Reader Joan Moon of Burbank loves the olive oil cake from Toma restaurant, which opened in 2013 in a location on the waterfront in Santa Barbara that has existed for over more than 80 years. Moon writes that she orders the cake, a creation of the restaurant’s chef, Nat Ely, every time she’s in town. (Olive oil has been added to cakes for years, as it makes for a very tender, fruity crumb.) At once light and airy, Ely’s cake has hints of orange and lemon, and is complemented by the crunch of Marcona almonds and a delicate sugar crust.
“I’ve been baking a version of this cake for 25 years,” said Ely, who has cooked at Sandpoint Country Club and Place Pigale at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Emilio’s Restaurant and Los Olivos Cafe (which was featured in the movie “Sideways”) in Santa Barbara. He’s varied the flavorings over the years, at times adding rosemary, or Meyer lemon and Marcona almonds. When he came to Toma, Ely says, “we wanted a citrus dessert, something light, so I reinvented the cake again. Those surprising chunks of almonds, the bright lemon zest, the crackle of sugar — it’s perfect.”