Orange Olive Oil Muffin Recipe | Italiano From Maialino

When one door closes, somewhere a window opens. Yes, sadly the lovely Italian trattoria, Maialino, which opened in 2009 in the Gramercy Park Hotel in NYC has closed its doors. But, you can still order your all time Maialino favorites, like Orange and Olive Oil Cake, via the Goldbelly portal that delivers nationwide. At $79 a cake, this traditional Italian Orange Cake with Olive Oil is not cheap. So, if you are like me, you can make your own Maialino Italiano Orange Olive Oil Cake for a fraction of the price. Plus, they are just as delicious as the original. The recipe below makes two dozen Maialino Orange Olive Oil Muffins, but you can just as easily bake this as a cake.

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Two dozen olive oil muffins made with citrusy orange zest, orange liqueur and olive oil are plenty to enjoy... and share. For an artisanal touch, package them in pretty little cookie boxes with windows and pass them around to friends and neighbors to spread a little sweet goodness.

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For those of you who haven't heard of Maialino, it is Danny Meyer's acclaimed Italian restaurant, which by the way, means "little pig" in Italian!  Complete with wood-beamed ceilings and cheery blue and white checkered tablecloths, Maialino is a little slice of Italy serving homey, rustic Roman-style fare, nestled in Manhattan's bustling concrete jungle.

Maialino, Restaurant,
Credit: Ellen Silverman

Maialino is located in the beautiful, Renaissance styled Gramercy Park Hotel, which first opened in 1925.  The hotel boasted luxurious amenities from exquisite Italian linens to hand stitched leather topped desks and mahogany English drinking cabinets, including a rotating collection of 20th century artwork from Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The hotel has been shuttered since 2020 and unfortunately, Maialino too. We hope that they will be back in business soon. But until then, pull out your baking pans and whip up a batch of lovely Maialino Italian Orange Olive Muffins for a heavenly taste of Italy.

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Maialiano's Orange Olive Oil Cake

Have you had a cake made completely out of olive oil? No butter, whatsoever? Well, that's what makes this cake so special. In the little towns and villages in Italy, one thing that Italians have an abundance of in their kitchens is olive oil. So that's what they used in their cakes. Flavored with a good deal of fresh orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice and a good dose of orange liqueur of your choice, Italian Orange Olive Oil cake is super sweet, super moist and super dense. 

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You can use this recipe to either make a cake or a batch of muffins. If making a cake, notice how beautifully the cake bakes with a smooth and perfectly even top without any cracks. Once baked, all that is required is a light dusting of powdered sugar and a slice of orange twist for decoration.  I just love eating it outside in my garden at tea time.

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Here's a close up picture of a slice of Orange Olive Oil cake to show you how dense and moist it actually is. Note that cakes made of olive oil have a distinctly different texture and flavour compared to those made with butter; slightly oilier or wetter in feel that a butter cake which is more dry. If making this recipe as a cake, the best way to eat it is on a plate with a fork, or else your fingers will be a bit of a sticky mess.

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Making this recipe as muffins is a much better idea if you plan on serving them at a picnic or casual event. Or even for breakfast to grab and go.  

I made these olive oil muffins for a day at the beach and everyone just loved the citrusy, moistness of these muffins. After an exhilarating swim in the cold water, it was just lovely to laze around on the warm sands, unwrap these muffins and leisurely enjoy their refreshing goodness without having to worry about plates or cutlery.

Orange olive oil muffins, beach, black and white beach hat


Is Olive Oil Good for Cake?

Absolutely! First of all it is heart healthy. Substituting butter for olive cuts cuts the saturated fat that is packed in butter. Secondly, olive oil keeps a cake moist for much longer than cakes made with butter do. And finally, olive oil adds a special, unique, nuanced flavor to the cake that makes it distinctly special.

Olive oil in bowl


What is the Best Olive Oil for Olive Oil Cake?

