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We’d Try and Guess

Time moves differently in the summer. I swear this to be true. It was one of the crueler jokes bestowed upon me when I began teaching: you put all of your energy and every dream of a chunk of freedom into this magical thing, summer vacation, and it’d be over before you could blink. I’m feeling a little of that as I sit here now with just a few days of July left, writing to you on a foggy Friday afternoon with a messy kitchen, a broken washing machine, and an empty refrigerator. Don’t get me wrong: it’s been a good day. We shared a messy biscuit sandwich for lunch from a new spot downtown and lingered over coffee longer than usual before starting the work day. A good week, really. But time has been moving quickly and I’m sure you notice that, too.

The funny thing about this space lately is that I feel just a touch stifled. I’ve actually been in the kitchen every day creating and writing recipes for the cookbook, but I can’t share them with you now. So it’s an odd feeling because I’m so excited to tell you about the Cherry Apricot Chutney and Peach Skillet Cobbler, but I can’t. I’d love to show you how the Blueberry Breakfast Bars turned out, and I’m taking a stab at a very special batch of whole grain seedy granola bars to take hiking with us tomorrow.  But all of that will just have to wait. For now.

During the year my mom and I lived together in California, we’d share magazines. Some food magazines, some catalogs, some bad gossip magazines. It was kind of funny passing them around because she’d have pages turned down and I’d try and guess what recipe or pair of shoes she was flagging for herself. She’d do the same with my dog-eared pages. What was it that you liked about this page? We’d try and guess, delighting in the fact that we knew each other pretty well, and we were usually right. When Sam and I visited my mom’s cabin on Lake George earlier this month, I was sitting on the stool in the kitchen chatting with her while she chopped vegetables for dinner. So I’d have something to leaf through and busy my hands, she handed me her recipe binder and pointed out the potato bake she was making that night. I started flipping through to see what else she had in store for herself this summer. I quickly came across a familiar looking French Yogurt Cake, and I tried to recall where I’d seen it or heard about it. It boasted yogurt and lemon and a healthy dash of salt, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how it’d be perfect for breakfast or dessert, with a slather of jam or topped with berries and whipped cream.

After we returned home, I started flipping through my own recipe binder thinking about things I wanted to bake while Sam’s mom was in town. I came across the same exact recipe. Dog-eared. Right in the front. I made some significant changes to the original recipe, using olive oil instead of vegetable oil and turbinado sugar (any good natural cane sugar will be great) instead of white sugar. I think quick breads turn out wonderfully with a white whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur here), so I used a blend of that and barley flour. It’s not a towering light loaf the kind of which you’d see stacked up at, say, Starbucks. I wouldn’t describe it as fluffy and I wouldn’t say it has a particularly light crumb. Instead, I’d say that this loaf is a squatty champion that’s moist, wonderfully fragrant, and dense enough to support a generous spread of jam and butter. It’s not finicky or moody. It’s a two-bowl affair, a reliably simple recipe resulting in a loaf that likely won’t last long around here this weekend. I’m sure my version  turned out much different than my mothers will, but we’ll both bake it this summer and our kitchens, while separated by many states, will have that same scent of vanilla and lemon and the possibility of a warm slice of cake on an average summer afternoon. Maybe yours will, too.

Lemony French Yogurt Cake | A Sweet Spoonful

Lemony French Yogurt Cake

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 50 mins

The original recipe called for whole Greek yogurt, but I had low-fat on hand so that’s what I used here. If you have trouble finding barley flour, substitute all-purpose instead. Next time I bake this cake, I want to drop in a handful of blueberries or a pinch of chopped herbs (rosemary would be nice) from the garden.


1 cup white whole wheat flour + more for dusting pan
1/2 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup turbinado sugar or natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mild olive oil
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a standard (8 1/4 by 4 1/4 inch) loaf pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub the sugar with the lemon zest in a large bowl until the sugar becomes moist and fragrant. Add the yogurt, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Fold in dry ingredients just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until fragrant and the top of the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

  1. Y
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Can’t wait to see the blueberry breakfast bars 🙂 In the meantime, this lemon yogurt cake has me wanting to dash to my kitchen immediately.

  2. Posted July 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Oh, how I need someone in my life to dog-ear recipes for French yogurt cakes, especially when I have a bunch of Greek yogurt to use up (but now at this reading, already have!). Lovely photos, lovely writing in this post, Meg. I love hearing your voice here, with or without those new blueberry breakfast bars.

  3. Posted July 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    This is a good system, this “recipe binder” thing. Probably superior to my “dog-eared magazines piled over, around, and under my desk” system. What a nice thing to inherit, along with an appreciation of lemon yogurt cake!

    And hey, feel free to let me know if you end up needing recipe testing help–I wouldn’t mind a kitchen full of baked goods. In the name of science, you know. 🙂

  4. Mary
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I’m excited to try this. Love the book updates. Can. Not. Wait.

  5. momgordon
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Talk about the “same page”! I just put my loaf in the oven in preparation for my afternoon visitors and then read your post. I treasure the thread of connection that runs through our lives. It makes me happy! Miss you!!!

  6. megang
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Thanks, Mary!

