Orange, Almond, and Olive Oil Cake

There comes a time when you come to understand the red flags that your body uses to get your brain back on track.  In college, pulling all nighters was no big deal.  Coffee sweetened with Coke for extra caffeine?  No problem.  High sugar content late night drinks?  Bring it on.  Hung over?  A Sunday morning run and a Jamba Juice will cure that.

Nevermind the fact that my immune system launched a full-on missile attack of red flag warnings back then, because if I so much as noticed them, it was second nature to ignore every single one.  But I find myself wanting to savor some of the things that were probably not so important to me when I was sharing a dorm room (I can’t believe I did that for so long) and when I was more concerned with having enough time to study and drink/party/other things.

There is no doubt in my mind that I value time with my friends now just as much as I did in college.  But the gradual changes I’ve made with how I cherish and make time for myself makes me wonder – am I the same, super-extroverted girl that I always thought I was?  Back then, it was more than easy to switch on and off between the Lebanese step-dancing party goer with perfect Modern Standard Arabic to the hyper-focused student pulling all-nighters in the library before working doubles at the restaurant.  These days, I find myself much more introverted than I’ve ever been – after a day of work, I need to take an hour in my room to cure my social exhaustion. And I generally keep headphones in my ears while in public to minimize unwarranted interactions.  Not that this behavior is extreme in any way – it’s just not what I’ve ever imagined myself doing.

I guess, some things are just more important to you as you get older. For instance, how often do twenty-four year olds with full-time jobs get to wake up after 10 AM, without a hangover?  (Don’t answer this if your name is Rachel.)  Sometimes, it feels rare to sleep in, wake up fresh, and not have an obligation to running seven to ten miles before noon.  Perhaps the latter characteristic of my weekend mornings is an example of my commitment to myself, but perhaps it’s an example of the lingering self-destruction that occupied my university years.

Moral of the story – last weekend, I didn’t get enough Sarah-time.  The result?  I spent this entire week fighting off illness.  Let’s consider this a lesson learned.

On another note, just a couple of weeks ago, it snowed.  Not much, just a little to leave a little bit of a dusting before the temperature rose and the (pathetic) winter rain washed it all away.  If only it would snow on a weekday, I could probably get some time off work that I’d actually be able to enjoy! These days, I’ve gotten really into taking the time to pamper myself. That snow day helped me realize it.

Pampering.  That’s what I need.

And a manicure.  Yes, a manicure.

Orange, Almond, and Olive Oil Cake (from The New  California Cook)


1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
6 ounces whole blanched almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1.5 cups sugar
Zest of 1 medium orange, grated
Juice of that orange (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Powdered sugar
Orange slices
Homemade whipped cream


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8-inch cake pan (or line with parchment paper).  Sprinkle the sliced almonds on the bottom of the pan, and up the sides of the pan as you can.

In a food processor, grind the remaining almonds as finely as you can without turning to a paste.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, and set aside.

In a stand mixer (or a bowl that you can mix by hand), beat the eggs until frothy.  Slowly, add the sugar while beating, and mix until it is light, thick, and lemon-colored.  Slowly add the flour mixture, then the zest, juice, and oil, until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until you can poke the center of the cake with a toothpick and it comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for another hour or two (it continues to bake while it cools), then invert, and serve with homemade whipped  cream and an orange slice.

I like to whip cream at home, and sweeten with preserves instead of sugar – this cake paired perfectly with a nectarine jam given to me by a friend from Los Angeles.