Recipe: Nigella Lawson's yogurt carton cake
charm of its method.
This is it: your yogurt carton is your unit of measurement. And even though I saw from the original recipe that I copied down (from some scrawled piece of paper in the kitchen of a house I’d rented one summer) that the specified yogurt carton had a 4-ounce capacity, I have kept the same number of eggs for my 6-ounce yogurt carton. I work on the principle that eggs these days are larger than when the cake first came into being. Anyway, it works, and that’s the main thing. And this is the way it works: for 1 cake, you need 1 carton of yogurt, 2 cartons of sugar, 1 carton of oil, 1 carton of potato starch or cornstarch, and 2 cartons of flour. In keeping with this style of measuring, you will see that I have even stipulated 2 capfuls of vanilla extract.
Although potato starch is the norm in Italy, it isn’t easily available in Britain, which is why I have substituted cornstarch. Bear in mind that potato starch is denser, or rather weighs more per carton than cornstarch does. I’ve specified cup measures in the ingredients list, not only so that you can make this even if you’re working from a jumbo carton of yogurt, but also because I feel the ingredients list should double as a shopping list, too.
I know this cake best in a ring shape, ciambella (pronounced “chambella”) as it’s known in Italy, and a 9-inch savarin or plain-sided tube pan can be found fairly easily online in the United States, too, but do use a 9-inch springform pan if that’s easier for you: the cake won’t be as high, but don’t use a smaller diameter because, without the hole in the middle, the
cake wouldn’t cook properly in the center if the pan were any deeper.
Finally, I’m aware it may sound a bit of a bore having to whisk the egg whites, but it only sounds it; in the days of electric hand mixers, it really isn’t any trouble. This is my favorite weekend breakfast, or—indeed—anytime treat.
- 2/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 ⁄3 cup flavorless vegetable oil, plus some for greasing
- 3 eggs
- 1-1⁄4 cups superfine sugar
- 2 capfuls (1-1⁄2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
- Zest 1⁄2 unwaxed lemon
- 1-1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ⁄3 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar, to serve
- 1 x 9-inch (and approx. 2-inch-deep) savarin mold or plain tube pan
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease your ring mold (or springform pan); you can use vegetable oil for this or a special baking spray.
2 Separate the eggs and put the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Whisk the whites until you have firm peaks, then set aside while you get on with the rest of the cake.
3 Scrape the yogurt out of its carton and onto the egg yolks, then use the emptied yogurt carton to measure out your other ingredients—so, next, add 2 cartons (just) of sugar and whisk with the egg yolks and yogurt until airy and light.
4 Now fill up your yogurt carton with vegetable oil and, beating all the while, slowly add this to the egg yolk mixture. Then beat in 2 capfuls of vanilla extract and the zest of half a lemon.
5 Still beating, add 2 yogurt cartonfuls of flour followed by 1 yogurt cartonful of cornstarch or potato starch, then scrape down and fold in with a rubber spatula. Now, with a large metal spoon, dollop in the whisked egg whites, and fold them in with the spatula.
6 Fill the prepared savarin mold with the smooth, soft batter—it will come right to the top— and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes; when cooked, the sides will be coming away at the edges and a cake tester will come out clean.
7 Remove it from the oven to a wire rack, letting the cake sit in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out.
8 Once cooled (although I love this still slightly warm), transfer it to a serving plate or stand and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Traditionally, this cake would be placed on the plate with the smooth side on top, but I rather like it turned back up the way it was baked, with its rustic cracks and uneven surface visible.
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Excerpted from Nigellissima. Copyright © 2013 Nigella Lawson. Published by Knopf Canada, an imprint of the Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.