  7. megang
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Ahhh yes, the recipe binder is key for me … otherwise I just have piles of magazines and can’t remember what is what. And I’d loooove another recipe tester. Going to email you soon! Happy Sunday.~m

  8. Posted July 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I love a good loaf cake recipe- so easy to throw together! My husband is Irish and always appreciates something like this to go with his cuppa tea.

  9. megang
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks, Shanna! Yes, French yogurt cake is quite a thing, I think. I wonder how it would be made with white sugar and flour and have a suspicion it’d be a bit lighter and fluffier, but this version is pretty tasty, too. We took it hiking yesterday and it held up great. Hope you guys are having a wonderful weekend, ~m

  10. Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:17 am

    It must be so hard coming up with exciting recipes and not being able to share them…but you will soon and HOW exciting it will be 🙂

  11. Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:18 am

    I have so many magazines with marked pages it´s ridiculous, since I never find the recipe I want when I need it. This cake is just what I like to eat after my morning coffee. I have trouble finding barley and millet flour, what´s the best substitution? I have quinoa, buckwheat, pea, rice, chickpea, oat, amaranth, rye and whole wheat. I´m marking this recipe too!

  12. Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    As always, a lovely piece of writing Megan. I love the image of you and your mom in the kitchen together. And sharing magazines! I love that kind of cake. Much better than something fluffy from Starbucks.

  13. Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Oooh, this reminds me of a recipe I found in Bon Appetit a few months back for a French yogurt cake… and you’re right, they’re so lovely. Neither light nor fluffy, but supremely dense and moist and delicious. This looks like a wonderful version of the cake– I can’t wait to make it!

  14. Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Love the French yogurt cake. I can never get it right though. Going to try your version now. Can’t wait for your book!

  15. Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:37 am

    You know what would taste really good with this yogurt cake? Cherry apricot chutney. I’m just sayin’…

  16. Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Sending this recipe to my Mum! It’s exactly the kind of recipe she would love. Thank you for sharing and I’m sure all your secret-keeping will be worth it for the finished book! Exciting!

  17. Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Lemon has been on my mind this summer and I’m excited to make this over the weekend. Thank you, thank you.

  18. Posted July 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Love! I’m seriously wishing I had a hunk of that right now.

  19. Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:56 am

    The addition of blueberries sounds great. How’s your garden doing?

    Thank you for making the entire post visible in a feed reader!

  20. Posted August 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    wow, looks delicious!

  21. Posted August 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Wow… This looks so good! I absolutely love lemon yogurt cakes, And this one looks to be no exception. 🙂

  22. Posted August 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Delicious cake, it worked out so well!
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  23. megang
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Great, Mirian! So glad you liked the cake. ~m

  24. Posted August 15, 2012 at 5:14 am

    I would love to prepare this but do not have any barley flour. Do I use all whole wheat flour? 1 1/2 cups?

  25. megang
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Hi Lori! I would not use all whole-wheat flour. It’ll be pretty dense. Why don’t you use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour? I think you’ll get good results with that ratio. Enjoy!

  26. Posted August 15, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This cake is my kind of cake! My sense of time has been extraordinarily off since I moved to a new city a few weeks ago. I can’t blame it on the summer, but I sure hope the days slow down once everything is settled!

  27. megang
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Oh, Kate! Yes, I’ve seen pictures on Instagram of that sweet new apartment/house. Light-filled and beautiful, but yes it takes a good few months to settle in, I think. Hope you’re having a good week! ~m

  28. Posted August 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    So happy to have come across your site and this recipe! It looks delicious. Do you recommend any kind of olive oil in particular?

  29. megang
    Posted August 16, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Hi Crystal! I’m glad you found the site, too! You know, I wouldn’t use an olive oil that’s too agressive. I use a mild, slightly fruity olive oil and that’s what you’d want to use here. Also, nothing too terribly expensive. I’m a firm believer in leaving the good stuff for finishing/salad dressings. Enjoy! ~m

  30. Posted August 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for getting back to me and for the tip! Forgot to mention I’m a teacher as well, I totally understand your thoughts at the beginning of the post 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your break!

  31. Posted October 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    just found the blog and love it!! this recipes looks amazing and the pictures are wonderful as well! – so magazine like! 🙂

  32. anna
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Great take on the classic yogurt cake with the addition of whole wheat flour and olive oil.

    I made this on a whim and its -15 out so I used what I had on hand:
    Subbed barley for All purpose
    Subbed Greek Yogurt for vanilla 0% probiotic
    Reduced sugar and did not add vanilla(b/c of flavoured yogurt)
    Also didn’t have the right loaf pan so going to make muffins and bake for half the time…

    Ill let you know how they turn out!!!

    Im thinking since they are “cupcakes” now, I might make a lemon glaze for them….

  33. anna
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Update: Just tried one warm from the oven and this is one great muffin! 🙂
    No glaze needed!
    Also, forgot to mention I only had regular granulated sugar

  34. Linda
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I just wanted to stop by and tell you that I love this recipe. It was the first yogurt cake I made and I’ve tried many since and none of them are nearly as good as this one. I think there is something about the whole grains that gives it a density that is so much nicer than most fluffy cakes. This cake is simple enough to make with my three year old and my whole family loves it. Thank you!

  35. megang
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Awesome, Linda! So glad you enjoyed it. All best, Megan

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