It's really up to your taste and preference. Definitely use a good quality olive oil that is fresh. Be sure to check that it hasn't turned rancid before using it and always make sure that it is at room temperature before using it.

Since this is an Italian recipe, I would suggest experimenting with Italian olive oils rather than Greek, Spanish or French. According to Louise Pickford, author of The Olive Oil Cookbook, "It is generally accepted that Italy, especially Tuscany, produces some of the finest olive oils in the world from their main varieties of olives; Corantina, Ceasolo, Frantoio, Leccino and Moriolo. The main characteristics of an Italian oil is a deep green color and a peppery aftertaste. Many of the best oils come from single estates, although there are also cooperatives producing some fine oils." Single estate oils are the best quality and are expensive, compared to blended oils from different countries that are cheaper.

If using extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), be prepared for a strong olive oil flavor in the cake/ muffins. So, choose an extra virgin olive oil with notes that you would enjoy as you will definitely be able to taste it in the final product. Do note that deep green EVOO will give your cake a slight green tinge.

If you prefer a less strongly flavored olive oil cake, then don't use extra virgin olive oil but regular olive oil. That will give your cake a more neutral flavor without overpowering the cake. Pale yellow Spanish olive oils have a less pronounced flavor than Italian olive oils and are more suitable for palates accustomed to vegetable oils.


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Orange Olive Oil Muffins in a basket and ready for breakfast


Olive Oil Muffin Recipe -  

Maialino's Orange and Olive Oil Cake


Inspired by Food52

Ingredients:

☐ 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
☐ 1 3/4 cup (350g) sugar
☐ 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
☐ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
☐ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
☐ 1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
☐ 1 1/4 cup whole milk
☐ 3 large eggs
☐ Zest from 3 oranges
☐ 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
☐ 1/4 cup Orange Liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Mandarine Napoleon)



Step- by-Step Instructions


Step 1: Prep

Line cupcake or muffin tin with parchment liners or cup cake liners.
Pre heat oven to 350°F.
Measure and sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

Step 2: Combine Dry Ingredients

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda mixture with salt and sugar.

Step 3: Combine Wet Ingredients

In another bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, followed by the olive oil, orange juice and orange liqueur and whisk everything together. Add the orange zest and combine.

Step 4: Make Batter

In three batches, add the dry flour mixture from Step 2, into the wet ingredients, beating to combine and form batter. The batter will be very liquidy.

Step 5: Bake

Spoon into cupcake/  muffin tin, filling wells only up to 2/3-3/4 full. Bake in pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Remove tin from oven and allow to cool.



Kitchen Tips:

  • For a slightly less sweet and oily/rich cake, reduce sugar and olive oil to 1 cup each. The cake will be slightly less moist.
  • Freshly grated orange zest is essential. However, if in a bind you can substitute it with marmalade.
  • This Olive Oil Muffin recipe can be used to make a 9 inch round cake. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
  • The batter is very thin and will not hold add-ins very well. Chopped fruit and nuts will sink to the bottom, so refrain from adding anything in.
  • Weigh the ingredients rather than relying on cup measures for the best, most moist cake.

How to measure flour for baking without a scale?

If you don't have a weighing scale and need to use cup measures, to ensure that you don't use too much flour which will dry out the cake, follow this method for the right quantity of flour.

Spoon flour, one spoon at a time into a cup measure until the flour forms a heap on top. Do not shake cup to make the flour settle. Instead, run a knife along the top of the cup to remove the excess heaped flour. Now, sift this flour, along with the baking powder into a plate.

Now, spoon the flour back into the cup, one spoon at a time. Do not shake or level the cup. When the flour is heaped into the cup, run a knife along the top of the cup measure to remove any excess flour. You will be left with about 2 tablespoons of flour. Discard this excess flour.

References:

The Olive Oil Cookbook by Louise Pickford


For more of my globally inspired recipes, click on the "Global" or "Sweets and Desserts" label below or check out My Cookbook Index for a complete list of my recipes.

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