I recently read about a woman who’d vowed to take her much-loved masala recipe to the grave, unmoved by pleas of family and friends to share. My heart breaks for her daughters: Despite having a cookbook collection which could fill a medium-sized library, the only one I’d brave a burning building for is my mum’s old handwritten recipe journal. It contains the story of my childhood and the food that made me the eater, cook, person I am.
Click here to view a slideshow on how to bake a yogurt cake
A good cook is made not born, her best recipes have been handed down, tweaked, transformed and adjusted; they have a personal history, a lineage, a soul. I don’t cook everything the same way my mother did—margarine has certainly been banished—but I always feel her at my shoulder in the kitchen, her mother and grandmother not far behind. And that’s an immensely comforting and inspiring kitchen to work in.
Today’s yogurt cake comes from another relative and began its passage to India on one of Scotland’s far-flung islands back in 1975, when my aunt and uncle found themselves posted to Skye. While all their belongings, including kitchen scales and measuring cups, were still in storage, auntyji (as we refer to her after a recent visit to India) had been unable to do any baking. So she was delighted to tune into the Jimmy Young Programme, a popular radio show at the time, one morning and hear a recipe for yogurt cake requiring no special equipment, everything being measured out in the yogurt pot.
Decadent: Raspberries and lemon glaze turn this simple sponge cake into a treat. Priyanka Parashar / Mint
Auntyji’s cake is a moist, no-frills, never-let-you-down, little black dress of a cake; you can take it anywhere, dress it up, dress it down, reduce the sugar, omit eggs, and it will still be eager to please. In its unadorned 1970s form, it’s a soothing bite to accompany a cup of tea; with fruit and icing it becomes a gooey pudding. It’s had to adapt to life in India—the yogurt pots are a different size here—but has also already started winning friends. I took a mulberry-laced version to a dinner party the other night. We ate half of it immediately, then the host devoured what was left of it during a midnight raid on the fridge. The next morning, she was on the phone for the recipe.
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Here, I’ve made it into something quite decadent, with the addition of raspberries to the sponge and a tangy lemon glaze. And in the universal spirit of recipe-sharing, here it is.
Lemon and Raspberry Yogurt Cake
1 small (200ml) pot of natural yogurt
2 pots caster sugar
1 pot sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 2 small lemons (take care not to grate in any of the bitter white pith)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 pots plain flour
1K tsp baking powder
K tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
200g fresh raspberries or other soft fruit
For the glaze
2 pots icing sugar
Juice of 2 small lemons
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, then line a loaf tin with baking parchment paper (it’s worth investing in real baking parchment instead of butter paper as it’s completely non-stick). I use a rectangular tin that measures 10x5 inches (26x13cm).
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In another large bowl, mix the yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla essence, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat the mixture well until smooth.
Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is well incorporated. The mixture will be more like a thick batter than a traditional cake mixture.
Pour half the mixture into the tin, sprinkle half the raspberries, then cover with the remaining mixture. Add the remaining raspberries, then put the tin immediately into the hot oven.
Make the glaze by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and mixing with the juice of about two lemons.
When done, the cake should be firm on top and lightly brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. If not, put it back for 10 minutes.
When the cake is ready take it out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, turn it out on to a plate and drizzle with the glaze.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at http://eatanddust.wordpress.com
Write to Pamela at email@example.com