Whenever we’d make the annual trip to Cambrai – a very average town in Northern France – my grandmère would have a yoghurt cake in the oven. Not because we were coming, it’s just something she did every week, the remains of which would be stored on a china platter in a locked cabinet.
Her gâteau au yaourt was spongy and moist – not too much, just enough – and perfectly risen. It’d come out around teatime, hot chocolate would be served in bowls and my cousins would dip pieces of it into the hot liquid. I’d ask for tea, which she’d have bought especially (always Earl Grey for some reason), and that too would come in a bowl. Apart from the bowl part, I’ve found myself following the same routine in the years since.
I say this recipe is hers, but I doubt there’s a French household that doesn’t know it. Probably because it’s such a simple recipe to remember. All you need is a pot of yoghurt (plain is best), which you then use to measure out the other ingredients. There’s no need for weighing scales. Throw it all into a bowl, mix it up, oven, done.
Much like banana bread, it’s one of those reactive recipes that gets thrown together when the appropriate leftovers appear. Rather than banana, it’s a good one for that stray yoghurt pot – still perfectly edible but far past it’s best-before. The other ingredients are essentially storecupboard staples.
This recipe is best achieved with small, individual yoghurt pots, but if you’ve got some left in the bottom of a larger tub, use a pen to mark out how much you have, then use that as a guide when measuring your other ingredients. If you’ve got substantially more than 100g of yoghurt, scale up the eggs and baking powder accordingly. I’ve stuck with the basic, traditional recipe here, but if you’ve got it, you can also add lemon zest or vanilla extract, or chopped fresh fruit, like apples, plums or apricots.
Mamie’s yoghurt cake
1 pot yoghurt (roughly 100g)
2 pots caster sugar
3 pots plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pot vegetable oil
3 free-range eggs
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Grease and line a 1-litre loaf tin.
Empty the yoghurt into a mixing bowl, then use the pot to measure out and add the sugar and flour. Add the baking powder and stir well. Pour in the oil, crack in the eggs and beat well.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin, then place in the hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden and risen. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely, then eat with a cup of tea (or hot chocolate).