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Making Olive Oil Cake for Musicians in the Wildnerness

Our contributor takes a gig cooking for musicians while recording upstate, and she shares her experience and recipe for olive oil cake.

Rona D's Olive Oil Cake in the wilderness of upstate New York.

Rona D’s Olive Oil Cake in the wilderness of upstate New York.

Since trading in city life for a simpler lifestyle, I’ve had many enchanting adventures along the Hudson River. Last week's adventure came courtesy of an old friend, Hosanna Sophia Littlebird, and the band she's been recording with, the Brazilian Girls. It was with pure joy that I picked a wildflower to garnish the olive oil cake I baked in a kitchen just off the magical Clubhouse Recording Studio in Rhinebeck, NY. The studio owner, Paul Antonell, can occasionally be seen as a crossing guard for turtles meandering off the premises into the woods. The place is a naturalist’s dreamscape.

A trail presented itself to me after I opted for almond flour for the classic Tuscan dessert, Torta d'olio. There are several origin stories, but I was eager to learn more about how the cake evolved from its humble beginnings, so I reached out to my new friend, Chef Gaetano Arnone. I could have consulted Google, but the history lesson from the chef was way more interesting. I'm usually nervous in the kitchen because I'm not a chef, though I am summoned to cook for a select few on rare occasions. In this case, it was an invitation I couldn’t refuse. 

Author Rona D with her Olive Oil Cake.
Author Rona D. with her Olive Oil Cake.

Hosanna Sophia Littlebird's musical roots are classical and hip-hop, but she has recorded house tracks with Jellybean Benitez. She is also a jazz enthusiast with ties to the underground hip-hop scene in NYC, where she learned the art of recording with a small circle of guys at their rawest before they became icons (Mos Def and Q-Tip, to name a few). Add her parents into the mix of creative influences in her life.

Her father is a strong Native voice in his multifaceted work as a master storyteller, filmmaker, artist, author, and social activist. Her mother is Ukrainian, a devout Orthodox Christian, interior designer, and potter. I can't compare Hosanna's sound to anything else; she is a rare bird. She has been patiently honing her art, living a solitary and spiritual life as an indigenous woman in the woods.

The musicians and producer around the table near Clubhouse Recording Studio.
The musicians and crew around the table during a session at Clubhouse Recording Studio.

Hosanna is an artist in the kitchen, too. She stepped in to help me rearrange the slivers of almonds I recklessly piled onto the cake. We had talked about swapping out white sugar, but I didn’t have enough time to experiment with another option. I was overwhelmed as a one-woman show preparing lunches and dinners for nine people. The menu varied from the West Indian home cooking I grew up with to Mediterranean lunch options, and a few variations of Sicilian potato salads and charred radicchio to accompany steaks for dinner. 

The olive oil cake was the grand finale, for which I had the pleasure of stepping outside, sun on my face, wind in my hair, to pick a single weed in honor of an old friend and all the wildflowers flourishing in their sacred spaces among the lush green grass. 

All Photos Courtesy of @humanphotography /

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake

Recipe by Rona D.
5.0 from 1 vote


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups 2 almond flour

  • 1/2 tsp. 1/2 salt

  • 1 1 -1/2tsp. baking powder

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 white sugar

  • 2 2 egg whites

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 olive oil

  • 2 tbsp 2 lemon juice

  • zest of half a lemon

  • almond slivers for garnish (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients.
  • Use a whisk to mix the wet ingredients.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Transfer the ingredients to a cake pan lightly coated with olive oil.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • If using, garnish with almond slivers before serving.

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