Light and aromatic, it is the perfect dessert that my mother used to make.
For the New Year I decided to dress it up, sprinkling with diced, caramelized citrus peels and pistachios; I also cut the year’s numbers on tangerine peels that I simmered in syrup before placing on the cake.
Bake the cake at least a day before you plan to serve it so the flavors have time to develop. Cakes are best the day after!
In our family it was simply called Tou Yiaourtiou (the one with yogurt), to distinguish with another, more elaborate festive dessert my mother and aunts prepared with store-bought lady-finger cookies and a heavy margarine-based cream –butter and heavy cream were not a common ingredient in Greece in my childhood years.
Only recently I realized that this, ubiquitous urban Greek dessert is the Gateau aux Yaourt the simplest French cake, the first one kids bake as the portions are measured in the yogurt pot. Obviously my family, as most other bakers in Athens, got the recipe from Tselementes’ book. He obviously copied the French cake, but substituted margerine (!) for the olive oil, calling it Yiaourtopita (yogurt pie) a name that many bakers use today.
Whenever I have, I use lemons from my garden, or our local tangerines and oranges that are wonderfully aromatic. I suggest you seek organic fruits for this and my other recipes.
See also my Orange, Lemon or Tangerine Olive Oil Cake which I make pulsing the whole citrus fruit, not just zesting it.
For a 9-inch (23 cm) round or square pan
2/3 cup light olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for greasing pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
Fine zest of 4 lemons –fresh, preferably organic– OR 2 large Oranges and 2 Tangerines
1 1/2 cup full-fat strained yogurt (Greek)
1/3 cup lemon or orange juice
THE SYRUP & TOPPING (optional)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup home made Lemon Liqueur or any citrus-flavored liqueur
1 cup home made Lemon Marmalade or any citrus fruit marmalade you have at hand
1/2 cup toasted almonds or pistachios, coarsely ground
MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 375°F (200 C)
Line a round or square 9-inch (23 cm) pan with parchment paper and very lightly brush with oil.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.
Using a standing mixer, or hand-held mixer and a stainless-steel bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar for about 4-5 minutes, until creamy. Add the olive oil, the lemon or orange zest and the yogurt, and beat until incorporated.
Add half of the flour mixture and work very briefly to incorporate then add the remaining flour and the lemon or orange juice. Just incorporate the last ingredients and don not overwork the batter.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the beaten egg whites into batter, working until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and even the top with a spatula.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool 15 minutes on a rack.
Make the Syrup: While cake bakes, in a small saucepan combine the lemon or juice, the water and the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved.
When the cake is cool enough to handle but still warm, invert it onto a serving platter, peel off the paper and prick the surface all over with a toothpick. Using a spoon, douse the cake with syrup, making sure you cover the entire surface evenly.
Sprinkle with the liqueur, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand until it is completely cold.
Spread the lemon marmalade over the cake, and, if you like, sprinkle with toasted almonds or pistachios. Cover and let stand at room temperature a few hours or overnight before cutting to serve.