Yesterday I wanted to bake a cake. Sure, it was a Monday, but since finding out over the weekend that my cookbook was now available for pre-order on Amazon (!!!), I wanted an excuse to celebrate. Or more accurately, I wanted an excuse to eat cake.
But not a cake with frosting or layers or anything that required more effort than a Monday evening calls for. Then I remembered a recipe for French-style yogurt cake in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life that I had bookmarked a while back but hadn’t had time to try yet. It’s an old-fashioned dessert that home bakers used to make by measuring ingredients in a yogurt jar. (Dorie Greenspan has also said this was one of the few desserts that French women actually make at home, given that in France amazing pastry shops are pretty much everywhere.)
A delicious-sounding cake that didn’t take much effort? Sold.
Molly’s recipe in the book calls for regular vegetable oil but suggests olive oil as a substitute. I had a nice bottle of very fragrant and fruity Turkish olive oil that I use all the time for salads, and tried it in this cake along with my usual breakfast yogurt.
It was so easy to put together, and even though I had a stand mixer, I just ended up mixing everything in a big mixing bowl without much effort. Molly had warned that adding the oil would make the batter look like a "horrible, oily mess" at first, but it actually looked fine, and took just a few stirs with the spatula to get it incorporated. (Maybe olive oil just mixes more easily than canola and other vegetable oils?)
I haven't made this cake with plain ol' vegetable oil, but after trying it with olive oil, it'd be hard to make the transition. The fruity and grassy scent from the oil came through in a mellow, pleasant way. As did the tanginess of the yogurt. I had two and a half large slices of cake before realizing I was probably ruining my appetite for dinner.
This is what it looks like just out of the oven, all nice and golden brown. You can top it with a lemon glaze or powdered sugar, but I preferred to eat it plain, to taste the subtle olive oil and yogurt flavor. Or maybe I just wanted a cake that looked like I could eat it for breakfast too, guilt-free.
French Yogurt and Olive Oil Cake
Makes 1 cake
- 1/2 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
- (Optional topping) 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper also.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the yogurt, sugar, and eggs. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Stir until well-blended . Add the olive oil and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the edges from the pan with a butter knife and invert it onto a wire and cool for about 5 to 10 minutes longer. Serve as is or with shifted powdered sugar on top. (This is excellent with fresh berries on the side!)
Adapted from the French-Style Yogurt Cake in A Homemade Life