Cake

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

February 12, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The effortlessly sexy dessert you can stir together from your pantry (+ the olive oil cake that will ruin you for all others). 

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

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Does anyone really want a fancy, frilled sweet on Valentine's Day? No, we want cake. Cheery, uncomplicated cake.

We want a cake that doesn't need to grab for attention with flashy swoops and barely edible embellishments (I'm looking at you, dragées) -- one that disarms and lures us in without trying terribly hard, then invites us to take it down in greedy, widening forkfuls.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

Whatever you're in the market for this Valentine's Day, this particular cake should cover it: Last minute romance you can bust out with what's in your pantry? To be the coworker who brings treats that will get demolished, unlike that weird chocolate that's been hanging out since Christmas? Or just distraction -- to stir together a few things, and make your house thrum with warmth and happy, citrusy smells. 

The answer in all of these cases, if you haven't guessed, is Maialino's Olive Oil Cake. 

More: Another place olive oil shines? Amanda's press-in tart crust.

  

You're having one of two reactions right now. 1: You're someone who's never known an olive oil cake, and you're going to need to trust us. This cake bears no resemblance to salad dressing

Olive oil cake at its best has a crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding. Pulling this off should be easy -- there aren't even egg whites to whip and fold, or butter to cream -- but it isn't always. They can be surprisingly temperamental -- dry or uneven or sodden with egg. Which brings us to Group 2:

You know olive oil cake well, and you've been on the hunt for the perfect version to make at home. This is it.

  

To develop their perfect version, Maialino's pastry chef Rachel Binder worked with Gerri Sarnataro, a pastry instructor at ICE -- they were looking for a cake you could find in Italy, but one that still felt original. "We didn't want it to scream olive oil," Binder told me.

To make it at home, first find 2 bowls and a cake pan.

Stir together wet ingredients: olive oil, milk, eggs, orange juice and zest, Grand Marnier.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake from Food52

Then stir together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda.

  

Then stir them all together.

  

    

Pour into pan. Now bake.

olive oil cake

Maialino also serves it at breakfast in muffin form, and they've been known to turn it into a birthday cake, layered with mascarpone buttercream.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake from Food52

And should you still want to sell it a little harder on Friday -- Binder will be serving it on Maialino's Valentine's menu scattered with heirloom citrus segments and pomegranate seeds. "A little bit different from your typical chocolate and raspberries," she said. Good.

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake from Food52

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

Adapted slightly from Maialino Restaurant in New York City

Makes a 9-inch round cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups 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
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Brette Warshaw and Marian Bull for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

106 Comments

Joan T. September 15, 2020
I don't see a temperature anywhere?
 
Natasha June 12, 2020
I baked this cake yesterday, did not change a thing measurement wise and guess what? it was a huge hit at home. The moistness and its flavor makes it a unique one of a kind cake and I absolutely love it!. I read all the comments here luckily the negative comments did not deter me from trying this one out & am very glad I gave it a shot.
 
Bobbi April 13, 2020
Do y'all think this will work with Aperal if one is out of Grand Marnier?
Better yet, do you think it will work with a combination of equal parts Aperal/Bourbon/Sweet Vermouth (aka a boulevardier cocktail)?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 14, 2020
I love this idea! You might also check out Melissa Clark's Campari Cake, which I haven't tried yet but I'm hoping to: https://food52.com/blog/25182-best-melissa-clark-dinner-in-french-cookbook-recipes
 
Zita V. January 30, 2020
Second review, now I am simply craving this cake after three years. I knocked this out of the park the first go around second go around not so much but was decent Grand Marnier is definitely needed. Gives it a classic sophisticated taste that imprints on ones soul when done right. My only question now is bleached or unbleached flour
 
joy January 10, 2020
Thanks so much for following up.
I’m definitely making it this weekend. Question. Without Grand Marnier?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 15, 2020
I might not have caught this in time, but others in this thread have used lots of other kinds of booze, or for a booze-free option I'd swap in an equal amount of orange juice (or some milk/some orange juice). Hope you love it!
 
joy December 29, 2019
I am unable to view whole recipe. Message says too many redirects
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 10, 2020
joy, that seems to have been a temporary glitch—I'm so sorry for the inconvenience! The recipe seems to be alive and kicking now: https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake
 
Darlington W. December 28, 2019
The link to the full recipe with baking times and temp seems to be broken (https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake), please help!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 10, 2020
Darlington, that seems to have been a temporary glitch—I'm so sorry for the inconvenience! The recipe seems to be alive and kicking now: https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake
 
Hala April 24, 2016
OK.. I don't know if this is a stupid question. I have never made an olive oil cake. By extra virgin olive oil do we mean the real stuff? the ones we get straight from the tree? we have grown olive trees in our land and we normally get our oil from them. Is this what we call extra virgin olive oil? Anyone?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 10, 2020
Just seeing this question! Very belatedly, any good, not-too-strong tasting olive oil will work here. Save your best stuff (lucky you!) for enjoying with good bread or as a finishing oil.
 
