When I was in Bangalore, I used to eat out in restaurants all the time – mainly because the hostel food sucked. By the time the last year of school rolled around, i used to eat out (by that I mean hog) at least 4 -5 times a week. Though that might not seem like much to people who eat all their meals at restaurants, for me it was a big deal. I love food. And I love dining out. I like trying out new things. I really appreciate innovations in a menu. I am delighted when I see some beautifully presented food. So why was it that I kept going back to Sethji’s or to the Punjabi Aunty’s restaurant over and over again? They had the same menu without any season’s specials and even I could do better presentation with my food.
What was it that made me go back again and again? One, it was definitely because the Punjabi aunty and uncle (they were always aunty and uncle to their customers, I don’t know anyone who knows their real name) always came to greet us and stopped for a chat. Aunty even remembered our favourite dishes. Two, most importantly, the dishes were simple, home cooked meals. They were humble yet fully packed with flavor. Each dish was authentic – none of the frills and extras of a proper restaurant.
For all of the above reasons, Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life” really appealed to me. She doesn’t write about fancy recipes but ones she herself cooks every day. Her French yogurt cake with lemon is what I tried out and I cannot even pretend to be modest about it. According to Molly, it is a simple cake made in French homes and is considered to be a humble offering of maybe a grandmother to a special family occasion. I would however beg to differ. It may be humble in looks maybe, nay, definitely. But whatever it lacks in the attractiveness department, it more than makes up in the taste department.
The flavor explodes in your mouth with a bite. I made this with the zest and some juice of a lime that is indigenous to Bengal – the gondhoraj. It has a much stronger flavor than just a lime and its name literally means ‘The King of Limes.” You taste the lime first and then your tongue envelops the fine crumb, the soft texture and the sweet – sour syrupy icing. The almonds give it a very delicate flavor and texture. According to my Mom, this cake would not look out of place in a patisserie and coming from her, it is the highest compliment anyone can get.
|The King of Limes|
Don’t change anything in the recipe. If you cannot find the gondhoraj, make it with limes or lemon or even oranges. But make it, and invite me for tea when you do.
French Yogurt Cake with Gondhoraj limes
I cannot say how many it will serve as I could have eaten the whole cake by myself.
For the cake:
1 cup sifted flour
½ cup very finely ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 tsp grated lemon zest (I used gondhoraj)
½ cup well stirred plain whole milk yogurt (not low fat)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4th tsp vanilla essence
3 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
For the syrup:
1/4th cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 th cup lime juice (not gondhoraj)
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbsp lime juice (I used gondhoraj limes here)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 175 C. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too. This part is important, butter both the pan and the parchment.
2. In a small bowl, take the lime zest and a tbsp. of sugar and rub it together so that the sugar becomes fragrant and the lime zest releases all its flavor.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lime zest and whisk to mix thoroughly.
4. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence and stir to mix it well. Add the flour mixture and stir to just combine.
5. Add the oil and stir well. At first it will look like an oily mess but keep stirring. It will combine to form a smooth pale yellow batter. Pour into the cake pan.
6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. It might not look baked – it will still be a pale yellow color.
7. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then invert the pan onto a flat plate.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup ingredients. I like to prick holes with a fork all over the cake and then spoon the syrup slowly on the warm cake.
9. In a small bowl, whisk together the icing ingredients. Spoon he icing over the cooled cake.
10. Serve immediately – the icing will be soft and juicy.