Where else? 
Citrus Olive Oil Cake by Chef Mary Cech

You've heard of the saying, Too many cooks spoil the broth? While it might be true in haute, it doesn't necessarily hold true in the pastry department. At least not at FOODIES WEST. We've got a medley of pastry chefs and foodie experts lending their skill to make one yummy Citrus Olive Oil Cake. Über-award-winning pastry chef Mary Cech supplied the recipe, olive oil expert Fran Gage suggested what olive oil to use; Chef Joy Vargo (of former foodie favorite Canelo Bistro) provided the Candied Lemon Peel recipe; chef-favorite Neilsen-Massey provided the extract and Whipped Cream (optional) recipe; our kitchen crew came up with the Elderberry Syrup (they're ripe this month!) and the sweetest pastry chef ever (how sweet is he? He even charmed Her Highness Julia Child while "teaching" her how to make a savarin) Dave Blom, Executive Pastry Chef at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, consulted.


Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Elderberry Syrup, Candied Lemon Peel and Lemon Verbena Leaves


  First:  The lemon extract.

Neilsen-Massey''s pure vanilla extra has stood the tests of time and endured as a favorite of great chefs. But how about its other extracts they tout as being just as good? We  decided to put the lemon extract to the test.


So we asked pastry chef Mary Cech to create a recipe using Neilsen-Massey Lemon Extract.

  Next:  The recipe.

Makes two 8" X 3" loaves, two 8" round pans or one 9" spring-form ring


3 cups                      Sugar
1-1/3 cups                Olive oil
5 each                      Eggs
2 teaspoons              Nielsen-Massey Lemon Extract
3-3/4 cups                All purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons        Baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoons        Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon            Fine sea salt
1-1/3 cups                Full fat yogurt
2 each                      8" X 3" loaf pan or 8" round
   or 1                       9" spring-form ring pan


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whip sugar and eggs to full volume. Stream in oive oil and add lemon extract. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt; add to the liquids. Blend yogurt into the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, about 45 to 55 minutes.

We wondered what olive oil would be best for this recipe, so we asked an expert . . .

  NEXT:  The olive oil.



  Meet Fran Gage, self-described "olive oil aficionado" and author of The New American Olive Oil.

Here's what she had to say.    

A delicate extra-virgin olive oil, fruity, but with low bitterness and pungency, is always a good choice. Possibilities are the California Olive Ranch Arbequina and Corto's Arbequina, Koroneiki and Abrosana blend. A good Spanish Arbequina, such as Castillo de Canena would also be good.

Because Mary's cake includes lemon extract, another possibility would be a lemon olive oil, which would intensify that flavor. The best of these are made by crushing the citrus and olives together, rather than infusing the oil with the flavoring. Lucero (California) makes a lovely Meyer lemon olive oil. An imported choice would be Lemon Agrumato from Medi Terranea.

               by Chef Joy Vargo


3 each                     Organic lemons
4 cups                      Water
2 cups                      Granulated sugar

Cut the ends of lemons and remove rind as if you were going to supreme the lemons. Trim scrappy pieces of the rind and excess pith, and then cut peel into 1/4" slices. Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the lemon peels. Boil for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Bring the remaining 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a simmer. Add lemon peels, and stir them into the simple syrup mixture. Return to a boil and continue boiling until the lemon peels have become candied and sweet. Remove from heat and allow lemon peels to cool in the syrup mixture. Once cool, remove the lemon peels from the syrup and store in an airtight container. Reserve the lemon syrup if desired.


When Vargo and John Hall owned Canela Bistro in Elgin, AZ, she made all the desserts. You can now catch her at Suzana Davila's Little Cafe Poca Cosa in Tucson, AZ.

(Makes 2 cups of syrup)

4 cups        Fresh elderberries, strip off
                  the stem
2/3 cup      Water
1/2 cup      Sugar

Add berries and water to a noncorrosive pot. Cook over medium heat until berries start to burst; mash the berries well. Add the sugar and simmer for five minutes, or until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Push through a food mill on the finest setting or press through a medium-mesh sieve. You want to make sure the tiny seeds don’t pass through, but you want as much of the pulp as possible. Chill in a jar. Keeps for several weeks.

COOK’S TIP: If using dried elderberries: cover 2 cups of berries with boiling water and let reconstitute until soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Reserve the water for cooking the syrup.


1 cup              Whipping Cream
2 teaspoons     Nielsen-Massey Lemon
2 Tablespoons  Confectioner's sugar,

Whip the cream in a mixer on medium-high until soft peaks form. Add the lemon extract and confectioner's sugar. Whip until blended.  

* Used by permission, from the cookbook, A Century of Flavor: Nielsen-Massey Vanillas
Don't miss
what's new at FOODIES WEST!

Sign up for our free newsletter!