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.
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Adapted from Ina Garten