French Lemon Yogurt Cake

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French Lemon Yogurt Cake

When I was a student at Kalamazoo College in the ’70’s, I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence in a foreign study program. My roommate and I rented a room in a spacious apartment, close to the town’s “Main Street”, the Cours Mirabeau. Our landlady was Madame Lazarides, a senior French woman who spoke no English. Karen and I spoke very rudimentary French, especially during those early weeks, so there were many language hurdles to overcome. Madame gave us a simple breakfast in our room, but in the evening we ate in the dining room. Although Madame ate her meals alone in the kitchen (where we were never invited), she sat with us during dinner and we were expected to converse with her as we ate. It was rough going at first, as you can imagine.

One dessert of hers that I still remember was a sort of pound cake that was made with yogurt and contained no butter. When I asked Madame how to make it, she said that it was so simple to make that she had no written recipe. My roommate and I had discovered creamy French yogurt and ate it for lunch almost daily. I really wanted to know how to make that yogurt cake…

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was reminded of Madame’s cake when I discovered a recipe by Susan Hermann Loomis in her fabulous account of her life in Normandy, “On Rue Tatin”. But her cake is chocolate-based and I wanted to use some of our lovely Meyer lemons. So, I turned to Ina Garten and her recipe for lemon yogurt cake in her “Barefoot Contessa At Home”.

My version of a French-inspired lemon yogurt cake includes the Meyer lemon zest and juice, extra vanilla and, for a twist, I used goat milk yogurt. The goat milk yogurt adds a tang and richness to the cake that got rave reviews in our family. I omitted the icing Ina suggests, as I wanted to keep the cake from becoming too sweet. The Meyers are much sweeter than regular lemons, so I just made a glaze for my cake.

Although I received no compensation for this post, I thank the folks at Redwood Hill Farm for their generosity in offering me several of their goat milk products.

French Lemon Yogurt Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
A lemon yogurt cake, inspired by my French landlady so many years ago.
  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup goat milk yogurt
  • 1⅓ cups white sugar, divided use
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup Meyer lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.
  5. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in the canola oil and mix well.
  6. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Allow hot cake to rest for 10 minutes before turning onto a baking rack.
  8. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ⅓ cup sugar with the lemon juice, just until sugar dissolves.
  9. Place the rack with the cake over a large plate and drizzle glaze over cake until it is absorbed.


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30 Responses to French Lemon Yogurt Cake

  1. Beth (OMG! Yummy) February 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    My husband is there on business right now! And we took the kids there last summer on a whim (to accompany my husband on business) and spent many hours strolling on and near the Cours Mirabeau. I love this recipe – I think there was one similar in Bon Appetit this summer — I believe it was described as the perfect snack for kids upon arriving home from school each afternoon. It’s been on my mind to make it – I’ll try your version!

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      My husband and I visited Aix about 5 years ago – very nostalgic. Still such a pretty town. We were hippies then – didn’t appreciate a lot re the history, food and culture. Drank a lot of wine, though 😉

  2. Lynda - TasteFood February 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I love lemon pound cake, and often add yogurt for extra tanginess. I look forward to trying this version!

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      You can definitely pick up the subtle taste of the goat milk.

  3. Jayne February 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    What an adventure you must have had! Great post and great cake, I love the texture yoghurt adds to a cake.

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      It was a life-changing experience – we played more than we studied, of course…

  4. Mare February 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    ZUT ALORS!!! This sounds delicious and the pic is to drool over.

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      Thanks, Mare – such an easy recipe. Are your Meyers ripe?

  5. Suzanne February 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Looks incredible Liz, wow, so moist and that photo is amazing. I have to try this!

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      Hope you try and like this…

  6. The Wimpy Vegetarian February 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    This looks wonderfully moist. I really, really want some. Yogurt pound cakes are just the best!! Gorgeous, inviting photo too, Liz.

  7. Deb February 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    I have a weakness for desserts with lemon! Tangy goats milk yogurt paired with the sweet Meyer lemons is very enticing!

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      It worked for me – hope you enjoy it.

    • Liz February 6, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      Hope you all try this – it’s a new favorite in our house…

  8. Wendy Read February 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Oh I love the story Liz..and the recipe looks fabulous 🙂 I am pinning this to try myself, the photo makes the cake look so very moist and inviting, kudos!

    • Liz February 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      Cute – X0 – hope your cold is better…

  9. Laura February 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    This looks wonderful. I especially like that it does not just have zest, but juice as well. I like my lemony desserts to be really lemony!

    • Liz February 6, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Me too, which is why I cut back on the sugar a bit. Thanks.

  10. Starshining4ever February 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Just found your blog—very nice collection of homey stories, delicious recipies and beautiful photography!!! God bless!

  11. Elizabeth February 7, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Okay, I am a sucker for travel stories. I loved hearing about your time abroad and the discovery of French yogurt. I am just sure that I would love this recipe. Have you tried freezing it? Does it do well? I hardly ever see Meyer lemons here. Any suggestions on how to convert recipe over with standard lemons?

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      It was a life-changing experience for me to live in France and travel through Europe –

  12. Oui, Chef February 7, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Taunting me with your Meyer lemons again….no fair, Liz!

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      Sorry, Steve 😉

  13. Laura @ Family Spice February 7, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Although chocolate is my preferred dessert flavor, Lemon comes in a very close second. Save me a slice!

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Will do!

  14. Carol Sacks February 11, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    This is lovely, Liz! Love the remembrance from your time in France.

  15. BitsyBet October 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Just found your blog today and I’m liking your recipes. Can plain Greek yogurt be substituted for the goat milk yogurt? I’m on a hunt for some Meyer lemons. Wish me luck.

    • Liz October 10, 2013 at 8:18 am #

      I just remembered that originally, I always used plain Greek yogurt – no problem!

  16. Lisa @ Saltwater & Sunshine November 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    I love this story and had no idea you spent a semester in France! Lemon cakes, or any lemon dessert for that matter, are my favorite. I’m going to have to try this one. I’ve read of a French yogurt cake made with (I think) a container of yogurt, then you use that as a measuring cup for the flour and oil (maybe). I’ll have to look it up.

    • Liz November 10, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      It is one great and simple recipe -we can compare France memories together!

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