I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

Once a year I bake Grandma Smith’s sour cream coffee cake. We have it every Christmas morning. That means I’ve done it for thirty years now. (Before that my mother did)– And once a year, about this time,  I can’t find the recipe. I look through all the cookbooks that I thought I had taped the index card inside, and later (after I lost the index card) the two little desk notes I had taped together, or was it on a sticky piece of yellow legal paper? One year, after I called my mother, I scribbled it on the back of a Christmas card, that should be easy to find. Yesterday, I was in the middle of this Christmas tradition of shaking out all the cook books and digging through all the kitchen and desk, drawers, when I found a little notepaper with half of the recipe written on it. It listed the dry, but not the wet ingredients. My daughter Stoli was in the kitchen with her darling baby on her hip, waiting for me to find it so she could make our family cake in Seattle where she’ll be celebrating Christmas with her in-laws. “It has to be here,” I said, looking in the spring form pan I bake the cake in — and also only use once a year. My daughters are the bakers in the family, mostly. Anyway, by now I was frantic. Stoli said, “What cookbook is it from, can’t we just look there?”  You know, sometimes the holidays are harder than they should be. The cake was my grandmother Smith’s recipe. It came from my mother’s childhood in the small western Pennsylvania town of Ridgeway. My grandmother died decades ago. “It was my grandmother’s recipe, and she gave it to my mother and now she’s dead too, so I can’t call her,” I wailed. My husband came in the kitchen and said, “It’s just cake, don’t be so dramatic.” But it’s not just cake. It’s Grandma’s coffee cake. It’s tradition. And it’s so critical to a happy holiday that I even wrote about in Woman’s Day magazine– and they published that recipe, immortalizing Grandma Smith– and– oh! The weird and wacky joy of it!– Enabling me to google my own recipe, and find it, and print it out for Stoli, along with three other copies in case the world really ends today, which I have taped firmly into the the cookbooks I use the most. (They would be Fannie Farmer, Better Homes and Gardens, and Juneau’s Fiddlehead Cookbook.) Now you can have it too– just click here.