Make Ahead

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

July  4, 2021
210 Ratings
Photo by Erin Alexander
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes a 9-inch round cake
Author Notes

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. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others. Recipe from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, where they also serve it at breakfast in muffin form, and they've been known to turn it into a birthday cake, layered with mascarpone buttercream. The recipe is pictured here with Michelle Polzine's Slow-Roasted Strawberries from Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, September 2018).

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Olipac Stainless Steel Olive Oil Dispenser
- GIR Silicone Grip Whisk
- Mosser Glass Cake Stand

Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

Why is this the most beloved Genius dessert of all time? We'll tell you: It's irresistibly moist, rich and flavorful without being cloying, and exceptionally simple. Mix together some wet ingredients in one bowl, dry ingredients in another, tip the combined mixture into a cake pan, and boom. You've got a foolproof, good-no-matter-what cake. No butter softening or egg whipping or mixer wielding necessary. And because of all the moisture in the batter, there's not even the slightest chance of the cake overbaking and drying out.

On the olive oil: Since it's the primary flavor in the cake, use one that you'd be happy featuring in a salad dressing. A fruity type will complement the Grand Marnier and orange zest in the batter, while a peppery, grassy kind will create a wonderful savory contrast. It's really a matter of personal taste.

Of course, because our community loves this cake so much, they've found ways to make it their own: They've swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for almond meal and cornmeal; they've used infused olive oil for an even more pronounced punch of flavor; they've used other liqueurs in place of the Grand Marnier, to give the cake a slightly different personality; they've even added cocoa powder, espresso powder, and matcha powder (separately!) to the batter to give it a whole new groove. Mix-ins, too, aren't part of the original cake's deal, but chopped nuts, chocolate chunks or chips, or freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries would all be spectacular. Choose your own adventure—you can't go wrong any way. —Brinda Ayer
—The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (285 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (305 grams) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) Grand Marnier
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Twila Kim
    Twila Kim
  • Tiffany Brewster
    Tiffany Brewster
  • MrsBeeton
  • Lisa
  • panania
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

614 Reviews

Twila K. February 24, 2024
This is one of the best olive oil cakes!!!!
I added ground cornmeal (+ finer grind) cornmeal as my daughter has allergies to nuts. It was amazing!
Will try the other additives they suggested.
My go-to olive oil cake!!
Jo February 23, 2024
This cake was truly awful. All I could taste was the oil and some salt, even with the inclusion of orange zest, juice and Grand Mariner
sheila February 23, 2024
I don't know what went wrong for you but having made this cake in muffin/cupcake form, multiple times, I can say it is one of the most elegant and delicious desserts ever. Make sure to use the best quality olive oil with a neutral taste.
JAG February 23, 2024
I followed the recipe exactly. This is the first cake I’ve thrown away. I found it to be heavy, oily and salty. Yuk!
deborah L. February 22, 2024
This was AMAZING. Made per the recipe, using in-season satsuma oranges. Baked in a loaf pan, which took significantly longer. Froze well, and I defrosted/toasted individual pieces for months.
Alexa January 28, 2024
I didn't have Grand Marnier, so I substituted with a splash of Chambord and 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract, which I think got the job done. Yielded 2 X 9 inch diameter 1 inch depth cakes. 1 hour may have a bit too long, will try 50 minutes next time. Yummy!!
Kay January 27, 2024
Modifications: only 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup whole milk yogurt instead of milk, reduce sugar by half a cup, no liquor but zest of lemon and a dash of lemon extract instead (in addition to orange zest and juice). Incredibly tender and perfectly sweet!
jasbneal January 6, 2024
I've always been a bit intimidated by cakes but I thought I'd try this one considering how simple it is. I loved it! The olive oil keeps the cake moist for a long time. (It took us two weeks to finish it but it tasted just as good as when it came out of the oven!) I used a 9x2 inch pan and keeping it in the oven for an hour was a bit too long, as it was slightly browned on the edges. I probably should've started checking at the the 40 min mark. Can't wait to substitute a Japanese whiskey for the Grand Marnier and to make a layer cake version of this with coffee buttercream! :)
Jessiev13 January 1, 2024
I bought a nice Portuguese olive oil (Herdade Do Esporao) to make this cake, it is delicious! I substituted the following out of necessity: King Arthur’s gluten free measure for measure flour, 1/2 cream 1/2 milk (bc I ran out of milk:), and 1/2 tsp of orange extract instead of the grand marnier. Also reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups, it was enough for me! Fantastic! I’ll make this again and again! Excited to try it with the Grand Marnier next time!
Joy B. September 5, 2023
would it be OK to add peaches?
Andrea July 20, 2023
As a non baker this is a simple, not overly sweet recipe that I often make for guests and holidays. Leftovers make a great breakfast treat!
Redonna July 19, 2023
I made this cake for my daughter's birthday. She loved it. My next door neighbor is still raving about it being the best cake he ever had. Easy to make and soon moist.
ALLISON July 12, 2023
I love this cake! We even had Olive Oil cake at our wedding from how much we love this one. I like to play with the recipe as it is very forgiving and still delicious every time. A little extra Grand Marnier sometimes, yogurt instead of whole milk, some cardamom, orange and lemon zest (wild, I know), half almond flour.. etc. This recipe is easy and fun, making a perfect birthday cake or snack with tea.
Tiffany B. May 29, 2023
I made this cake today and, from what I tasted of the crumbs left when I released it from the springform pan, it's delicious and surprisingly not too sweet. I will say that you should unlatch the springform earlier than the half-hour resting time because mine became glued shut due to the sugar. The cake cracked because I used too much force getting it released during the remainder of the cooling period. It's okay, though, as powdered sugar will cover it.

