Yogurt cake is the type of recipe that encourages experimentation. The core recipe is an incredibly simple, French classic. There are about a thousand ways to switch it up. Different mix-ins, different flavoring, different yogurt. Serve it syrup-soaked, glazed, naked – it doesn’t mind. This is the type of thing that makes my head spin with possibilities.
Despite my daily monitoring, the three contenders hanging on my parents’ Meyer lemon tree never quite ripened enough over the holidays. And the internet told me that there was no point in picking them sooner. Luckily, Meyers are in season from December through May, so I know it wouldn’t be long until some would pop up back on the East Coast. I grabbed for a bag the moment I saw them last week.
Meyer lemons are not like regular lemons. Thought to be a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, they are sweeter with a distinctly floral and lightly herbal aroma. The skin is darker yellow and thinner than the Eureka or Lisbon lemons that are sold in supermarkets. I’m working on a recipe that calls for blending up whole ones and will report back soon.
A recent story on NPR on the current cranberry surplus reminded me of the bag I’d been hoarding in the freezer. Who needs more cranberry sauce when they could have Meyer lemon cranberry cake? Tossing the cranberries in a little bit of sugar tames their bite without losing the juicy-tartness that makes them so good.
I had no doubt that the dependable yogurt cake would be a wonderful home for both my finds. Rubbing the Meyer zest together with the sugar before adding other ingredients may sound odd, but just do it. You release more of the aromatic oils in the zest, amplifying the delicate smell and flavor that’s the magic of Meyer lemons. Plus your hands carry the scent for a while, which sounds weird but is the best. Olive oil further amplifies the floral-herbal vibe. I love the slight density that Greek yogurt brings to the table. Plus, I’m pretty sure it makes this a health food. Finally, a quick drizzle of Meyer lemon simple syrup brings a little extra tang and an unnecessary-but-fantastic moisture that soaks all the way in, should you not eat it all immediately.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
- 1½ cups sugar, divided
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 2 Meyer lemons
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1¼ cups fresh cranberries (frozen is fine)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8½ by 4¼ by 2½-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter and flour the pan.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, rub the sugar and zest of both lemons together between your fingers for a minute to release the oils. Whisk in the yogurt, the eggs, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the olive oil into the batter.
- Roughly chop the cranberries until none remain whole. Toss with 3 tablespoons of sugar and fold into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes, until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Mine took longer.)
- Meanwhile, heat the juice of both lemons and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
- When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, spoon half of the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Pour the remaining syrup over the cake. Cool completely.
Adapted from Ina Garten