Maialino's Orange Olive Oil Cake

I've been wanting to bake this olive oil cake for a while now. At least a year, if not more, and since January is the month when we do all the things we've been meaning to do, here it finally is!

This is my attempt at the famed citrus olive oil cake from Maialino, a restaurant here in New York City. It's one of those simple, but gorgeous restaurant desserts that people can't help but fall in love with, and then tell everyone about.

It's the kind of thing a celebrity might list as one of her favorite things about New York. She'll say something like "Walking around early on a Sunday morning when everyone is still sleeping and the olive oil cake at Maialino." It's the kind of cake that people will post a picture of on Instagram, and then all their friends will comment "oh I LOVE that cake!"

Dense, almost pudding-like, with a tight, wet crumb, this is exactly the sort of cake I love more than anything else. The top is dark and almost caramelized, while the inside is somewhere between gold and olive.

If you squeeze it, you can feel the oil, but it's not oily. I'm actually amazed by how well this cake holds all that richness.

Fragrant with citrus and a hint of bitterness from the zest, it's beautifully addictive. I spent most of my Saturday slicing myself one very thin slice after another (after, yet another).

At the restaurant, they serve this with whipped mascarpone, but I love it with creamy fresh ricotta. Homemade if you can do it, or buy the good stuff from the gourmet shop.

Unsweetened whipped cream would be nice, too. Maybe even tangy creme fraiche.

I wouldn't do normal whipped cream--this cake needs something with a touch of savoriness to it.

(I haven't tried it yet, but I think strawberries with a drizzle of very old and very sweet balsamic might be incredible on this.)

This cake is easy to make, but here are a few bits of advice to help you turn out a spectacular cake:

  • Make sure your pan has high sides. At least 2 inches, definitely. 3" would be better. I think a springform pan makes the whole thing even easier since you can then just release the sides. 

  • If you can, choose a Ligurian olive oil for this cake. It's more buttery and lighter than some other extra-virgin olive oils, which is key (this cake calls for a LOT of oil--you don't want something too spicy or overpowering).
  • To keep this dense cake from cooking unevenly, I recommend wrapping the cake pan with cake strips.  It's not a requirement, but it will definitely help guarantee success. 
Cake strips are thick strips of fabric that you soak in water and then wrap around the outside of the cake so that it cools down the edges and keeps it at the same temperature as the inside. Basically you want to slow down the speed at which the outside of the cake cooks so that it matches the center. This will keep your cake from doming on top or burning on the edges. You can buy cake strips, but you can also DIY a version with thick wet fabric or paper towels wrapped in foil. 

  • Oh, and feel free to play around with the flavors! Swap fresh lemon juice and zest for the orange (or do a bit of both!). Use a different liqueur instead of Grand Marnier (Campari would be fun for a more bitter cake, or perhaps even a limoncello? A ginger liqueur would be amazing, I'm sure!). A tiny bit of almond extract would be fantastic, too.

  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes before taking it out, and then let it cool completely for a couple hours before serving. I honestly think this one tastes even better the next day. (Leave it covered at cool room temperature--don't refrigerate it!)

FYI that at Maialino, they serve this cake as muffins during breakfast, so you can definitely make this in a cupcake pan. The baking time would be reduced, of course, though I'm not exactly sure how long. (Maybe about 25 minutes?)


Loved this recipe? Here are three other simple cakes you might like:

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Maialino's Citrus Olive Oil Cake Recipe
Adapted very slightly from Food 52

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil (preferably a soft and buttery Ligurian olive oil)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
Zest of 1 whole orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” springform pan (at least 2” in height) OR a 10” round baking pan (also 2” in height). Line bottom with a circle of parchment (grease the whole pan first as it will help hold the parchment in place).

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

Whisk together olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and Grand Marnier.

Add the dry ingredients and whisk until completely smooth and combined.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake 1 hour or until top is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean (a couple tiny moist crumbs may attach..that’s OK!). Let cool in pan 30 minutes, before running a thin knife or spatula around the sides to loosen, then turning out onto a pan to cool completely at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serve with fresh ricotta or whipped cream.

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