The kitchen table stands in a corner, with the Saturday newspapers lazily strewn all over it, waiting to be read. While the water is coming to a boil, my friend Dor is preparing cups with tea bags and a generous amount of sugar. And just off to the side, sits a simple, unadorned yogurt cake.
“Would you like some cake?” My host’s mom asks, her countenance completely nonchalant. Children’s toys are strewn at her feet, a dog runs around in circles.
And my mouth is already beginning to drool.
The simple act of making a cake for the weekend has always seemed like the ultimate luxury to me. Who would have so much time, I thought, as to not just worry about making Friday night dinner and cleaning the table and spending time with their family, but also make a cake? Who would have so many ingredients in their home, so much egg and flour and sugar, that they could afford the expense of a cake for no other reason than the weekend?
To my Russian child’s mind, cakes were associated with special occasions only. They were grand affairs, layers of sponge alternating with buckets of heavy cream, oftentimes crowned with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. They were my grandmother Berta’s domain, and usually took days to make, and cost a fortune.
They tasted like a holiday: decadent, overly sweet, a true splurge.
No one in my house would have dreamt about serving a simple sponge cake. No one would have made a pie for the weekend. No one would have mixed almond meal and eggs and yogurt and lemon juice in one bowl, poured it into a loaf pan, and called it a day.
It wasn’t until I entered my Israel friends’ homes that I saw there was a different way to celebrate the weekend: unhurried, unfussy, quiet. It wasn’t until then that I saw there was a different kind of cake.
But that was everything I dreamed of: the simple, clean, light cakes that my friends’ moms would bake for the weekend. The unadorned, humdrum affairs that needed nothing more than a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, or a light glaze of yogurt frosting.
All I wanted was a simple weekend cake. And this lemon almond yogurt cake is exactly that.
It requires no special occasion, and a very minimal amount of work. This almond yogurt cake is full of the bright taste of lemons, and its crumb is just right – not too dense, not too brittle. It’s gluten-free in the simplest of ways, and gets all of its body from some eggs and yogurt. If you have more yogurt left behind, you can dress it with an easy yogurt glaze and some ripe, local strawberries, or you can leave it as it is, naked and bare.
It may not command much attention, just sitting there alongside big, heavy cream affairs. But if you bake it for the weekend, anyone who takes a bite is going to marvel at the simple, clean flavours.
And then, they too will want to just make a cake for the weekend. Just because.
Lemon almond yogurt cake with strawberries (GF)
Lemon almond yogurt cake:
- 1.5 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cups yogurt
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 eggs
- Zest of 1/2 a lemon
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 2 TBs heavy cream
- 3 TBs icing sugar
- Sliced strawberries for topping
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a medium sized bowl, mix dry ingredients separately.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs until light and airy, with bubbles on top. Gently fold in yogurt, oil, lemon zest and juice.
Add dry ingredients to wet in batches, 1/2 a cup at a time, folding with a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate.
Oil and flour a removable 9" baking pan, a loaf pan, or muffin tins. Pour batter into pan.
Bake at a 325F oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out dry (if baking in muffin tins, start checking after 25-30 minutes).
If serving with glaze, whip yogurt, heavy cream and icing sugar. The glaze should be runny. Pour it onto the cake as you're serving, or ladle each piece with some sauce. Top each piece with strawberry slices.