This French lemon yogurt cake is so easy to make and the result is one incredibly delicious, moist, light and flavorful loaf that works for so many occasions. It's no wonder this is on every French cook's list.
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I've been meaning to make a yogurt cake for ages now, but for whatever reason it has taken me a while. I suspect it is partly that we don't tend to have dessert all that often, or if we do, it's more likely to be easy fruity dishes like mango cheesecake parfait, grilled peaches with mascarpone or the eternal family favorite, banoffee pie.
But leftover yogurt prompted me to finally make yogurt cake, and we're all so glad it did.
This lemon yogurt cake is the kind of cake that's perfect for us. It's light enough that you can have it as a snack at pretty much any time of the day, and it plays to our love of lemon (try my lemon thyme focaccia, lemon risotto or Meyer lemon cookies if you are equally a fan).
My kids have been all over this, requesting it any chance they get and even my sweet-skeptic husband has happily had a few pieces. I took some in to school to share in the playground and it all went pretty quickly with plenty of "yum" and "is that recipe on your blog?" comments.
That's when you know your on a winner.
And in reality, it's not surprising as this is essentially a tried and true traditional French recipe.
What's the difference between a yogurt cake and pound cake?
To look at it, you might be forgiven for thinking this yogurt cake is a bit like pound cake. It has that similar even color and crumb, and is also often made in a loaf pan.
However one big difference, in case it wasn't obvious by the name, is that yogurt cake includes yogurt. This both gives a lovely moist texture as well as a slight tang to the flavor. The other major difference is yogurt cake uses oil rather than butter.
Lemon yogurt cake - a European tradition
Yogurt cake is in many ways the French answer to pound cake but quite honestly, it's a whole lot better. Despite the French reputation for fine baking, that's not what anyone makes at home, but this is the kind of recipe that is. It's easy, delicious and takes no time to prepare.
I say French, but in actual fact yogurt cake is something you will also find in both Spain and Italy as well. The most common French yogurt cake uses lemon as the flavoring, as is also true in both Spain and Italy. This pairs perfectly with the slight tang from the yogurt, but you can use other citrus flavors as well.
In France, you'll generally use a neutral oil while Spanish and Italian versions will more typically use olive oil. This adds a bit more flavor that can make it feel richer, I think. There's no right or wrong, of course, just variations. I happened to have some lemon infused olive oil (so good!) so I used a blend of that and vegetable oil.
How to make French lemon yogurt cake
- Combine flour, salt and baking powder and whisk together.
- Rub the grated lemon zest in to the sugar to help it release the oils.
- Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk until blended.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix in.
- Pour in the oil and blend until combined.
- Line a loaf pan with parchment and/or oil and pour the batter in.
- Bake until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
Some versions of this will add a glaze, whether honey, a lemon glaze or frosting, but I think most traditionally it is left as it is. And certainly it already has a fantastic lemon flavor and is moist enough not to need soaked with something else.
I also feel it's more versatile without the glaze (for example, you could grill a slice and serve with berries and cream) but feel free to add one of course if you prefer.
Despite being called a cake, it's more commonly made (in France at least) as a loaf as I have here. You can easily pour the batter into a round cake tin or bundt if you prefer, but you will need to adjust the cooking time (both will be quicker).
Once you try this French lemon yogurt cake, it's easy to see why it's one of those recipes French home cooks keep in their back pockets. It's so quick and easy to prepare, has such a wonderful flavor and texture, it's really hard to find any fault in it. Perfect for any occasion, it's definitely one I know I'll be getting requests for again soon.
Try these other lemon treats:
- Lemon madeleines
- Lemon pudding cake (a tasty dessert that separates into curd-like sauce below and cake-like top)
- Meyer lemon cookies
- Lemon almond cupcakes (that happen to be gluten free)
- Lemon curd (a delicious spread)
Plus see the snack recipes archives for more sweet and savory treats.
The loaf pan I use here is old and I don't know the brand, but this loaf pan looks like a good option (and I have used, and really like, other Wilton pans).
French lemon yogurt cake
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour plain flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 lemon zest (ie from 1 lemon)
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- 3 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup vegetable oil or other plain oil eg safflower, canola
- ¼ cup lemon olive oil or additional vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Lightly oil and line a standard loaf pan (8 ½" x 4 ¼", 21x11cm).
- Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together.
- In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest in to the sugar in to help it release the oils. You should get patches that become slightly moist.
- Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the lemony sugar and whisk until blended.
- Gradually add the flour mixture as well and mix in.
- Pour in the oil(s) and blend until combined.
- Pour the batter into the lined loaf pan and smooth off the top.
- Bake for approx 50-55 minutes until the loaf is golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
- Leave to cool around 5 minutes before loosening from the pan and carefully taking the loaf out. Continue to cool in a cooling rack.
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