Friday, April 17, 2009

Yogurt Cake with Strawberries

As luck would have it, my very first strawberry of the season was the best strawberry I’ve ever had. It came from a rancher at a local farmer's market who said his strawberries aren’t quite yet at their peak. I smiled and wondered how much better they could possibly be. That strawberry was from Rodriguez Farm in Watsonville and if my first bite is any indication, this will be one incredible season.

I pair fresh strawberries in their simplest form with a French household staple, Yogurt Cake. This is a very versatile cake that is much lighter and not as dense as a pound cake and serves as a perfect backdrop for fresh fruit, ice cream, sorbet or your favorite dessert sauce. It’s very easy to put together and requires no extraordinary ingredients. It can be served at any meal, as a snack or taken along on a picnic. It’s absolutely perfect with tea.

I’m truly fortunate to have a few farmer’s markets to choose from in my city. I hope you can search out the best fresh strawberries and fully enjoy this very promising season.

Bench notes:

- There are several ways to change up this cake. I prefer to use a light olive oil for a little depth. You can add a 1/4 t almond extract or a tablespoon of rum or brandy or a pinch of chopped herbs. Use your imagination.
- Use full-fat yogurt. Greek yogurt is perfect for this cake.
- If you’d like a pronounced lemon flavor, make the syrup and brush it on while the cake is still warm.
- You can also bake this in a 9” x 2" round cake pan for about 35 to 40 minutes.

Yogurt Cake with Strawberries

1 C sugar
zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 eggs
3/4 C full-fat yogurt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C olive oil

optional syrup:
1/3 C lemon juice
1/3 C sugar

2 pints fresh strawberries
sugar to taste
lemon juice to taste

1 C heavy cream or crème fraîche
sugar to taste

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Prepare an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2” loaf pan with oil and a piece of parchment paper large enough to form an overhang along the length of the pan.

Zest the lemon into the sugar. Use a fork to press the zest into the sugar and release the oils.

Whisk together the eggs, zested sugar, yogurt and vanilla.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg mixture and stir. When the mixture looks fairly well blended, add the oil and stir to fully incorporate.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
Cool the cake for about 10 minutes and lift it gently out of the pan. Remove the parchment and let cool completely.

Heat the lemon juice and sugar just until dissolved. Brush on the surface of the cake.

Slice the strawberries and add sugar and lemon juice to taste. Let them sit for about half an hour to macerate.

Whip to soft peak the cream or crème fraîche with sugar to taste.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Ahh, you're so lucky that strawberries are in season where you are!! They're not here yet :-(

Bunny said...

I just can'r wait for strawerries to come in season here, I plan on taking full advantage of the bounty! I've heard of yogurt cake but never made it, I'm glad you did so I could see it! I'll be trying this soon!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) said...

Those strawberries are picture perfection. I hope they tasted as sweet and amazing as they look!

anna said...

Those strawberries look so fantastic! I definitely plan to go berry picking this summer - I haven't done it in years but I know it will be worth it.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

so fresh! nothing better than yogurt cake. it was one of the few things my mom baked at home. it looks delicious gayle!

Sasha said...

This cake looks amazing!

Bryan said...

this looks great!
i've been making yogurt lately and this would be a perfect way to use up extra.
my yogurt batches have been neither runny nor thick, but would you recommend straining the yogurt a little before using it in the cake?

i havent had a chance to start scouting for good berries yet. is the Rodriguez Farm at Ferry Plaza, or maybe Marin? or a smaller neighborhood farmer's market? sounds like they'd be worth seeking out.

the olive oil you used is non-extra-virgin?
im curious to try this with almond or another light nut oil...

pastry studio said...

GooberNgrape, I don't think you have to strain your yogurt unless it's separating drastically.

I had the Rodriguez strawberries at the Galleria Farmer's Market (, but I think they run the circuit around here. I usually buy from Lucero, but if you're looking for a sweeter, plump Camarosa strawberry, the Rodriguez are excellent. They'll offer you a taste. Chandler strawberries are also fabulous, not as sweet but have a bit more complexity.

I used a light virgin olive oil. Nut oils are usually only used in small quantities. You could combine it with a no-taste canola oil.

I hope you enjoy your strawberries and cake!

Juliana said...

WOW, never made cake with yogurt! Sounds great and with the pictures!

Sasha said...

Thank you so much for the recipe! I just made this and it's delicious. I should've made the lemon glaze though - it's not lemon-y enough.


Irene said...

This looks fantastic! I'm going to make this for Mother's Day brunch!

Bryan said...

i've gone cake-crazy this weekend.

this cake is delicious! i only wish my mini-pans werent coated with dark non-stick.
the cake baked easy-- the inside is soft, pretty fine, and moist like there's no tomorrow-- but the outside bottom and sides are too golden. i wanna reinvest in some basic aluminum pans now.

and as you say, the sherry cake flavor was twice as good the next day.
sometimes i dont know what flavor i taste more: the olive oil (thank you Stephen Singer), the sherry, or the orange, it's a beautiful balance.

Q: if this yogurt cake has oil in it like the sherry cake, why is this method different than that one? why wouldnt you create the emulsion the same as the other with cold eggs?

or can you assemble emulsion-type cake batters like you would aioli? cold eggs (and cold bowl?) first, then trickle in the oil? (then fold in flours.)

thanks for some great inspiration.

pastry studio said...

GooberNGrate, thank you for your thoughtful questions. I've pondered over the same ones! When I first saw that Medrich called for cold eggs, I wondered why. I've made plenty of olive oil cakes with room temperature eggs. I searched for clues in Harold McGee but no luck. So I haven't come up with any sort of satisfactory answer. I'll have to try making it with room temp eggs and see what the difference is. I'm wondering if it's the density of the olive oil and the ratio of sugar, but I honestly don't know since it's the first time I've encountered this and it's very unusual in cake baking. Cake ingredients should always be at room temperature for the best emulsion and aeration.

As for the two different mixing methods, this is the mystery that is pastry! It's the unique combination of all the ingredients in particular ratios and a particular temperature and in a particular order that creates the complexity of the end product. If you'll notice, the yogurt cake has a very soft fine crumb, much lighter than the sherry cake. The method has minimal aeration and the chemistry of the yogurt plays another role. In the sherry cake, the oil, sugar and eggs are beaten for 3 to 5 minutes before the flour is added but has about the same proportion of eggs and fat. So it's a complex story that is a constant source of challenge and study. Pastry chefs are detail beasts for a reason!

Dark baking pans will definitely affect the finished product. It's worth investing in new ones if you hope to do a lot of baking. If you live near a restaurant supply store, they will have a nice selection at a good price.

So glad you're enjoying these cakes. It's a great season to play with all these combinations!

United Soccer Conference said...

Your cakes are really incredible. I'm always waiting for your posts. Keep them coming.