Food is Love, Love is Food.

A blog devoted to the connection between meals, memories and the special moments in our lives.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Birthday Cake For Mom: Orange, Almond, and Olive Oil Cake

If I learned to cook by watching my grandmother, I learned to squeeze every ounce of joy from life by watching my mother.  She truly enjoys life more than anyone I know.  This week she celebrated her birthday, and to watch her in action, you would never guess her age.  She goes to the gym almost every day, travels extensively with friends and family, attends plays, movies, concerts, and is in the stands at all the home games of the UCONN men's and women's basketball teams.  She volunteers her time for several worthy causes, she helps those in her community, and in my house, we couldn't live without her.  She runs my girls to many of their activities, attends their soccer or basketball games, picks them up after school from time to time, runs errands for us, stays home with the girls when they are sick.  She is like a third parent in so many ways.  She has taken her lead from her own mother, my grandmother, in terms of being intimately involved in the day to day aspects of our lives.  She lives with a vibrancy and joy that I admire greatly, and she passes it on to everyone around her.

My mother's life has not been easy; she was very sick as a child, in and out of convalescent homes until she was about 9 years old.  She survived a sickness that one of her friends did not.  She married my father, gave birth to my sister and to me, and after just 16 years of marriage, lost my father to a sudden heart attack.  She was faced with the task of raising two daughters on her own.  Like everything else she does in life, she faced her new role with grace and joy.  She did not feel sorry for herself, nor did she ever allow us to feel sorry for ourselves.  The message was clear:  life would go on, and we would be happy. My father would have wanted nothing less. Even as a kid, I marveled at her strength, and as I got older and became a wife and a mother of two girls myself, I was more and more in awe of this amazing woman.

One of the best decisions she made was to return to college, earning her Bachelor's degree while working and raising us.  She had lots of help; she knew the benefits of surrounding us with our extended family.  My grandmother and grandfather, who lived just upstairs from us, and my Nana, were always there to support us, as were our aunts, uncles and cousins who lived so close by (several on the same street!). When Mom finished school, she worked hard to put my sister and me through college, and she always managed to find time for fun.  She continued to travel, and spend time with her friends and family.  She was active in our church, starting a food pantry for families in need, volunteering her time and energy wherever she saw a need.  She continues to be willing to try just about anything, which is one of the secrets to staying youthful.

I have not often written about my mother, and the reason is this:  it is hard to find words to fully express the depth of love, respect, and gratitude I feel for this woman.  She is my mentor, my sounding board, and my friend, and I cannot find words adequate to express all she means to me, to Michael, and to my girls.

Though my mother claims not to be a good cook, the truth is that she just doesn't enjoy it.  She loves having people over, and is the very best at organizing and presenting a heck of a dinner party.  For her birthday this week, Michael and I had a dinner party in her honor.  We had several of her dear friends, and my Aunt Judy and Uncle Bobby.  Auntie Judy, my father's younger sister, has the same birthday as my mother, so it turned out to be quite a party. While my house is not nearly as immaculate and organized as my mother's, the food and especially the company were quite fabulous. I wanted to bake a cake as unique as my mom, and I stumbled across this recipe I had cut out some time ago from a newspaper.  I made a few changes, added some whipped cream, and it was delicious.  A great ending to a wonderful celebration!

Orange, Almond, and Olive Oil Cake
1/4 cup sliced almonds
6 ounces blanched almonds
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan, and spread the sliced almonds in the bottom.  Finely grind the blanched almonds in the food processor until they look like bread crumbs.  Beat the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer until frothy.  Add the sugar slowly, and beat the mixture until it is lemon colored. Add the ground almonds, baking powder, and salt.  Mix quickly, and then add the flour in slowly.  Add the orange juice, the orange zest, and the olive oil, and mix just until combined.  Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.  Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream.


  1. And...what a birthday cake/party it was! Katie/ Michael/Emmy/Anna orchestrate food preparation/presentation better than anyone I know. Mimi was Skyping her beloved Betsy, Katie, Johnny and Mike in Nome. Delicious wine for the toasting of Mimi's life of faith, hope and loving kindness to all of us. Imitation is the best form of flattery, so Katie please also take a bow! Amazing how FOOD brings out the best in all of us. YA GOTTA EAT! XOXO Ellie

  2. Mimi was SKYPING her beloved BETSY, SARAH, JOHNNY,MIKE in Nome. See what happens when you have so many beloved's. XOXO Ellie

  3. Hi!! I love your blog. There is much creativity and love what you do.