Carrying Home in a Sheet Cake

Carrying Home in a Sheet Cake

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Amanda Saab
Jun 29, 2016

Namoora holds a special place in my heart. This sweet semolina sheet cake speckled with almonds takes me back to my grandmother’s home in Dearborn, Michigan. Each crunchy bite of cake transports me to my childhood, when I did not understand the importance this decadent treat would have on my life.

Finding Home in a Sheet Cake

Like the preparation and planning for any major holiday, Eid Al-Fitr preparations begin a few days before the actual festivities and celebrations. My family would head to the mall to purchase new outfits to wear to the mosque for the Eid prayers. My sisters, Deana and Mona, and I would carefully lay out our new dresses, tights, shoes, and accessories in anticipation of the morning to come. We would wake up extra early, usually to the sound of my mom making coffee, and get ready to head to the mosque in our new clothes. Because our community was so large, there were three different prayer times offered. We always attended the very first one to avoid the massive crowds and ensure we would have enough time left in the day to see all of our relatives, beginning with Tata.

After prayer we headed to Tata’s house. Tata would prepare an elaborate spread of manooshi (cheese bread), labne, olives, za’tar, Akawi cheese, tea, zalabiya (fried dough), ka’ak, and my favorite, namoora.

Fast forward 20 years or so, and I found myself celebrating Eid with my husband in Seattle. I felt incredibly homesick after the Eid prayer, but I had just the remedy. I knew that Tata’s namoora would take me back to my childhood and heal my homesickness.

I immediately called my Tata and asked for her recipe. She shared that she did not measure ingredients, but made the cake by feel. She provided me with some guidelines and I set out to make my first tray of namoora all on my own.

My Tata generally made the namoora in a half sheet tray, but I chose to make mine in a 9x13-inch pan to create a thicker cake. The changes I made to the recipe didn't stop there. I decided to incorporate the flavor of lavender into the namoora, as it represented a part of my new identity and life in Seattle.

Since living in Seattle, I've noticed the lavender bushes on every street corner. While in full bloom, the lavender shares its mild floral and slightly herbal scent with all those walking by, and now it lends that same flavor and aroma to the namoora I prepare.

This lavender-scented namoora now represents a new definition of home for me. At its core, it's a food of comfort and memory, representative of the happy memories of celebrating Eid Al-Fitr as a child. Today, with the addition of lavender, it continues to tell my story of home, and I'm happy to have this dish evolve and grow along with me.

Get Amanda's Recipe: Lavender Namoora

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