Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Summer has arrived, swiftly warning me of its brutality.

Today is my day off — I didn’t have much planned except for yoga this evening, but Kristen invited me to speak to her 6th and 7th graders about having a career in art. While one class seemed more interested in knowing if I knew “how to hack” or not (I told them that Google knew every single thing they did on the internet, so it was in their best interest to not hack), some students were genuinely interested in learning more about art and design.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

I sure wish I had someone to talk to about careers in creative when I was younger! My newspaper advisor in high school (now a client!) was always supportive of my want to pursue design as a career, but being part of a family who only cared about finance made art school impossible.

It’s weird, isn’t it? I have friends working in almost every industry that exists. Some whose parents are creatives and encouraged creative careers — some of that backfires and sometimes it works. There seems to be a delicate balance. My parents strongly (forcefully) encouraged me to pursue finance and accounting. Sophomore year of college, I took an accounting class, and was doing pretty well. I hated every minute of every econ class I ever took, and I went into that accounting class with an A. But halfway through the final, I thought to myself, why the hell am I here? I hate accounting. I refuse to ever take another accounting class again.

So I walked out of the final exam. I got a C.

My dad wanted to kill me, but I knew I had made the right decision. It was the decision to choose my own courses, and to finally stop letting my parents dictate what I wanted. Back then, I wanted to be a CIA operative. I started taking Arabic classes, and I excelled. My parents rolled their eyes.

And don’t get me wrong, I loved my college experience, and my Arabic wasn’t bad — I had a couple of job offers for career paths close to being a CIA operative (but not quite the real thing). And I liked it, but there’s just no comparison to how much I love what I do now. I don’t think time was wasted, per se, but man, twenty-seven year old Sarah would loooove to travel back to 2004 and whisper some advice to high school Sarah. It wouldn’t be to specifically go to art school, but it would have been to stop letting my parents scare me into a career that I didn’t want.

Instead of the year and a half of economics classes for the business major, I could have been taking illustration and design. I can take those classes now, but sometimes, I wish I had a better base.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Of course, the grass is always greener. Who knows, if I went to art school when I was an undergrad, the recession could have killed any marketing budgets that could have funded a budding career — especially in Los Angeles.

It’s one of the many reasons why I love talking to kids about my job. I tell them about how I always loved art and creativity, and that I was somehow able to make it my full-time job, and that these days, it’s much easier to find work in creative than it was ten years ago. And half of the interesting stuff lies in the fact that I didn’t go to art school. I technically didn’t have to go to school at all. But it shows that you don’t need a degree in whatever the rest of your life will be spent doing.

And when the kids ask me how many hours I spend working, it’s always shocking to add it up and tell them sometimes up to 70 hours a week. I can see their eyes bug out, but I always supplement it with telling them: You know, if you’re lucky enough to really love your work, it won’t always feel like work. Which is true. Now, if I could just turn writing this blog and making yummy treats my full-time job. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it?

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries, adapted from Diana Rossen Worthington


3/4 cup hazelnuts, finely ground
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Zest of half a lemon

1 pint fresh blueberries, cleaned and picked over
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Mint sprigs, for garnish


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, walnut meal, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork, and set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the sour cream and lemon zest. Slowly add the dry ingredients (I have this thing to keep my KitchenAid mixer from spraying flour all over the counter) and mix until just blended.

Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Pour the blueberries into a baking dish or cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter, and stir to combine. Roast them in the oven until the blueberries are about to burst — about 10 minutes.

Serve each slice of cake with a spoonful of roasted blueberries, and garnish with mint (optional) if you like.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are few things I love more than I love salt. There are few things that I love without salt — or any sort of seasoning.

Tomatoes. Avocado. Watermelon. Toast. Pasta.


Salt enhances the basics. Like my friend Angela says, salt is the one thing that makes everything else taste more like itself.

In my earlier days as a semi-serious runner, I quickly discovered the consequences of electrolyte imbalances in your system. The three main ones you need are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Deficiencies or imbalances between the three, combined with dehydration, caused excruciating side stitches for me — and my uncle taught me to keep bananas and magnesium supplements close by.

Sodium, well, we generally get a little too much of that in our diets as Americans.

Too much, yes, I guess there is such thing as too much sodium. But that doesn’t really stop me.

The combination of saltiness and sweetness when you salt chocolate is a flavor unlike any other I know — the chunks of salt accentuates the sugar in the chocolate. It’s crack-like. Not that I know what crack is like.

Knowing I am easily addicted to activities and substances, I should walk with caution. But for everyone else’s benefit, apply salt generously.


Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from the New York Times recipe

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
t teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 pounds milk chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Coarse sea salt (pictured: Parisian gray salt) for garnish


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars with the whipping attachment, until light and fluffy. Add each egg one by one, and then combine the vanilla extract.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients: both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until evenly mixed.

Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar mixture — I broke the batch into thirds, making sure each third of the dry ingredients was fully incorporated before adding the next third.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, mix in the chocolate chunks and the pecans by hand.

Roll the dough into 1.5 inch pieces, and give a few inches between each piece on your baking sheet for spreading. Sprinkle a few chunks of your salt on each cookie.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown.