Saturday, 16 June 2012

Beating the haze with a Lemon Yogurt Cake

The haze is back with a vengeance this year, with the API readings at unhealthy levels again.  It makes my nose itch terribly, and the air smells vaguely burnt.  Other than lighting up scented candles or fragrance oils to counter it (which isn't so smart since its already so hazy),  perhaps baking a cake will help.  There's comfort food, and there's comfort smells.  A baking cake in the oven is the best of both worlds - comforting, safe.  Ahhhh....

I'm old-school, and was taught to make cakes using the creaming method ( cream sugar and butter together for aeration).  But this Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe from Ina Garten was a "mix-and-bake' cake.  Most "mix-and-bake" cakes can turn out dense and doughy, almost like muffins since it uses the same technique.  Since it relies only on chemical aeration ( baking powder), it will never be as light and fluffy as 'normal' cakes.  However I was curious because this recipe had good reviews and looked extremely easy.  So armed with vitamin C loaded lemons and some home-made yogurt, I baked a Lemon Yogurt Cake.

Oh boy, was I glad I did.  As it was, the cake turned out deliciously infused with fresh zesty lemon flavours.  Every mouthful was lemony and with a nice balance of sweet and tart.  It is definitively a lemon cake, and not at all shy to proclaim it.  I am lemon and proud of it!  It was moist, and as expected slightly dense and not cake-like fluffy.  But it wasn't doughy, and neither was it 'heavy'.  You know how some cakes are so rich and you can't eat more than a slice?  Well, this isn't one of them.  It actually feels skinny!  This is a winner and testament to that fact - it disappeared within a day.  To the last crumb.  Everyone loved it.  Just smelling the cake is guaranteed to lift the blues and chase the haze away.  

I did tweak the recipe slightly, by cutting down the sugar and upping the amount of zest.  The original recipe was a tad too sweet for me.  I also skipped the final glaze as I'd run out of icing sugar.  My tweaks are blue.

Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Yogurt Cake - from Food Network
Makes a 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 inch loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used ordinary salt)1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided (cut down to 1 cup, and divide into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (zest from 3 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze: ( I skipped this step)1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.
3.   In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 3/4 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.
4.   Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
5.  Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
6.  When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

If you have the time, do rub the lemon zest together with the sugar.  This helps to release the volatile oils from the zest.


  1. Mmmmmmmmmmmm
    Check out my baking blog:

    1. Hi Rita, thanks and have fun with your blog.

  2. A skinny cake? Yes please!!!!!! ;)

    1. All that lemon and no butter surely must count towards it.


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