I have delusions of living in a lovely little Parisian pied-a-terre, with a view of the Eiffel Tower off the small terrace, shopkeepers that call out “bon jour Madame!” every morning as I pass by and a perfect jewel box of a patisserie on the corner. Ahhhhh. I’d cook wonderful things while channeling my inner Julia, spend warm sunny afternoons in cafes looking tres chic while I sip a cafe au lait or a cool glass of rose or perhaps even a bracing Pernod. I’d wear jaunty hats and learn how to tie my scarves just so. And in this dream, my French is perfect and charming, I’m tall and thin and suffer no ill effects from too much wine and a daily croissant habit. Everything is fabulous. It is my dream after all.
The fact is my French is only passable when talking food (I know my food) though I can be rather charming. I’m neither tall nor thin and can’t stand Pernod. The only scarf technique I’ve mastered is the messy knot and too many croissants will most certainly show up on my ass. But it’s nice to dream isn’t it? One day. One day.
Obviously, I have an affinity for things French. A while ago, I read an article in Bon Appétit written by the incomparable Dorie Greenspan that stuck with me but I can’t seem to track down again. She wrote about how Parisian women are fabulous entertainers but they don’t bake … that’s what all the fabulous patisseries are for. Having been to many of these temples of lusciousness personally, I can completely understand this rationale. Why do it yourself when it’s so easy to run down the street and pick up something wonderful at Pierre Herme? Why wouldn’t you?
That said, there are a few classic items that these women do occasionally crack open their tiny ovens to make for friends and family. One was a simple yogurt cake. Homey, moist, delicious and easy – it’s been in my mental files to try for a while. In looking for recipes that use a lot of jam (long story), I remembered this and thought a citrus marmalade yogurt cake sounded rather tasty. It was time to trot this one out. Working my way through some marmalade back stock was an added bonus.
This turned out to be more challenging than I thought. Dorie’s recipe had almond flour, which sounded delicious, but not quite what I was looking for. I wanted a vanilla/citrus tea-cake-ish type of recipe so I baked what seemed like a promising cake, working in some of my homemade citrus marmalade. Cake #1 was just OK. A little on the rubbery rather than moist tender side and the glaze was all wrong. I suspected that low-fat yogurt was to blame so I tried it again. Cake #2 was the same recipe but with full fat plain yogurt and a different glaze technique. Better but still not quite what I had in mind though the glaze/icing was a keeper. Cake #3 was dry and crumbly, with a texture you should not get from a mixture of eggs, yogurt and oil. Baffling. Discouraged yet determined, I turned to the lovely Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini. As I suspected, she had a yogurt cake recipe that sounded promising so I tweaked a few things and gave it a whirl.
Now this one – Cake #4 – turned out quite nice. Golden brown with a light orangey flavor from the marmalade and a bit of zest. Leave it to the Parisian – the texture was great – moist but dense and it lasted a several days at room temperature. With a marmalade glaze, it was pretty damn good.
To work in the marmalade, I added a little to the cake batter, brushed some strained jelly on the warm cake and worked in the strained orange bits into a powdered sugar icing for the top. It took a few tries but added everything I love about marmalade – a little sweet, a little bitter, a lot of deliciousness. Since my marmalade was homemade and therefore a little chunky (because that’s how I like it), I gave it a rough chop to break up the long citrus pieces. Depending on your marmalade, you may or may not want to do this. I’ll leave that up to you.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: UMM UMMM GOOD. This is a comfy cozy rustic kind of cake. Great with a cup of tea or a snifter of cognac. A perfect thing to share as it makes a decent size loaf, keeps well and is just damn good. Go forth and gift. I give you permission. And did I mention it’s easy? Two bowls! No need to throw out the back lugging the mixer off the shelf (though if that happens, I recommend the cognac. Lots.)
MARMALADE YOGURT CAKE
Makes 1 loaf cake, serves 8-10
for the cake:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons orange marmalade (roughly chopped if the citrus bits are large)
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
for the glaze:
¼ cup orange marmalade, roughly chopped if the citrus bits are large
1 teaspoon water
for the icing:
strained marmalade bits (from the glaze – about 1 Tablespoon or so)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water
- Preheat the oven 350° F and place oven rack in the lower third of the oven.
- Spray the sides of a standard loaf pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper trimmed to fit.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, marmalade, zest, vanilla and oil. Whisk until smooth.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, in two additions, until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, in the center of the oven until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – about 50 minutes.
- Place the cake on a wire rack to cool just a little while you make the glaze.
- In a small saucepan, heat the ¼ cup marmalade with just a touch of water (about ½ teaspoon) until warm and runny.
- Strain the marmalade over a small bowl to separate the orangey bits.. Save the bits for the icing.
- Turn the cake out of the pan and place onto the cooling rack.
- Brush the warm bit-free jelly (about 1 Tablespoon or so) over the warm cake with a pastry brush, coating the cake top evenly.
- Let cake cool completely – about 1 hour.
- Make the icing – in a small bowl, combine the strained marmalade bits, powdered sugar and water to make a thick, smooth, pourable icing.
- Pour the icing on top of the cooled cake, spread evenly if you like and let sit until firm – about ½ hour.
- The cake is best served room temperature but will keep – tightly wrapped – for several days at room temperature. The icing may soften when wrapped but it’s still mighty delicious.