January 26, 2011

a lemon cake for a sunny day

Mid January sunshine last week called for a summery cake. Lemons, blueberries and a few raspberries seemed wonderfully bright and cheerful for this winter cake. The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's lemon yogurt cake. I made a few substitutions, mostly just necessary ingredient adjustments based on what I can find in the Swiss grocery stores. I swapped vegetable oil for olive oil, vanilla extract for vanilla beans and whole-milk yogurt for 2%. In regards to the yogurt I was having trouble finding whole milk yogurt in the stores. It was my impression that I was moving to the land of full fat dairy products, but I think it was my own fault in not being able to translate the yogurt container. Note to self: whole-milk = Vollmilch. I was worried that the lack of fat would effect the cake, but it turned out well, and perhaps a bit healthier.
What do you do when you quit your job and follow your fiancé to Zurich? The answer...COOK! Obviously finding another job is the best answer, but since I will be back and forth to the states a few times before our April wedding, serious job hunting will have to wait until I am here permanently starting in late April. Cooking in Zurich is almost a necessity since eating out is insanely expensive - standard entrees are in the $40 range!! While in architecture school I barely had time to shower and dress myself let alone cook, so I am relishing the opportunity to cook during this little forced vacation.
Since I was pushing the season a bit with this cake and didn't want to go overboard and buy cartons of raspberries and blueberries for 8 francs each (roughly 1 franc to 1 usd), I decided to buy frozen berries, which I think worked out perfectly. The juices didn't bleed allowing the cake to appear more lemony when cut. The berries did sink a bit, but I was expecting that.
ingredients for the cake (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa and Smitten Kitchen):
- 1.5 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder (tough to track down in my local Coop supermarket)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup 2% plain yogurt
- 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp lemon zest, or to taste
- the guts of one whole vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup olive oil (recipe calls for 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups berries of your choice

ingredients for the glaze
- 1 cup confectioner sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice

I made the glaze per the recipe and found it incredibly sweet. I think you could go without the glaze at all and perhaps just sprinkle a bit of confectioner sugar on top of the cake once it has cooled, just to make it look pretty. If anything I wouldn't recommend covering the entire cake in the glaze.
to bake the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If your trusty loaf plan isn't nonstick then grease and flour the pan. I used an 8.5" x 4.5" x 2.5" pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl mix the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Once the ingredients in both bowls have been well mixed then slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Slowly and gently stir in your berries. Do not over mix. Pour into baking dish and bake or about 50minutes (my loaf took significantly longer than this to bake - almost an hour and twenty minutes - I think because the berries had excess water that had to be cooked off. Best way to be sure the cake is done is to test it in the center and when the knife comes out clean then the cake is done).

While the cake is baking cook the 1/3 cup of lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saute pan until the sugar dissolves. Set this mixture aside.

When the cake is done allow it to cool in the pan for 10+ minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a baking rack. While the cake is still cooling pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.

Once the lemon-sugar mixture has soaked in and the cake has cooled a bit more you can pour the glaze on. Simply mix the confectioner sugar and lemon juice until it produces a sticky liquid and the pour away.


I'm off to the grocery store again (I do as the Swiss do and go daily) to pick up ingredients for Stuffed Peppers, a dish I absolutely love and adore from my dear friend Tala. The link will take you to her current blog or use this link for the stuffed pepper recipe.


  1. Tal-this cake looks DELICIOUS! Love the pictures too. Can't wait to read more entries!

  2. I am hoping we can have this cake when Al and I come to visit in august!! Leah

  3. This cake looks incredible. So happy I stumbled upon your blog from google images. The photography is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.