French Yogurt Cake

French Yogurt Cake

Bringing Up Bebe,” a book about French childrearing by an American living abroad, has its controversies. Is Pamela Druckerman, the author, making sweeping statements about a culture she barely understands? Or is she a keen observer of a phenomenon that families living in it are too close to it to see for themselves?

All I can say is this:  Greg and I happened to listen to the book just about the time we were getting Samantha to sleep through the night, and it gave me the courage to let her cry, even as I sat cringing downstairs. She’s been sleeping through the night ever since.

But even if you don’t agree with the book’s premise or its reporting methods, everyone, it seems, can agree that there’s nothing controversial about the Bringing Up Bebe Yogurt Cake. Druckerman says that French parents bake with their children from a very young age; that it teaches them that being precise and having patience are worthy skills. Many of them start with this yogurt cake; it’s so easy you can measure the ingredients in the yogurt container.

Dorie Greenspan, in her book, Baking, says “I don’t think there’s a home cook in France shoe doesn’t make this moist yogurt cake, a delightful cross between a pound cake and a sponge cake.” Since our yogurt containers here in the U.S. are not the same size as in France, Dorie has adapted the recipe for Americans. I love it. Samantha does, too.

French Yogurt Cake inspired by Bringing Up Bebe

You can substitute Greek yogurt for the regular. I also added thyme to one of my versions and it was terrific. Dorie says mint and rosemary are good, too.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds, or omit them and use another 1/2 cup AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower (I used grapeseed and olive oil both)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inch loaf pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and, with your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very well blended. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula and fold in the oil. You’ll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes (mine only took 45) or until the cake beings to come away from the sides of the pan; it should be golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold, and cool to room temperature right side up ont he rack.

Dorie recommends a marmalade glaze, and though I haven’t made it, I’ll include it here:

1/2 cup lemon marmalade, strained
1 teaspoon water

Put the marmalade in a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, stir in the teaspoon of water and heat until the jelly is hot and liquified. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the cake with the glaze.

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