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Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Yaourt)

There is no simpler cake to make – and probably no easier cake to eat, either. See what’s left of the cake in the above photo? That was taken the morning after I made it the night before. It was less than 12 hours old.

Delicate, slightly spongy and made with yogurt and oil instead of butter and sour cream, it tastes like a much lighter version of our pound cake. And it’s a very French thing.

For those of you who think that French women are pushing those extra-long rolling pins across sheets of puff pastry in their teensy kitchens, I give you this, probably the most common of all French cakes, the one that everyone, even X’s mother who doesn’t cook (and certainly doesn’t bake) makes all the time: gâteau au yaourt, or the yogurt cake.

It is as easy and as quick as a box cake. It is very dump-and-stir. You can add stuff to it, like I did in this recipe – the zest of a mandarin orange – or leave it plain Jane. I’ve added jimmies to this cake to give it a tiger twist, and I’m planning on making an all-chocolate version soon. My friend Debbie tosses in chunks of apples or pears and nuts when she makes hers. Think of this recipe as a base. Add whatever you’re in the mood for.

It is a great cake to have in your repertoire for those last-minute things that you want to bring something to but think you don’t have time for, or for a weeknight dinner dessert. You do have time to make this. It’s just 5 minutes to put together and less than an hour in the oven.

Serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar and a spoonful of jam (X’s preferred way). Have it with your afternoon coffee. Or morning coffee. Or both. In fact, I think there may be a tiny bit left in the kitchen…that I’m going to go eat right now before X wakes up.

I’ll make him another one.

Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Yaourt)

Makes one 10-inch cake (8 to 10 servings)


1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the sides. Place the pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set this aside.

3. Mix together the zest and the sugar, using your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar – by doing this, you release the oils and it’ll make the cake more fragrant.

4. In your mixer, beat your eggs until they’re light, then add the yogurt, zest and sugar, vanilla, and oil and mix well. Now add the flour mixture and mix just until combined — you don’t want to overmix. Pour your batter into the pan, and slide it into the oven to bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack. Slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a side of raspberry jam.