rules of life and a rosemary olive oil cake

August 4, 2014
rosemary olive oil text

I must admit, I cringe a little when I hear the term “inspirational quote.” Makes me think of self-help books in which a single thought is expanded out to fill an entire book when a paragraph might have sufficed. So many experts – with so little and yet so much to say…

And yet, I’m incredibly fond of literary quotations. I love that the words of so many great writers carry on and make as much sense decades, and sometimes, centuries after they were written.

So this week, when I was packing to leave to visit my mother, I ran across this quotation of J. M. Barrie and I got a little excited. (You know, Sir J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan and so many other stories, books, poems.)


Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.

~J.M. Barrie

It’s a great rule of life – maybe the best – one we could spend our whole lifetime practicing. This got me thinking about the rules of life in general. Not something we pay a lot of attention to anymore if we aren’t part of an organized religion. Of course, we can do a lot of hand waving and talking about ethics and morality and general decency and doing unto others and manners…. but really I think trying to be a little kinder than is necessary and eating well could be way up the list of rules for me. I have another new rule too – turn my computer off by 10pm. And go to bed and read….

But the rules bring me to this rosemary and olive oil cake. I found the recipe on What’s Cooking – the food blog of Amanda, an NYC lawyer and writer. Her food appeals to me – healthy, flavourful, beautiful. She eats well – one of the rules….

Her photographs are serious works of art. If you don’t believe me take a quick look at this shot of lavender and rosemary. Plus Amanda is intelligent and lovely and kind. I suspect she’s kinder than is strictly necessary. And she’s a fabulous cook. I know because I cook her stuff. Like this cake.

I made the recipe pretty much exactly as Amanda did – except I didn’t have any lavender and I used brandy instead of Grand Marnier. I did look longingly at some lavender growing in a front garden down the street but in the end – I just used my own rosemary which I grow year round in a pot. It was a gift from a good friend. This is a beautiful, moist cake which feeds a crowd and also freezes well. Don’t hesitate to use at least 1 tbsp of chopped rosemary – the flavour is not overpowering at all.

Here’s my version & thanks Amanda for all the beautiful ongoing inspiration….

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

What you’ll need: spring form pan or equivalent, whisk, grater

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar (you will likely need this even though it seems like a lot – it makes a big cake)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2+ tablespoon rosemary, chopped (I used closer to a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary)
  • large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • a splash of brandy if you have it on hand

Heat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch spring form cake pan.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and rosemary. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, almond milk, eggs, orange zest, juice and brandy. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined. It seems like a lot of liquid but don’t panic. It all works out in the end.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes – then check – and return to oven if necessary. Should bounce back when gently pressed and a cake tester should come out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours. Dredge with icing sugar. Serve it to your friends and family and if there’s any leftover – send it away with them in the spirit of J.M. Barrie.



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  • Reply Amanda August 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    What a beautiful post and a some stunning shots. I will take this as a birthday gift, as you posted this on my birthday. It’s unbelievable timing because I read your quote and thought, “wow that’s my philosophy”. It really takes an amazing amount of internal strength to be just a little kinder than necessary, but the rewards are infinite. I also agree about the wisdom of authors that transcend space and time to bring you exactly the knowledge that you need. I am so honored and flattered by your kind words and sentiments. It really is a true gift to be recognized for who you are. I’m literally so touched. Un beso. Thank you. You are a kindred spirit.

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      Happy, happy birthday beautiful Amanda! How incredible that all day long (I started this post this morning and left it – then came back) you’ve been on my mind. Synchronicity. You ARE a kindred spirit. xo

      • Reply Amanda August 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

        Thank you so much, Lindy. I’m so touched. An unexpected gift. It’s funny, my dad actually opened my eyes to the fact that “some of your online friends may be better friends than some of those with whom you spend your time.” Very prescient, Dad. 🙂 I’m so glad the cake was a hit. I too, scout out people’s landscape and contemplate trespassing and theft to get lavender and rosemary. Better to get it as a gift.

    • Reply Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs August 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      Happy Birthday! Wishing you a beautiful day!

  • Reply tinywhitecottage August 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    It is a great rule, J.M. Barrie came up with. I think it’s a good idea to occasionally ponder our personal rules of life, just to put things in perspective. And eating well is at the top of my list too! I love Amanda’s food & blog too. One of my favorites and I look forward to every post! Now I feel like making a mess of the kitchen and whipping up one of these cakes. I have everything on hand…except the brandy. Nice post Lindy. 🙂 Seana

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      This is the real reward of blogging – it isn’t just the inspiration and the food I find – but more importantly – the connections. You’d love this cake Seana – it’s a little along the lines of your honey and rosemary cake. So I also thought of you when I made this cake and put the first forkful in my mouth. I’ll spend some time tonight catching up on your world. Went fleetingly past the pea and herb salad (you salad machine!) and know for sure I will be making it this week. Just love it when you check in Seana. xo

