Kitchn Love Letters

The Unassuming Recipe That’s So Pillowy and Perfect, It Inspired My Wedding Cake

updated Jan 13, 2021
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Credit: Sheela Prakash

In my early days of living in New York City, I was slightly obsessed with restaurant culture. I’d spend hours perusing reviews and trends, mapping out where to eat next. I was on a student budget, though, so most of the time that meant mapping out where to eat when my dad was in town. It was on one such visit that we went to Maialino for the first time, a Roman-inspired Italian restaurant right off Gramercy Park. With almost no room left for dessert after filling ourselves with silky, perfectly al dente pasta, we caved and ordered a slice of their signature olive oil cake — and so began my love affair.

Maialino’s olive oil cake is the dreamiest version I’ve ever tasted — and I’ve sampled almost every iteration, both Stateside and in Italy. The towering, delicately sweet cake is richly scented with fresh citrus and grassy olive oil, and the crumb is so unbelievably moist that each forkful is practically custard-like. It ultimately inspired my wedding cake (although we added some layers and Swiss buttercream), and I’ve made the original version at home on countless occasions. Have I convinced you to get baking?

Get the recipe: Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake

This Tender, Citrus-Kissed Olive Oil Cake Is Infallible

It’s impossible to mess up this olive oil cake. To make it, you simply whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in one bowl, and olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and orange liqueur in another bowl. After whisking the dry and wet ingredients together, the batter is poured in a cake pan and baked for an hour. No matter what kind of baker your are, this is a cake you can master.

This cake is also extremely versatile. The recipe calls for orange liqueur (specifically Grand Marnier), but I’ve replaced it with orange juice many times. You can also lose the orange altogether and use any citrus you please — lemon, grapefruit, and even lime all work wonderfully. You can add other flavorings, too, such as vanilla extract or chopped fresh rosemary or thyme.

How you serve it is up to you, too. I love to eat it plain or with a simple spoonful of whipped cream or whole milk yogurt, but fresh citrus segments or berries, when they’re in season, are a nice addition, too — as is a dollop of jam or lemon curd.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

If You Make This Olive Oil Cake, a Few Tips

While this recipe is simple, it’s worth keeping these tips in mind.

  1. Use an olive oil you love the taste of. With 1 1/3 cups of olive oil in the batter, the fruity, peppery flavor of the olive definitely comes through. Reach for an extra-virgin olive oil that’s aromatic and fresh-tasting. There’s no need for it to be your most expensive bottle — just one you enjoy cooking with. My choice is California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Bake the cake in a deep pan. This is a thick single layer cake, so you’ll want to leave room in the pan for it to rise without overflowing. Opt for a 9-inch cake pan, either regular or springform, that’s at least two inches deep.
  3. Or try baking the cake as muffins. At Maialino, they’d often feature the olive oil cake in muffin form on their brunch menu and it’s a morning variation I love to adopt. The muffins will take 20 to 30 minutes to bake.
  4. Feel free to make the cake a day in advance. Since this cake is so plush and moist, you don’t have to worry about it drying out. In fact, I almost prefer it a day after it’s been baked because its flavor further develops, gaining complexity, and the crumb becomes even more tender.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.