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The Most Beloved Genius Dessert of All Time

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The most popular dessert in Genius Recipes history? Why, surely it must be Dorie Greenspan & Pierre Hermé’s World Peace Cookies! (Everyone’s still talking about them.)

Or maybe it's Alice Medrich’s fudgy Best Cocoa Brownies, or some other recipe that’s already been celebrated hither and thither across the baking universe. No? But it's definitely something chocolate—right?

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Our Newest Book-Baby's Pretty Sweet

At least that’s what I thought. But, in honor of the Genius Desserts cookbook launching for pre-order this week (it’s heading off to the printers as we speak!), I decided to actually look into your number-one Genius dessert to date. Using our handy recipe filter system—which is based on some algorithmic combination of faves (a.k.a. that little heart button that appears at the top of every recipe), saves, comments, and astrological sign—I beep-bop-booped to find the fairest of them all.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

As famous and well-loved as those iconic recipes are, your deep-down favorite turned out to be a bit more of an underdog: Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake. Ta-da?

I want you to look at the original photos below—the cake is a little lumpy, humbly photographed in the dark, with zero suggestion of garnish or drink pairing. This is not the kind of cake that would catch fire on Instagram these days, like twirly rose cakes and terrarium cakes and homemade Funfetti do.

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Thanks for noticin' me.
Thanks for noticin' me.

But looks, as we know, aren’t everything. Here are a few reasons why I think you love this cake so much. For one thing, it’s the perfect olive oil cake—a genre that’s surprisingly hard to crack, at the refreshing midpoint of the savory-sweet continuum.

It’s also pretty much the laziest cake recipe around—no electric machinery needed, no waiting for butter to soften or eggs to whip: You just whisk the dry, whisk the wet, whisk together, boom. The oil helps make cakes much more resilient against overbaking and staling than butter does (and olive oil specifically provides flavor that neutral oils don’t).

I love that a cake that's looked so unassuming and unadorned since 2014 is tops for you. But one last lovable thing about this cake is that it’s a real chameleon—Food52ers have filled it with pineapple curd and topped it with lavender whipped cream and turned it into, yes, chocolate cake.

The recipe's comments section—at 316 and counting—is a trove of new ideas and happy examples of cooks helping fellow cooks out when they're wondering how the cake bakes at altitude or in a loaf pan or as muffins (great, great, really great).

Hello, strawberry season!
Hello, strawberry season!

Its affable nature also made it the perfect landing pad for one of the brand-new Genius desserts from the book—20th Century Cafe pastry chef Michelle Polzine's very, very low and slow-roasted strawberries—pictured here, the deep berry syrup mingling with the whiffs of orange and olive oil.

Since strawberry season is finally pretty much a go for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, I couldn't keep this springy new topping to myself till September. Live it up with everyone's favorite cake just like this, or go your own way—just be sure to come back and tell us all about it.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

Genius Recipes Genius Recipes
Makes a 9-inch round cake
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (285g) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (305g) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup (60g) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (55g) Grand Marnier
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Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Genius Recipes Genius Recipes
Makes about 1 1/2 cups (450g)
  • 6 cups (900g) fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 1/2 cup to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100g to 125g) sugar, depending on the strawberries’ sweetness
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Tags: Dessert, Tips & Techniques, Genius Recipes, Cookbooks