On the Northern California coast, chef Jeffrey Reilly calls on the local abundance of ingredients to create a versatile cake made with a surprising ingredient
Cupcakes are so last season. This year, foodies in all corners of the country are tuning into the possibilities of olive oil cake—yes, you read that right—and Jeffrey Reilly, executive chef of the Duck Club Restaurant at Bodega Bay Lodge on the Sonoma County coast, is doing his part to introduce diners to this savory yet slightly sweet treat.
Reilly couldn’t help creating this recipe—which can be served during or after a meal—given his base in Northern California. “Sonoma County has more olive oil producers than any other county in the state of California,” he says. In addition to relying on olive oil to add flavor to appetizers and entrees like grilled asparagus salad and pan-roasted local halibut, Chef Reilly decided to spread the goodness throughout the entire menu, including dessert.
He adds that the odds are good that he’ll continue to look for other innovative ways to use olive oil in the coming years, regardless of foodie trends. “A number of Sonoma Valley wineries are designating portions of their properties to growing olives for oil, which makes better use of the land, since grapevines and olive trees have opposite seasons,” he notes.
In fact, his location on the Northern California coast can’t help but inspire him every day from the moment he steps into the kitchen to focus on his particular niche—what he refers to as “full-flavor comfort foods.” Reilly works closely with organic family farmers, ranchers, and artisan cheese producers in the region, which results in a steady supply of local sustainably farmed produce, fresh seafood, and savory meats.
When it comes to olive oil, Reilly is like a kid in a candy store, despite the fact that the “candy” may show up earlier than expected in the meal.
California Olive Oil Rosemary Cake: serves 4
¾ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. yellow cornmeal
½ c. California extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
⅔ c. milk
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh rosemary
¾ c. sugar
⅓ c. honey
¾ tsp. salt
Additional rosemary sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil and flour a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal. In a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil, lemon zest, and rosemary until well blended. Add sugar and honey and mix well. Add the mixed dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Stir until blended, but be careful not to overwork the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake in middle of oven for 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for five minutes before turning out of pan. Cool completely and cut into six to eight slices. To serve, garnish with rosemary sprigs.