For Easter, a spiced French cake so easy a kid can make it

By Christopher Kimball

One beloved French cake is so easy that it is often the first recipe children are taught. And the main ingredient’s container is as crucial as the ingredient itself.

Gâteau au yaourt, or yogurt cake, took hold when yogurt began to be sold in tiny jars in the early 20th century. The jar itself doubled as the measuring unit for the cake’s other ingredients.

Simply spoon the yogurt into the mixing bowl, then use the empty jar to measure one container of oil, two of sugar and three of flour. Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately then combine. Pour the loose batter into a pan and bake.

The result is a moist, tender cake with a fine crumb similar to pound cake, but it’s surprisingly light from using oil instead of butter, and the yogurt’s slight tang balances the sugar.

In this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight dishes, we sadly couldn’t use the container to measure our ingredients since yogurt cups in the U.S. come in numerous sizes. But after standardizing the measurements, we boosted the flavor by adding grated citrus zest and cinnamon (or allspice or ground ginger or a combination of the three) to the batter.

To further lighten the cake, we whipped the eggs with the sugar to incorporate air into the batter. Citrus juice whisked with powdered sugar makes a quick finishing glaze, though the cake is equally good without it. Or you can simply sprinkle sugar onto the uncooked batter for a crispy crust.

Feel free to use whatever kind of citrus you have on hand — lemon, lime, orange or even grapefruit. The cake will keep for up to three days, tightly wrapped and stored at room temperature.

Yogurt Cake with Citrus and Spice

Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active), plus cooling Makes one 8 1/2-inch loaf cake

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR ground allspice OR ground ginger ¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon table salt, divided 3 large eggs 1 cup white sugar 2 tablespoons grated citrus zest, plus 2 tablespoons citrus juice, plus more if needed (see headnote) 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt OR 1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt thinned with 3 tablespoons water 1/2 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil 1 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray, dust evenly with flour, then tap out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, white sugar and zest until well combined and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Add the yogurt, then whisk until well combined. Add the oil and whisk until homogeneous. Add the flour mixture and whisk just until no streaks remain. The batter will be very fluid.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, lift off the pan and turn the loaf upright. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours, before glazing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt, then gradually whisk in the juice; the glaze should be smooth, with the consistency of regular yogurt. If it is too thick, whisk in additional juice 1/2 teaspoon at a time to achieve the proper consistency.

Set the wire rack with the cake on a rimmed baking sheet. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake, letting some drip down the sides. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.