    • Reply Amanda August 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Funny, Seana that you’d be the next to comment. Both of you have been huge inspirations to me as well, both food-wise and personally. It’s really amazing how the connections you make with people can sustain you as much as food can 🙂

  • Reply Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs August 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I love this. I’m quite fond of literary quotations myself… but can I say I’m inspired by many of them? I’m not sure.. I do know that I’m moved by so many of them, especially the quotations that I feel pertain to what is going on in my life at that given moment… Can we say that “inspired” and “moved” are the same? I don’t think so. At least I don’t think so in my simple mind…

    I like this quotation by J.M. Barrie…and can honestly say that it is inspiring… it makes me think about my actions, my attitude, my compassion…or lack there of..on all three counts. Yes, I do believe I should be a little kinder than what is necessary. I should make it a new rule for me. Thank you for that.

    And this cake… so beautiful…thank you so much for introducing us to Amanda’s blog… Just a couple of minutes visiting her blog made me know that I need to go back and catch up on what I’ve missed. Gorgeous photos… wonderful recipes. And of course, if you love her, then I love her too. <3

    Wonderful post. <3

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Prudy darling – you’re the greatest. I think you’re right about being moved versus inspired. Huge big blog love to you. xo

  • Reply apuginthekitchen August 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I love the cake, I love the quote and I love Amanda’s blog, I was sidetracked because I clicked on the link and went to her blog and saw that I was following but never get notifications of posts, hmmmmmm…. well Amanda I apologize for not ever commenting but I never got a notice, So to make a long story short I went to blogs I follow and found a whole slew of them including yours Amanda that had the notifications turned off, hoping I get your lovely posts from now on, Seana, you know I love your blog madly!!

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      SO much blog lovin’ going on. So fabulous. I am behind again though – and need to find out what you are up to Suzanne. And here it is, said I wasn’t going to be on my computer after 10pm – and it’s 10:44pm. Breaking all the rules… all the time! <3

      • Reply apuginthekitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:46 pm

        I do the same but I’m in my I phone I cheat. Lol!

        • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:48 pm

          This made me laugh. I should go straight to bed with my phone then is the real message?! ON IT…

          • apuginthekitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm

            That’s exactly what i did forever plugged in need to put it down lol

  • Reply Jennifer Smeltzer August 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    LOVE that you are using the rosemary!!! Would love to continue to cook together and share my garden!!!!

  • Reply love in the kitchen August 4, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Thanks Jen. Feeling kind of smug about the fact that my rosemary is thriving and yours is – well frankly dear – dead. I’ll share my garden it seems… xo

  • Reply Darya August 5, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Lovely post, Lindy. I also love the quotation you chose, and I’ve been able to check out for myself that Amanda IS the kindest person! Her blog is wonderful, I love her writing, the pictures, the recipes, everything. Eating well is a rule on my side of the ocean as well 🙂
    What a nice recipe to have chosen, I love rosemary and olive oil, but have yet to turn them into cake some day.

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 16, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Thanks Darya for such a thoughtful comment. And yes, you do eat extremely well on your side of the ocean! 😉

  • Reply Hilda August 7, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I often choose between lavender and rosemary, but never thought of combining the two. I would love to try this cake. And if you want some lavender, I have a lot and you are welcome to some. Just let me know. And thanks for the link to Amanda’s blog.

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 16, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hilda – what a sweet offer. Thank you. I had lavender in my last garden but this year, living in limbo, I only have a couple of patio pots on the go – and none of them with lavender. Next summer! Today it’s thyme I’m needing and I miss going to the garden to get it. On my way to the market in Kingston!

  • Reply Jalapeño Lemonade w/ Basil and Mint | What's Cooking August 7, 2014 at 11:18 am

    […] I can’t close without thanking, Lindy and all those who left such kind comments, for unknowingly making my birthday by providing me with […]

  • Reply Ngan R. August 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Beautiful cake, and ditto with all you said about Amanda! This cake looks amazing!

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 16, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Thanks Ngan! I just removed the last of this cake from the freezer when a friend came for coffee and it froze beautifully too.

  • Reply Baking With Gab August 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    This is fabulous. I also dislike inspirational quotes, they’re often trying too hard to be inspirational. Barrie manages it effortlessly. Such a great little mantra.

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 16, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Thanks Gab – and agree with you entirely. There’s a world of difference between ”inspirational quotes” and “inspiring ones!”

  • Reply dedy oktavianus pardede August 9, 2014 at 3:07 am

    Damn, the title is already seducing me!!!
    the photographs made me drolling even more……

    • Reply love in the kitchen August 16, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Had to go and look at the title again! Funny how a few years ago the idea of olive oil and rosemary in a cake would not have been so inviting. So interesting the constant evolution in tastes and cooking, isn’t it?

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