Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Olive oil, lemon zest and Greek yogurt cake

Today was supposed to be my day.

F. left yesterday on a business trip. He is usually in charge of taking the children to kindergarden and daycare since I go to the office shortly after 7AM. Since I had some paid leave hours I had to use up by the end of the month before they expired, I decided I would drop the children at school and take a day off all for myself. This was a first in the five years I have been a mom.

I would take the kids to their classrooms, I would meet up with a friend for coffee in a café near school and have one of their amazing nutella croissants. I would then go to the Tuesday market 10 steps from my front door to buy large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, some mozzarella di bufala perhaps, maybe some olives from large overflowing buckets. I would then go home and  have a few luxurious hours to cook something for my blog without any interference. I could even try something a little more complex and time consuming. I could take pictures in daylight, try to improve my technique. Then off to a sushi lunch with my friend and just a few more hours to get some things done in the house that I never get to do when the kids are running around. A quick trip to a neighborhood fabric store to pick up something to make with my daughter for her carnival costume and then off to pick up the kids early for once. The perfect day.

But as we all know, no plan is perfect, especially when it involves a mother with children younger than 20 taking a few hours for herself. Moms all over the world, you hear me, right? You know what I am talking about, don't you? Just thinking words as harmless as 'haircut' or 'manicure' or even just 'book' is asking for trouble. And so no sushi and Nutella for Mommy, no vegetables and fruit in the fridge, no time to finally make something a little more intriguing for you my friends...
In the middle of a thereafter sleepless night, my little boy got a fever. He is not sick enough (fortunately!) that he can't play, but just sick enough that he is whiney and clingy and needs constant entertainment. As I was writing the first paragraph (while he was suddenly - finally - incredibly busy playing with his car in the kitchen sink, standing on his Stokke chair), I turned to find him pouring dish soap all over the counters and floor and noticed some suspicious looking bubbles on his lips. I now write as he sleeps.

So instead of the confit de canard and the multi-layered cakes I had been envisioning, here is a recipe for a cake that is the essence of the sunny Mediterranean at its simplest. Olive oil, lemon zest, Greek yogurt. I have been seeing this recipe bouncing from blog to blog in different versions lately and admit my curiosity was piqued. What would a cake made with the lovely Tuscan extra virgin olive oil I have taste like?

The result was moist, not overly sweet, with a slightly citrusy taste and a suttle yet distinct fruitiness from the olive oil. It is what I consider a perfect breakfast cake, or fitting to eat with a cup of tea on a rainy day with a sweet, feverish bundle asleep in your arms.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of a lemon (or an orange for a more delicate flavor)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used almost 2/3 to use up the tub)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (the quality is key here, you don't want a bitter aftertaste)
a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Zest your lemon and rub it into the cup of sugar in a separate bowl, using your fingers for maximum effect. Mix in the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. Then mix in the dry ingredients and fold in the olive oil using a spatula. Pour into loaf pan and bake in oven for 50-55 minutes (I took mine out a little earlier because I didn't want it to dry up too much and the edges were turning dark). Use the old toothpick trick. Let cool on rack.

Adapted from The Upper Oven.


  1. Looks so soft and delicious...must try this!!! :)

  2. Right there with you- not even a 5 minute outing to the grocery store by myself. just got Roman better from a stomach flu (OMG!) and now he has 5 teeth coming in at once. Moms are saints, aren't we. This cake looks soooo pretty- I make a very similar one and i love it because there's no waiting for butter to come to room temperature. Delicious!

  3. Besides the fact that the cake sounds so simply delicious I love you pics.

  4. Oh dear. I wish I can volunteer to take care of your kids for at least one afternoon, so you can just go out and chill out with girlfriends, or treat yourself to a nice manicure. But haha, such is the life of a mother, I suppose. You sacrifice but you also earn a lot of rewards.

    I love this cake...my friend's birthday is coming up, and I am so making this for her, as she adores lemony desserts!

  5. Terry - ciao! Yay, another blog to read and discover. Try it, it can easily become your go-to breakfast cake.
    Nicole - What words were you thinking/dreaming of to make the gods throw a stomach flu and 5 teeth at you simultaneously??? Yeah, I always seem to be in a rush when a recipe requires room temp butter.
    Sicilian - thanks, I appreciate the compliment, especially because I am such a beginner and really working on it.
    Sophia - there is a saying in Italian "You wanted a bike, now you have to peddle". It is the same for us Moms, it is totally a part of a job and we must accept it. It is just good to have your own blog to be able to vent once in a while. Hehe

  6. First off I love the cake and have all the ingredients as we speak so it may be in my near future - we'll see if I have time. Such beautiful ingredients and photos!

    Also, yes I can so relate to this post and I CAN HEAR you for sure! My four year old came down w/ fever yeserday ~ made for a not so fun day/night. Never a dull moment!

  7. Oh I hate it when things dont go to plan! I am a big baby and I end up throwing tantrums LOL. That being said, this is a lovely cake. I am a HUGE fan of olive oil cakes, I think they have the most amazing texture, and I always seek them out over the traditional butter cakes.
    *kisses* HH

  8. Nice photos! The cake looks yummy. I know how you feel about time for yourself. My boys have had their share of winter illnesses this year....We hired a sitter for Valentines Day so my husband and I could go to dinner. We never get to do this. Had to cancel....the boys were not sick....this time it was my husband. Can't wait for Spring.

  9. Here's to sweet bundles everywhere!!! This is a lovely cake and one I want to try! Luv the idea of the olive oil, and together with lemon and yogurt you have a winner! Making immediately!

  10. Mums are such amazing troopers and I think we can easily forget how much they sacrifice for their families. They're the last to sing their own praises and I think that they deserve a medal! And a slice of this gorgeous cake! :D

  11. DD&W - When you have a couple of kids it is totally predictable that they get sick, but why does it always seem to happen exactly when something important or exciting comes up? That is exactly why I made the cake: I had every ingredient in the house. How satisfying is that?
    HH - Yes, throwing a tantrum is an idea...thanks for the tip LOL. I agree, olive oil makes the cake really interesting in texture and flavor
    Kelly - poor you! the one time the kids are fine and you get an evening to yourself...you see what I mean???
    UrMC - In the end, it is all about the little bundels. So here is a slice of cake for them!
    Lorraine - no medal...just a frozen margarita every now and then hehe!

  12. Isn't this the truth. Having small children is a constant act of giving. I'm glad that he's doing ok and that you had time to whip up this delicious bread. It really looks like the perfect breakfast (or anytime really) treat for a day when you need just a little extra energy to get through. :)

  13. This cake looks good enough to make any situation better :)

  14. You had me on just the title of your post! I need not read any further! That is a lovely recipe! BOOKMARKED!

  15. Perfect! Just the cake I was looking for.

  16. Thank you for posting this recipe.
    By looking on the net or a recipe of yogurt cake I finally found yours, also I found your blog (which now I visit quite often) and I found lost memories!
    I made it, for my kids, for my family, for friends, for myself. Everyone loves it.
    Thank you so much!!!!!

    Rosequist =)

  17. Julie, Melissa, Prerna, Joumana - thanks!
    Rosequist - Glad you are enjoying the blog and that your whole family and friends liked the cake. Sorry to get back to you so late, but as you probably know from my latest posts, we were away.
    Edel 29 - thank you

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    your article.
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