French Lemon Yogurt Cake

The urge to cut into this loaf the second it came out of the oven was incredibly difficult to resist. You know how if you’re trying to sell a house they tell you to make chocolate chip cookies to make the house smell good? This lemon yogurt cake would work just as well. The dense crumb resembles a pound cake, and it definitely tastes like one, but it’s made from yogurt and vegetable oil instead of a pound of butter and sugar!

According to Dorie Greenspan, this is a cake every French home cook has in their repertoire. I am not surprised that despite easy access to any number of patisseries in France, they would choose to make this themselves. If the moist lemony goodness isn’t enough of a reason, you also probably already have most of the ingredients, and it’s “absolutely foolproof and shamelessly easy.”

I’m going to have to agree with Dorie on the shamelessly easy part – I made the batter while the mac and cheese I was having for lunch was cooking on the stove beside me, and any recipe that is easy enough for me to multi-task with is a winner in my book!

All the lemon flavor comes from rubbing the sugar with lemon zest, which is surprisingly fun to do. After the batter is mixed up it will smell mostly like yogurt, but with just about 10 minutes left in the oven, an enticing lemon aroma will lure you back into the kitchen to wait impatiently for the lovely golden brown cake to come out, with a beautiful crack on top.

Recipe: French Lemon Yogurt Cake


  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flavorless oil (I used vegetable)


  1. Preheat to 350 F, butter or coat a 8.5×4.5 loaf pan with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. You want the oven in the center rack.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Put the sugar and grated lemon zest in a medium bowl and rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until it is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla until very well blended.
  4. Add the dry ingredients while whisking, and then fold in the oil with a rubber spatula. The batter will be thick. Scrape batter into the pan and smooth the top.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the edge of the pan; it will be golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean.
  6. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 min, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and unmold. Cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Number of servings (yield): 1 loaf

Slightly adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 thoughts on “French Lemon Yogurt Cake

  1. Tried this recipe over the weekend and the bread turned out great!! I also made a chocolate chip clementine version I’ll be posting to my blog soon (with a link back to you, of course). 🙂

  2. Made this with limes instead of lemons and plain yogurt instead of Greek. Tasted SO DELICIOUS. Though I used 1.5 limes, the lime/lemon flavor wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, perhaps 2-3 limes would yield a stronger flavor?
    It was an AMAZING cake (loaf? bread?) and recipe, thank you Christina!

Leave a Reply