My friend the Film Critic had a birthday last week and so I took it into my head, late last Tuesday night, to make him a birthday cake. Wanting something simple – and that I already had the ingredients for in the house – I decided on a straightforward Gâteau au Yaourt, which seems to be a French national dish. I first came across this cake on Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog and, subsequently, it also cropped up in Christelle Le Ru’s Simply Irresistible French Desserts and also as a Frenchwoman’s contribution to the Moneystown school’s charity cookbook. It was evidentially time to try it out.
What originally caught my eye was the fact that you tipped a tub of yoghurt into a bowl and then simply used the pot to measure out the rest of the ingredients. How easy – and how flexible – is that? We always have a big tub of natural yoghurt in the house so the main ingredient was already at hand and the others – eggs, sugar, sunflower oil, flour and baking powder – are also pantry staples. As my tub of natural yoghurt was, at 500ml, much too big I decided to use a 250ml NZ cup as my measuring tool, scaling everything else appropriately. I didn’t want the cake to be too plain so I added some lemon zest, pistachio nuts, vanilla and muscovado sugar to the mixture. I was also going to ice it with lemon glacé icing (just a mixture of lemon juice and icing sugar) until I discovered what little icing sugar was in the house. Already half ways through making the icing, I instead used the mixture as a lemony syrup to pour over the hot cake so that it soaked through, leaving a bittersweet crust on top.
Mixed in minutes and in the oven a few seconds later, the eventual Lemon and Pistachio Yogurt Cake was a resounding success. It had a tasty piquancy from the yoghurt, which was heightened by the addition of both lemon rind and juice. I got rather distracted while preparing the pistachios – so difficult to shell them and not eat them! – so rather less that I would have liked made it into the cake. As Clotilde said, this is a great any-time-of-the-day cake but I must confess that my favourite way of eating it is to crumble a slice over some ripe nectarines, sliced into a bowl, and top with a dollop of natural yoghurt. Sweet and soft, fruity and creamy all together. I eat it for breakfast…
Lemon and Pistachio Yogurt Cake
Natural yoghurt – 1 cup
Eggs – 2
Sunflower oil – ¾ cups
Lemon – 1, zested and juiced
Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
Sugar – 2 cups (you can use a mixture of muscovado and granulated sugars)
Pistachios – ¼ cup, shelled and chopped
Flour – 3 cups
Baking powder – 2 teaspoons
Icing sugar – 3 tablespoons
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
Put yoghurt, eggs, sunflower oil, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract into a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the pistachio nuts to the bowl, sift the flour and baking powder over and mix gently until combined. Pour and scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until risen, golden brown and a cake tester – or knife – comes out clean.
Just before the cake is ready, mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar. Place the tin on a wire rack and pour the sugary lemon juice over while it is still hot. Allow to cool in the tin. When cold, carefully remove from the tin and serve with fresh seasonal fruit and extra yoghurt.
Makes one large 22cm cake.