Italian Citrus Cake (A.K.A Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake)

This cake is a great one. It is simple and versatile; special yet easy. It’s an Olive Oil Cake from the Italian restaurant, Maialino in New York City. (Though I have never experienced this firsthand.)

A couple of summers ago my friend Carly brought this incredibly moist, citrus-infused cake to book club. She served it with roasted peaches and whipped cream. It was memorable and lovely. I asked her for the recipe and have made it a few times since.

It’s made in a spring form pan and is similar in texture and body to a pound cake but is made with olive oil rather than butter, which makes for a golden crust and moist crumb. The zest of the citrus is a perfect compliment to the depth of flavor. It’s versatile- in that any seasonal fruit is a welcomed addition, can be served for breakfast, as a coffee break or as dinner dessert. It’s also easily sharable.

When I served it to my family they weren’t sure about the idea of an “olive oil cake” as it seemed like it would be savory. While they liked it, they kept thinking, “olive oil” when they ate it. I think this suggestive power of a name is noteworthy. I have taken to calling it Citrus Cake or Orange Cake or Italian Citrus Cake preemptively. But depending on your audience, you can call it Olive Oil Cake or whatever you think would encourage people to give it a try. Because once they do, they will enjoy the moist, zesty cake with the lovely crunchy edges.

Serve it plain or with fruit and whipped cream if you like.

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake (Italian Citrus Cake)

Recipe adapted from Food 52

2 cups all purpose flour

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil (or you can use 1/3 cup canola oil or less strongly flavored oil)

1 ¼ cups whole milk

3 large eggs

1 ½ Tbsp. grated orange zest (or more)

¼ cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup Grand Marnier (or you can substitute this with more orange juice)

Heat oven to 350˚. Oil, butter, or spray a 9 inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep- I use a spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the oil, milk, eggs, zest, juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.

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. (My oven is hot and it takes the full hour cook time.)

Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove cake from pan. Let cool completely.

To Make Whipped Cream:
Pour 1 pint of whipping cream into mixing bowl (glass or metal) and let it beat at full speed for a few minutes until thickened and peaks remain when you stop and pull out the beater. (You want it to be thick but not so thick that it becomes butter!…if you get distracted and this does happen, just add a little milk or extra cream in and beat to thin it.) Add a couple of hefty spoons-full of sugar or powdered sugar, stir together and voila! 

Since most of us can’t easily pop over to New York for a slice of cake (especially during these pandemic days), I suggest you make this cake yourself, top it with some seasonal fruit or share some slices with friends.

3 thoughts on “Italian Citrus Cake (A.K.A Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake)

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