Maialino's Olive Oil Cake with Polenta and Cardamom

May 6, 2019

Author Notes: Olive oil cakes are moist with centers that melt in your mouth and, literally, slide down the throat. This recipe is a modified, and in my opinion, enhanced version of the olive oil cake recipe from Maialino Restaurant, NYC.

I love baking with olive oil, especially semolina and polenta cakes. Here in addition to a small quantity of polenta I also added cardamom to infuse a middle eastern flavour reminiscent of halwa cakes, switched out grand marnier for lime juice to add a refreshing kick from my summers in India where limeades were the norm and just to be sure used lime zest too. The result: moist, rich and absolutely citrus.

An important reason for skipping the liqueur was my husband's health - he needs to avoid all alcohol; we are stretching that rule to cooking too. I was doubtful about the mix of orange with lime, but the sweetness of the Cara Cara oranges complemented the acidity of lime juice. Adding a small amount of polenta (1/2 cup) made the cake more spongy and less pudding like in the center. Additional deviations from the original recipe were the use of sea salt instead of kosher salt and 2% milk instead of whole milk. My cake bubbled up in the center while baking, I would be keen to know if that was the case with others! The crust wasn't crackling but a good golden brown in color. We've been having it post dinner with dollops of vanilla ice cream.
Kanika Samra

Makes: a 9-inch round cake
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (here Cara Cara)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (here Cara Cara)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (about 1 lime)
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F while you prep other ingredients and work on the cake batter. Oil a 9 inch cake tin and line it with parchment paper. I spread a couple of drops of oil with the tips of my fingers over the parchment paper too. I find it helps in peeling it off once the cake has cooled.
  2. In a large mixing bowl measure all the dry ingredients including cardamom powder and whisk together to combine. (To make your own cardamom powder, as I did, take ~ 10 to 12 pods and collect the seeds, reserving the shells for brewing with tea or coffee. Grind the seeds in a spice or coffee grinder. This should yield about 1 tsp, add more seeds if necessary.)
  3. In a second mixing bowl, combine and whisk olive oil, eggs, milk, orange and lime juice, orange and lime zest. To this mix add the dry ingredients, whisking until all ingredients have just combined. Do not over whisk.
  4. Pour batter into the prepared cake, place on the center rack in the oven and bake for 1 hour until the top is a golden. The cake will rise slowly. When baked a cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven, run a knife along with sides of the tin and let it cool on a rack. After 30 minutes slide the cake onto a rack and cool for about 2 hours. This cake will have a soft but even crust. (If you invert the cake onto the rack, you might see a pattern from the rack appear on the top. )

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