Hala January 14, 2020
Thank you.. I will save them for Hummus or Kebbé then:)
 
Francesca M. January 7, 2015
Is there a version with weight measurements?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 10, 2020
Very belatedly, yes! Here you go: https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake
 
jay December 1, 2014
Does anyone know if the recipe has to be adapted for muffins? Should I use a standard muffin tin? Do I fill the cups up halfway?
 
Christine L. April 22, 2016
David Lebovitz just adapted the recipe for muffins!
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2016/04/olive-oil-muffins-recipe/
 
Natalie September 9, 2014
This looks delicious! Do you think I would be able to use soy milk or another non-dairy option? And do you have any suggestions for what would be the closest substitute? I know one reader said they tried coconut milk and liked the results.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 10, 2020
Yes, feel free to use any non-dairy milk you like! They won't dominate here.
 
Eloisa April 25, 2014
Hi would like to know if theres any substitute for grand marnier? Thankyou :)
 
Marija S. June 15, 2014
Living in Croatia at the moment, I made this with Maraschino liqueur and I preferred it to Grand Marnier. However, it is probably not widely available in the States. Should you get you hands on a bottle or two, make sure you try it on this cake, it is wonderful!
 
Friulana April 20, 2014
Easter morning, I have just popped one into the oven to take over to friends for dinner. We loved the first olive oil torta ....the flavour profile was everything about home and my friulan parents refusing to use butter at every turn. This version is spongy/pudding like. My crumb didn't turn out like the photo bunt no way was I disappointed. ( I used a ten and three quater inch round pan and so this time I am going with the nine) to see if that affects the oil sinking to the bottom of the cake. This time I reduced the oil quantity by a third to 1 cup and the sugar by 1/4 cup. I live this cake!
 
Janet G. April 20, 2014
The next time I make mine I am going to reduce the olive oil to 1 cup as well. Everyone liked the amount of sugar so I will leave it the same.
 
ELAINE A. April 7, 2014
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND MAKE THIS W/ NELLIE & JOES KEY LIME JUICE!! IT'S THE REAL DEAL! IT IS MADE FROM REAL KEY LIMES IN THE FL.KEYS AND I FIND IT AT ALMOST ALL MAJOR GROCERY STORES IN THE SOUTH.IF IN OTHER AREAS OF COUNTRY TRY TRADER JOES OR ONLINE[MAYBE THEIR SITE OR EBAY] IT HAS A KEY LIME PIE RECEIPE ON THE BOTTLE THAT MY FAMILY & FRIENDS HAVE BEGGED FOR FOR 30 YRS FOR EVERY OCCASION.ITS ONLY THEIR JUICE,EGGS & SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK & 15 MINS.ADD A MERINGUE OR NOT W/A GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST .THE ONLY THING IS YOU WILL EITHER HAVE TO GIVE AWAY YOUR SECRET'[THEIR JUICE] OR BE HOUNDED TO MAKE FOR ALL THOSE WHOEVER TASTE IT.IT'S ONLY 3.50 A BTL & YOU GET 4 OR 5 PIES FROM EACH BTL.I USED IT INSTEAD OF THE GRAND MAIRNER AND O.J. IN THIS CAKE & AND WE LOVED IT.NOW IF SOMEONE COULD TELL ME AN ALTERNATIVE TO CONDENSED MILK,THE PIE WOULD BE GUILT FREE.IT ALSO IS A GREAT MARINADE.MORE JOY!!!!!
 
Janet G. April 6, 2014
I used an 8"x3" Wilton cake pan, sprayed with Bakers Joy since I didn't have any parchment paper on hand and it turned out perfectly by baking it 1 hour 5 minutes. My rose society members LOVED it.
 
JW April 2, 2014
I made this cake three times in a month and it was raved about and devoured each time. I did, by the third time, cut back a shade on the olive oil; I also bumped up the citrus scent a bit by adding orange essence, which I will continue doing. I love the leftovers as the cake gets almost pudding-y in density.
 
AntoniaJames March 3, 2014
Incidentally, we found that the crumb became somewhat greasy and much heavier on the second day;the problem worsened on the third day(so much so that I would not have served it to company). Did anyone else have that problem? I followed the recipe to the letter, other than using a cake that was a bit shorter than 2". (The recipe did not include that instruction on the day that I made it, right after it was first posted.)
The cake rounded nicely, without spilling over, however. ;o)
 
Amy March 3, 2014
Yes, day #2 saw the cake with more oil settling to the bottom. The cake was gone after that, so don't know how day #3 would have been. I attributed it to 1)losing some of the cake to overflow and 2) the heavy oil settling out.
 
Amy March 3, 2014
Oh, PS: I made it gluten free using Pamela's instead of flour.
 
Amy March 3, 2014
This was a delicious cake. Be forewarned: They are serious about a pan with at least 2" sides! But the cake was more than worth it.
 
EatsMeetsWest February 27, 2014
You had me at 'cake' :)