Friday, May 11, 2012

French Yogurt Cake, Homemade Vanilla, and Mom

Ever since I read the book and subsequently saw the movie, Julie & Julia and last year saw the movie, Midnight in Paris, I've yearned to visit Paris.  Moreover, several years ago, one of my best friends attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and I envied his experience, not only for getting to learn cooking at the school, but just being in "the City of Lights."  So, when I came across this recipe in my recent Bon Appetit magazine, how could I not try it!

This recipe also honors my mother, who taught me everything I know about baking with love.  You will notice, once you scroll down to the directions, that this cake is made by hand--no electrical appliances whatsoever!  I remember the time I telephoned her that I had purchased my first food processor and exclaimed how easy it was going to be to now make bread.  Her reply to me, "that's not how you make bread!"  However, once she saw (and tasted) the quality of bread I could turn out in less time, it wasn't very long after that she bought one for herself:-D

Andrew Knowlton is the author and baker of this French Yogurt Cake in the magazine.  I like that he says, "It's often the first dessert French children learn to prepare."  Flashbacks to baking at mother's side comes flooding back where I learned to crack eggs, measure accurately, and fold ingredients.  As difficult as this weekend will be, I am able to smile with memories.

Another thing that makes me smile is my latest TP creation from "Toilet Paper Origami."  The design is entitled "Heart in a Sleeve."  I chose this design because it was something my mother always said about me--I show my emotions openly.  I know she meant it as a compliment and thought you'd enjoy a Friday smile.
French Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 Kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 T lemon zest
3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp.)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Coat a standard 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and dust with flour.  I used Bak-klene ZT from Williams-Sonoma.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first three ingredients.  

Measure the sugar and zest in a larger bowl and use your fingers to rub together until moist.  It should feel like "wet sand."

  Add the yogurt, eggs, oil and vanilla to the sugar mixture and whisk to blend.  Fold in dry ingredients just until it's all incorporated.  Pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth top. 

Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean--45-55 minutes.
What a wonderful loaf and Mr. Knowlton says it's even better the next day and for breakfast...something I know is very true:-)

Homemade Vanilla Extract
5 to 8 vanilla beans (per 1 cup vodka)
80% Vodka
Split the vanilla beans in half, lengthwise, from the stem end down.

 Don't scrape the seeds out, they will float out on their own as the mixture "ages."  I sterilized a bottle with a tight-fitting lid and added 12 vanilla beans to it.  Then, I poured the vodka up to 1-inch from the top (to allow for the stopper to fit without hitting the liquid!)

Store in a cool, dry area (I put my bottle in the basement) and let set for 1 to 2 months (or longer).  Sometimes, I've let mine age almost 6 months for a really intense vanilla flavor.  The finished product is very similar to one that you can purchase called Vanilla Bean Crush.
Since I buy my vanilla beans by the kilo, I love making my own Tahitian Vanilla Extract to flavor my baking.  Something mom would approve of, I'm sure. Enjoy!


  1. Thank you for finding and commenting on my blog. Thank you also for this recipe for vanilla extract, I need to give it a try.

  2. I have just started using Vanilla Bean Crush and am really, really enjoying it. I used it today for chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Non booze as my friend is expecting. Future mom in trainig, so gotta keep it unboozy. :) A super duper big HUG to you, my friend! Happy Mother's Day!! Lv, me

    1. Making your own vanilla crush seems right up your alley, my little booze friend :-D!! I'm sure you have some vodka around the house and I'll send you some wonderful Tahitian Vanilla Beans to start your own. Love you, Me

    2. You are amazing! Amazing...And, you ~know~ there is vodka in this house. :) Please enjoy this weekend with happy memories and much love, love, love. Lv, me

  3. This cake sounds really delicious! I will have to try it!

  4. Hello Susan...what a wonderful post honoring your mother! This is my kind of cake. I much prefer a cake with no frosting. If it must have one, I like a glaze drizzled over it. My Mom would always make my favorite...Angle Food Cake with a lemon glaze. Even at age 89, she occasionally makes one for me. Happy Mother's Day, Susan!

  5. You and your alcohol! ;)! We always knew you were "spirited!"