“The way to entice people into cooking is to cook delicious things.”--Yotam Ottolenghi
Here is a condensed version of an actual conversation between a couple of savvy preschoolers, as told to me by a friend: One child announces “My family is counting calories and carbs,” and her pint-sized playmate answers, “my family doesn’t count calories OR carbs. We count chemicals.”
I gasped when I heard this. It’s so exciting to know that kids are talking about what’s in their food. The lightbulb is on and these dialogs are happening in preschool circles and hopefully around the kitchen table. Mindfulness of caloric intake is a necessity of life, but the quality and source of those calories is what really matters. In this age of speed eating and ‘get thin quick’ shakes and such, we have lost sight of cooking real food with fresh ingredients.
Everywhere we turn, packaged food is available touting claims of ‘light’ or ‘low carb’ yet their labels reveal tons of unpronounceable ingredients, or in other words, chemicals. You can grab something off the grocery shelf or spend some quality time in the kitchen baking something really satisfying. If you don’t fancy yourself a baker, or absolutely run in fear of cooking from scratch, you MUST make this fabulous cake.
I discovered this recipe a few years back while thumbing through a Bon Appetit magazine. In the description it is reported to be ‘the first dessert French children learn to make.” I suggested that my daughter make it and she whipped it together effortlessly. It has been a staple ever since.
You start with basic baking pantry ingredients and add yogurt which gives the cake a delicate richness. Lemon zest makes it tangy, and the technique of first blending granulated sugar with the lemon zest helps extract the flavorful oils, giving a pronounced lemon note. The mixing is totally uncomplicated--all you need is a whisk.
Before you know it, the silky batter is ready for the oven and suddenly the whole house is filled with the delicious aroma of homemade cake. No unpronounceable ingredients, just enticing goodness. Invite the neighborhood kids over for a little baking session, they will be hooked.
FRENCH YOGURT CAKE
It has been reported that this is the first recipe that children in France learn to make. It’s that easy and equally delicious! Cardboard loaf pans from the cake decorating section work well and make this a perfect cooking party activity.
- butter for the pan
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a standard (8 1/2x4 1/4") loaf pan with with a smear of soft butter. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Using your fingers, rub the sugar with the lemon zest in a large bowl to release the flavorful lemon oil. Add the Greek yogurt, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Stir in the flour mixture just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature
Double the recipe to make a bundt cake for a crowd! I like to use half butter in the double recipe--barely melt the butter and add with the oil