Lemon Yogurt Cake

Recently I have been making yogurt. Perhaps one day I will talk about that, but it’s still a work in progress… most batches are edible at this point. Searching for hints though, I stumbled across this. It’s a lemony pound cake that is made like a muffin or banana bread - no beating butter required.
Someone in the comments suggested olive oil as the vegetable oil, which reminded me of another delightful cake - a sherry-olive oil pound cake recommended by my aunt, who always has the best recipes. (That one, by the way, also works with Peach Schnapps...if you run out of sherry.) I like pound cake, so it seemed necessary to try. When you make yogurt often enough you start looking for places to put it (it keeps for a week to ten days….but to keep your culture happy, once a week is probably the better rate to refresh your starter. Sounds like another pet?). Though we haven’t gotten bored of frozen yogurt yet…
The original recipe specifies greek yogurt. I was using a greek yogurt as a starter at the time, but as I did not bother to strain it, it had the consistency of regular whole milk yogurt - it didn't seem to break the recipe, so feel free to use whatever you have around.
The fun thing about this cake was that during the making the entire kitchen smelled like lemons. When you rub the sugar and lemon zest together, all the oils release - mostly into the sugar, I would hope, but also into the air. My roommates walked past the pantry and turned around, lured by the smell…which does translate into a nicely fragrant cake. I assume it works on other cakes too. It also broke down the zest further, which may not have been necessary, but was nice.  I suppose you could use a food processor too, but this way you have less to clean and your hands will smell delicious.

We really enjoyed the olive oil version so I have not tried it with regular vegetable oil or butter yet. I did use vegetable oil and dark brown sugar in place of the white sugar for a brown sugar-yogurt cake, which was nice with peaches, but would probably not beat out the olive oil-lemon version. To properly judge it I’ll make one of each one day.

Grease and flour a loaf pan! Now put it somewhere the dog won't lick it and you won't knock it down with your elbow because it's in your way. Then start preheating the oven to 350°C (175°C).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and a 3/4 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt (or any other coarse salt you like - it sounds like a lot, but it turns out that coarse salt by volume is not nearly as dense as table salt, so it works out fine...if you're using table salt, you probably want to reduce it to 1/4 teaspoon or less.).

In a large mixing bowl, zest one lemon (you want one tablespoon of lemon zest - I actually misread it and thought it was only one teaspoon, ignored the instructions and used zest of one lemon....because I tend to let the remaining peel just sit around and dry out, and depending on your grating device, your volume will vary anyway), straight into one cup of sugar: If you get zest stuck in your grater at the end, just pour some of the sugar on it and wipe it down. (Though not in such a way as to grate yourself in, please...blood and screaming don't really improve the batter)
 Less bowls to clean, and less zest wasted this way.
Something always gets stuck, doesn't it?
This helped.

Now, rub the sugar and lemon together until it feels moist and the sugar clumps together a little bit.

Add two eggs, a half a cup of olive oil, 3/4 cup plain yogurt (whole milk if possible) and a half a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Whisk til the mixture is well combined, then fold in the flour, just until they are mixed.
You know how muffin recipes say "batter may be lumpy"? This one didn't, but I have yet to manage a perfectly smooth batter, and the cakes came out just fine. The flour seems to lump just a bit every time, and overbeating seems like a bigger risk (don't want to develop too much gluten!), so...batter may be lumpy!
Lumpy batter.
Pour your batter into a greased and floured loaf pan (you did that first, right? I thought so...I always do, too.), and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Lumpy batter in pan.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely. You could cut into it earlier, but it's one of those cakes that really does taste better once it's done cooling, so your patience (and that of your roommates) will be rewarded! It also keeps, when wrapped up, for 3 days or so. Or overnight. Because yogurt cake for breakfast is never a bad idea.

So here is the short version:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse Kosher salt

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt (ideally whole milk)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease and flour a loaf pan, preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, rub together the lemon zest and sugar with your fingers until it feels moist and almost clumps a little.
To the sugar mixture, add the eggs, yogurt, oil and vanilla, and whisk to thoroughly combine them.
Fold the flour in til just combined. Batter will likely be lumpy.
Pour the batter into the pan, bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan, and let it finish cooling on a wire rack.

Enjoy with tea. Or your beverage of choice.


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