Other notes: Measure using a food scale (grams) because the weight varied significantly from when I just used measuring cups (yes, I always spoon the flour in properly after fluffing it up). If you are not using Diamond Kosher, measure your kosher salt by grams too. It's 5 grams for the amount stated in the recipe.

Lastly, I took the advice given and emulsified the oil with the yolks. I whipped the whites and folded them into the batter after the dry ingredients were added.

Do not fear; this looks like soup when you put it into your pan. After I cooked it for the full hour, it was perfect!
Diji May 1, 2023
As stated repeatedly, this could not be simpler or quicker, and it is possibly the best cake we have ever had!

The rest of my family must all eat gluten-free, and my daughter dairy-free as well. ;-(
So, I subbed Namaste brand Organic GF Flour mix for the flour, and oat milk for the milk. Instead of Grand Marnier I used all citrus juice: combination of orange, lemon and lime, as well as the same combo of zest (probably more zest than the original recipe calls for. I did decrease the oil and sugar slightly (and could probably reduce both further) so....I guess I didn't make this recipe EXACTLY....

In any case, absolutely superb and divine!

Next time, I am going to try it in a sheet pan instead of a cake pan. The absolute best part of the cake is the chewy, caramelizy [sic] crust, so if I can maximize that - and get 4 CORNER pieces to boot - what in the world could possibly be better?! (Anybody else tried this already?)
KTD April 30, 2023
Super simple, exceptionally moist. I skipped the Grand Marnier but will try including it next time. Without it I could have probably used more orange zest for that extra citrus pow.
DinghyB April 29, 2023
I’ve made this cake several times and while I absolute love the flavor and ease of this cake, it is not until after I’ve made it each time that I remember that I was going to cut the amount of oil in half the next time. It’s really that oily and I’m not sure why. It’s still a wonderful cake but the amount of oil causes it to be a bit stodgy and there really isn’t any reason to put that much fat, even if it’s high quality fat, into your cake. So, hopefully I’ll remember next time because I really do love this cake and it is virtually impossible to screw up.
MrsBeeton April 29, 2023
I was determined to be a part of the club on this one. Almost 600 reviews? "Most beloved genius dessert of all time"? How could I, a devoted Food52er, not love this cake? But I don't. That's just the truth of it. And I did really try: I think I've made it four times. Once, I actually threw it out thinking I had mistakenly doubled the olive oil. Nope, turns out it really is that oily. Perhaps I'm just missing the olive-oil-cake gene. But whatever it is, I'm going to let the rest of the Food52 community eat [the] cake.
m1002b April 29, 2023
Cut the olive oil and milk to 3/4 cup each. Baked about 10 min longer. Came out well. Threw several away as well.
doerain April 20, 2023
I've made this recipe a few times now. Love the pudding type texture it develops and the flavors get better the longer you keep it. It can last a week or two when refrigerated. Only tweaks I made to recipe was adding 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup diced preserved peaches (drained of their juice); Such as the Dole fruit cups where fruit is in its own juice so not overly sweet. Sublime.
Lisa April 18, 2023
I cannot wait to try this for a luncheon I’m going to. Can you tell me bake time for muffins? Thank you!
sheila April 18, 2023
sheilaApril 28, 2017
Happy to share: I bake them at 350 and usually for 18 minutes but start checking them at 15. They should be golden on top and toothpick comes out dry. For the Mascarpone frosting: whip one cup heavy cream to whipped cream, add 8 oz mascarpone and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar. ENJOY!
Lisa April 18, 2023
Thank you Sheila❤️
Bunnilein December 17, 2023
I’ve made this cake more times than I can count since it was first published here—it’s the absolute favorite of my twenty-something sons. I’d never seen a suggested topping that appealed to me before this one, Sheila, so I tried it Friday night for an extended-family dinner party. What a hit! Just perfect—thanks so much for sharing!!
Toddie February 22, 2024
You're going to laugh but I had to read your post several times before I realized you were referring to the age of your sons rather than the quantity...
panania April 17, 2023
Excellent; really great. It does seem a bit 'over moist' to me, but my guests all found it perfect. It was an easy recipe to follow (and remember) and I prefer it over another recipe that uses butter. Thanks!