French yogurt cake has been a staple in our house for the last few years. My obsession started after I read A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg (here is her blog post about the cake). Over time we have tried many variations, and finally settled on a recipe that fits our family.
The delightful part of the recipe is that the units of measurement are based on the yogurt container (about half a cup). The lovely and romantic story is that this is one of the first cakes that young French children learn to make. If we lived in France, I would have a darling glass yogurt jar, but since we don’t, I have an old YoBaby yogurt cup that we just reuse.
Why is this a fantastic early baking experience? Well, first it is absolutely delicious. Second, I love it as a transitional baking project. Rather than having all the ingredients premeasured (as I do with other baking projects) part of the work, and the fun, of making this cake is using the yogurt container as the unit of measurement. It adds in that next step in to the baking process. It does require support from an adult, but it is building the bridge to more independence in the kitchen. And, did I mention it’s delicious as well as adaptable?
First, I set out all the ingredients, the yogurt cup, a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, a large mixing bowl, a spoon for scooping and a wooden spoon for mixing. At this stage Imogen is able to measure everything herself, if your child is not yet at this stage, you can help them with measuring and leveling the scoops and pouring the oil.
Imogen then follows along “reading” the child friendly recipe, you can download my amateur hand drawn recipe here. I am still there to help her remember which is flour and which is sugar and with any questions she may have. We also grease the pan together – I pour in some oil and she spreads it around with a small piece of paper towel. I then go back and make sure it is well oiled. I also help wash and dry the yogurt container and scooping spoon after she has added the yogurt and then moves to the dry ingredients. We used to have two yogurt containers, one for wet and one for dry, but one fell apart from overuse! And no, you don’t have to use a yogurt container, you can easily use a 1/2 cup measuring cup and then use the measuring cup 1, 2, or 3 times, how every many containers are called for in the child friendly recipe. Or, just use standard measurements and measuring cups!
French Yogurt Cake – the full recipe
- 1/2 cup of yogurt (1 container)
- 1 1/2 cups of flour (3 containers)
- 1 cup of sugar (2 containers)
- 1/2 cup of oil (1 container) I use either a light tasting olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Add yogurt into bowl, wash and dry yogurt container and scooping spoon. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into greased cake pan (8 or 9 inch). Bake a 350* until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool, cut around pan and remove.
Tips and Tricks:
- For the vanilla, I have saved an old vanilla extract bottle and before we start, I premeasure about 2 to 3 teaspoons into the bottle. Then Imogen can practice pouring and stopping, but if it overflows, it’s okay.
- In my child friendly recipe, the spoon measurement is always based on 1/2 a teaspoon. That is the only spoon that is available and that is why the child friendly recipe is written with 1, 2, or 3 spoons.
- When children are starting to measure the ingredients on their own, having them work on a large tray can help contain spills and make cleanup much easier. We tend to work on the counter above the dishwasher, that way we can brush the excess flour/sugar into the dishwasher when we are done.
- Show the child how to level a cup or spoon with either the back of a butter knife, or their finger.
- If the child is new to cracking eggs, they can crack them into a small bowl first, and then pour the egg from the small bowl to the larger bowl – that way it is easier to remove shells and to make sure the egg actually gets in the bowl.
- As children are cracking the egg, I have them tap until they have a nice crack, then place their thumbs on both sides of the crack (maybe even have the tips of their thumbs in the crack), finally I tell them to open the egg like they are opening a book – pull the shell open and away.
- Always have a hand wiping towel (or 3) nearby,
- Laminate the child friendly recipe if possible.
- For mixing, we sing a little song that goes “Mixing, mixing round and round, till the white has turned to brown” We also talk about mixing until everything is wet. You may have to help do one last scrape along the bottom to show the child the white/dry flour
- Decide your position on tasting batter and stick with it!
Now, since this was a Father’s Day French yogurt cake, it had to be extra special. So of course we added chocolate. Follow the basic recipe through pouring the batter into the greased pan, but only pour in half the batter. Then, melt about 3 to 4 ounces of chocolate and mix it into the remaining batter. Pour, or more like scoop and spread, the chocolate batter over the plain batter in the pan. Take a knife and draw lines and swirls through the batter! If you want to make a COMPLETELY chocolate French yogurt cake, melt 6 to 8 ounces and mix it into all the batter.
Other variations: add berries, make citrus glazes, make a chocolate glaze, dust with powdered sugar, add chocolate chips, serve with fresh berries and whipped cream, really anything you can imagine!
Enjoy and share with someone you love!
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