My Breton friend L is hardcore, the only person I know who can supervise three screaming kids and effortlessly make a classic French cake without breaking a sweat. When I stayed with her in October 2013, she was temporarily operating from a makeshift kitchen in her garage which had no running water and a bare earth floor, which flooded with big puddles during a storm. To get cold water you had to schlep to the other end of the house, and to get hot water you had to go to a separate tap in yet a different room. Frigging hell – to say it was challenging is an understatement. I looked on in awe as she managed to restrain and supervise her two young daughters to make the cake with her, without tearing each others’ eyes out, while my toddler bellowed at them at the top of her lungs. They all had muddy feet!
This ‘gateau au yaourt’ is a classic recipe that EVERYONE in the whole of France makes – I think it’s actually part of schoolchildren’s curriculum. It’s a one-pot-measure recipe, so you weigh everything out in a mug or small yoghurt pot. I used a US cup measure. L says it’s the cake you make when you’ve run out of butter, as it contains none. Imagine running out of butter in Brittany, though – must happen about once every one hundred years. I (being half French) usually always have butter in the house. When we don’t, I feel as though the planet is tilted wrongly on its axis.
L made her cake very chic by adding chopped dark chocolate and shelled hazelnuts from her tree outside. I am only half as chic so I added some raisins, lemon zest and ground cardamom, which made a very aromatic, spicy cake that’s light as air. You could add pretty much anything you wanted to, I think. But probably not crisps.
You will need:
1 cup plain yoghurt (I used Total Greek full fat yoghurt)
2 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flavourless oil (eg sunflower, rapeseed)
2 free range eggs
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
Your chosen flavours (I used a handful of raisins, zest of half a lemon and a teaspoon of ground cardamom. You could put in chocolate chips, nuts etc)
Preheat your oven to 180C. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and tip in the eggs, sugar, oil, yoghurt and salt. Using an electric whisk mix together until you have a smooth batter. Lightly mix in your flavourings, then put the mixture into a buttered cake tin. Bake for 35 – 40 mins until the cake is a nice golden colour on top, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Eat a slice and shout “Vive la France!”
L’s original handwritten recipe: