Many moons ago, I was an undergrad living in a tiny basement room in Hamilton, Ontario, studying a field I had very little aptitude for. In between reviewing lecture slides on the vascular system and crazy group meetings that went until 4 A.M., I would read food blogs. This was around 2005 when food blogging wasn’t quite a thing yet, so it all felt very exciting. I espsecially loved the ones from les français, talking about going to the local market in Paris and making all sorts of dishes I had never heard of before. One particular blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, mentioned a very humble-sounding cake called the Gâteau au yaourt. A French classic, it relies on very simple ingredients: flour, sugar, oil, eggs, and yogurt. To 19 year-old me, it didn’t sound very exciting and I unfortunately never gave it a chance.
Years later one of my close friends Deirdre gave me one of the best bachelorette presents: a copy of Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, a food memoir from the writer of Orangette. It wasn’t a conventional bachelorette present, but heck, aren’t the best presents are always around food? Wizenberg is a wonderful writer, immediately pulling you into her journey from learning to cook from her parents to studying abroad in France. At one point she writes about a French-style yogurt loaf, on a page that is now dog-eared in my copy of the book. Coincidentally, I had been over-zealous at the grocery and bought way too many tubs of plain Liberté yogurt on sale, and this was the perfect way to try it.
To this day, this is the cake I make the most often. Its simplicity means it comes together quickly, requires ingredients I usually have, and oh, what a wonderful flavour and texture it has. With a tender crumb from a combination of ground almonds and flour and a slight tang from lemon zest, it is comforting, just sweet enough and perhaps best of all, dead easy. This past winter when I bought all those Meyer lemons, I sliced a couple to line the edges of the pan before pouring in the batter.
I think the advantage of simple recipes is that they provide a great base to make variations. I imagine this cake could also be done with orange instead of lemon zest, and here, I include my current favourite with rosewater, honey and pistachios.
P.S. It’s just lovely with a cup of black tea with a touch of milk.
P.P.S. (From the Instagram photo above) If you haven’t seen Waitress yet, you really should! Prepare for major pie cravings after.
Honey yogurt cake with rosewater and pistachios
Serving size: 6-8
- ½ c. plain yogurt
- ¾ c. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. rosewater
- 3 large eggs
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- ½ c. ground almonds
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ c. canola oil
- ¼ c. honey
- crushed rosebud petals
- ¼ – ½ c. pistachios
Adapted from Orangette’s French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper, and grease the paper and the sides of the pan well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, rosewater and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, flour, and baking powder. Add the dry mix to the wet mix in the large bowl. Add the oil and stir with a spoon until completely incorporated.
Pour into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking and cooling, roughly chop the pistachios and if you haven’t done so yet, crush the rosebud petals.
In a small bowl or a cup, mix together the honey with just a bit of hot water so that it is liquid enough to spread onto the cake with a pastry brush.
When the cake is still a bit warm, brush the diluted honey over the top of the cake and top with crushed rose petals and pistachios.
Have only 2 eggs? Try Clotilde Dusoulier’s recipe for Gâteau au yaourt.
You can also use a loaf pan, but the baking time will be longer. I would keep an eye on the cake starting around 35 minutes, and check on it every 3 minutes or so. The top will have a nice bump and be golden.