Every cook – whether they consider themselves a baker or not – should have one go-to cake recipe up their sleeve, don’t you think? The classic lemon olive oil yogurt cake is mine. Versions of this humble cake have appeared in all corners of the interwebs; the roots seem to be the Gateau au Citron, a simple, French-style yogurt cake infused with lemon, in which the ingredients are, most charmingly and efficiently, measured in a 125-mL glass yogurt pot.
I first saw a version of this cake years ago on Orangette, then came across Ina Garten’s classic, glazed version, followed by Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry-studded iteration. And because 1) if given the choice I will always go for a citrus dessert, and 2) I’m an incredibly lazy baker, so I appreciate a delicious, easy cake that doesn’t require separating eggs, doing anything over a double boiler, or dirtying every bowl in my kitchen, it’s become my very own only-cake-I-ever-make.
My version calls for extra-virgin olive oil in place of the vegetable oil that most recipes call for, both because I love the subtle flavor that olive oil imparts and also because I try to avoid vegetable oil (it’s high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can drive inflammation in the body). I also use a combination of GF flour and finely ground almond meal in place of AP flour, since we mostly try to avoid gluten (though we’re not religious about it).
I often use unrefined coconut sugar in place of refined white sugar, which gives the cake a rich, golden hue and in combination with the olive oil creates an incredibly moist and flavorful crumb. (Though when I’m making this match-swirled version, I use lighter-hued organic cane sugar — otherwise the darker color of the coconut sugar obscures the lovely pale green of the matcha.) I’ve made various versions with plain yogurt, thicker Greek yogurt, and coconut milk yogurt (for a dairy-free cake), all with top-notch results.
For this year’s Easter dessert I decided on a lemon poppyseed version drizzled with a lemon-poppy seed glaze (my friend Shahla likened the look of the poppy seeds to tiny pearls, which I love!). I used fragrant Meyer lemons (a variety that originated as a cross between a lemon and a mandarin) since the natural foods store near me happened to have some real beauties in stock the day I was shopping; but if Meyers aren’t available you can use regular lemons (preferably organic since we’re using the zest here) for the cake and glaze. Happy baking!
Meyer Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
Gluten-free; dairy-free adaptable
1 cup GF all-purpose flour (my favorites are Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 GF flour and Jovial Foods’ GF whole-grain pastry flour)
1/2 cup finely ground almond flour (I always use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Celtic salt)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (I used a blonde variety, which has a lighter color than regular coconut sugar)
2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from approx. 2 lemons)
3 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt (dairy or nondairy, such as coconut milk)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon poppyseeds
curls of lemon zest, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 9-inch round cake pan (I used a springform pan) with olive oil.
Whisk together GF flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In a separate large bowl stir together the coconut sugar and lemon zest until thoroughly combined (I like to do this with my fingers) – the mixture will resemble wet sand. Add eggs, yogurt, olive oil and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until smooth (some lumps may remain). Fold in poppy seeds.
Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top of the cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes.
Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing sides and transferring to a wire rack to cool.
To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small bowl. Add remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, if needed, to achieve a pourable, honey-like consistency. Whisk in poppy seeds. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake and allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.