french-style yoghurt cake with lemon

My mum is a great cook – and in particular, a great baker. We grew up with a family meal around the table every night…even when my dad was a fireman and starting his night shifts at 6pm, dinner would be on the table at 5pm. Because of that, I always insist on setting our table and eating our dinner there rather than in front of the TV – it’s the best way to catch up on each other’s day in addition to noticing what you are actually eating.

Every time I go home to NZ for a visit, I have a list of dishes/baking that I want my mum to make. On that list is Lemon Cake. A cake that I – and others – dream about! Those ‘others’ include my two nephews and niece. Tom, in particular, always asks Dottie to make a lemon cake while he’s in Taupo. Consequently, if you don’t get in fast, the cake is gone in a flash.

I keep on meaning to ask mum for her recipe…and maybe after all this time, the reason I don’t is that I want her to make it for me! Now I’m living in France, I regularly come across the French version of lemon cake, which they make with yoghurt – we can attest to our local patisserie making a pretty good one. Today I was inspired to make my own after coming across a recipe in Molly Wizenberg’s (my favourite blogger) book, the excellent ‘A Homemade Life‘. Super easy to make, I am hopeful that this will be my version of mum’s…knowing that her cake will always be the BEST!

Gâteau au Citron,

or, French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon (recipe from Molly Wizenburg)

This type of cake is an old classic in France, the sort of humble treat that a grandmother would make. Traditionally, the ingredients are measured in a yogurt pot (that holds about 125 ml or 1/2 cup).


For the cake:

1 jar (1/2 cup) plain yogurt

2 jars (1 cup) granulated sugar

3 large eggs

3 jars (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (or replace 1/2 cup with finely ground almonds)

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 jar (1/2 cup) canola oil

For the glaze:

Juice from 2 lemons

1/2 jar (1/4 cup) powdered or caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan (after buttering, I sometimes line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper, and then I butter that too).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan to cool completely.

When the cake is thoroughly cooled, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup. (I actually spooned it on as the cake was cooling, inserting some small holes into the top of the cake with my skewer to really let it get through to the middle!)

Variations: This cake can be used as a base for other types of cake – such as an almond version, which I made.  Replace 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup finely ground almonds.  Delicious!  She also suggests adding various fruits (if using frozen, do not thaw beforehand) – I’m thinking a raspberry cake should be next on my list. When Molly adds fruit, she pours half the cake batter into the prepared pan, tops it with a layer of fruit, and then pours in the other half of the batter, sometimes adding more fruit on the very top.


About tfyvie

A foodie kiwi living in London - on the constant search for the next best restaurant, recipe, food trend
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