She had me at “every French person I know knows how to make a yogurt cake.” So, with Dorie’s guidance I bound into the kitchen hoping that a cake will transform me into a perfectly coiffed French woman who drinks thick, black coffee for breakfast, crisp baguette and runny cheese for lunch and steak frites for dinner. I half expected that with one bite French r’s would dance out of my mouth the way I dream about Breton salted butter dancing into it.
It’s clear to me why a cake like this one is known in every French home. I mean it’s not that they are all avid bakers and have loads of cake recipes up their sleeves, instead they prefer to leave the baking to the professionals, so says Dorie. But this cake is so easy to know as it comes together quickly and is suited for morning, afternoon or after dinner. The presence of yogurt and olive oil may have one believe that it’s not entirely unhealthy. And really, it’s not too sweet (especially if you leave off the caramel, but why do that?) but rather pleasantly balanced and simple enough to dress up with fresh fruit, softly whipped cream, a bit of jam, shavings of dark chocolate, or just leave it be.
The cake, however, left me still struggling with my French pronunciations, I continue to crave burgers more often than paté, I prefer flats to heels and I’m not afraid to take out the garbage in my pajamas. And yet, Dorie assures me that I have “the ability to be just right, no matter the moment.”
Okay fine, she wasn’t talking about me, she was talking about the cake. Which indeed is just right, no matter the moment, but I prefer to think that she meant that to be true for both people and cake. It doesn’t mean we always are right but I like to think that we all have that ability at any given moment. Regardless, with this cake in my arsenal I’m choosing to believe that I’m one step closer to being French.
Dorie's Yogurt Cake with Blood Orange Caramel
Makes one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf or an 8 or 9-inch round
Unsalted butter, for greasing the loaf pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 blood oranges
1/2 cup plain, Greek-style yogurt (I like to use full-fat)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mild olive oil or another neutral flavor oil
For the cake: Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a loaf pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl add 1 cup of the sugar. To that add the zest of 1 of the blood oranges. Rub the zest into the sugar until mixed well and irresistibly fragrant; for a minute or two.
To the sugar add the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and oil and then whisk until well combined.
Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine until no traces of flour remain and a glossy batter has formed. Take care not to mix too vigorously to avoid a tough cake.
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until golden on top and a knife inserted deep into the middle of the cake emerges clean.
While the cake bakes prepare the caramel.
Slice off the peel of the oranges then slice deep purple/scarlet flesh into rounds. Then, in a skillet set over medium high heat add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in an even layer. Give this pan your undivided attention for the time being as caramel tends to initially be a bore and then *poof* it’s nearly burnt.
Leave the pan be until the sugar starts to caramelize and then you are free to give it a gentle stir. Wait until all the sugar is dissolved and the color of the caramel is shockingly mahogany before you add the orange slices. Break up some of the orange to release the juices. The caramel will seize initially and then return to a sauce once the juice warms up. Try to keep some of the orange pieces intact if you want some to decorate the top of the cake with a few oranges.
Set the cake on a baking rack to cool for 10 minutes while in the pan then cool completely on the rack. Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Strain the caramel and pour it all over the top of the cake. Add the pieces of reserved orange to the top. Then serve just warm or let cool completely