Crumble Loaf Cake
makes two 9x5" cakes

for topping:
40g (1/3 c.) dark brown sugar
60g (1/3 c.) caster sugar
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp salt
120g (1 stick) vegan margarine, melted
250g (1 3/4 c.) plain flour

In a large bowl, whisk sugars, lemon zest and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

for filling:
1 c. diced apple (this was two apples for me)
30g (1/4 c.) brown sugar
60ml (1/4 c/) apple juice

I stewed this together until soft and gave it a whiz in the food processor, but this one's your call: if you like chunks you can, of course, leave it chunky; and if you live in a place where you can buy apple butter, that would be the dream (I have modest dreams) (I also don't have apple butter). Alternatively an apple jam would be nice.

for cake:
280g (2 c.) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g (3/4c.) white sugar
65g (1/2c.) light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
120ml (1/2c.) vegetable or coconut oil
120ml (1/2c.) soy milk with 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
120ml (1/2c.) apple juice

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

Whisk the first four ingredients together in a large bowl, then add in both sugars. Make a well in the centre of your dry mixture, and tip in the wet ones (you could stir the liquid ingredients together in a separate smaller bowl first, if that's your thing, but what's the point in washing an extra bowl?). Fold together, but don't overmix. It needs to be a fairly sturdy cake to handle filling and topping.
Pour the cake mixture into two lined 9x5 loaf tins, then spoon the apple filling/apple butter/jam over the top, fairly generously. Don't be tempted to stir it around because you don't want it to sink. Using your fingers, break up the thick dough of the topping into big crumbs, and sprinkle this over the top. Try not to eat it all. I know it's hard.
Bake at 180C for around 40 minutes (your mileage may vary as my loaf tin was not a standard size, but slightly longer and thinner); you should be able to stab it with a knife or cocktail stick without it coming out covered in cake mix (obviously, it's okay if it comes out covered in apple stuff). Allow to cool on a rack before eating.


  1. I love your photos and writing. This strikes me everytime I read your blog but there's no harm in telling you over and over again, right?

    I'm sure you're going to do just fine as an adult this Christmas. When I was 19 I just said fuck it and left Sweden for Berling over the holidays with my then boyfriend. We had vegan hamburgers for christmas dinner and hung out at the hostel eating jelly beans, and it was a great Christmas. I feel like Christmas as an adult makes for other memories than as a child, but not necessarily worse. Happy Holidays Anna.

  2. I LOVE YOU.
    that is all I have to say.

  3. Merry Christmas!!
    If all else fails watch A Muppet Christmas Carol and imagine lots of hugs from me :D.

    Also its fine to talk to yourself, I do it in my flat too.



© papillon.Maira Gall