Let Them Eat Cake

Scientific research confirms what every parent already knows: a child’s sweet tooth is hard-wired. We also know that sugar is the new Dr. Evil, blamed for everything from childhood obesity to attention deficit disorder and beyond. Still, kids want dessert. Some of the time, you can trick them into eating fruit: a baked apple, strawberries with cream or a rhubarb crisp.

A healthy dessert isn’t necessarily an oxymoron. Sometimes, however, a little more incentive is called for: a special occasion, perhaps, or maybe the proverbial carrot stick. Which leads to an important question: How should one sweeten that carrot stick?

For years, I swore off all baking because I live in Santa Cruz, a town with some of the best bakeries in the country. If I wanted dessert – for a birthday, a dinner party or just a nice treat – it required less gas to jump in the car and drive to the closest bakery than to turn on my oven.

But a few years ago, I discovered a terrific virtuously healthy cake made from olive oil and yogurt. It’s simple, too. I can whip it up in 10 minutes flat (nine if I don’t bother to sift the dry ingredients). Its texture is wonderful, and the flavor is tart and quite addictive.

You can play around with the amount of sugar, forgoing the glaze, which adds to the tartness but also gives it a nice sheen. For the non-gluten tribe, try substituting almond flour for wheat.

This recipe comes from Orangette, a blog by Molly Wizenberg, a young Seattle restaurateur, which The Times of London dubbed “the ultimate food lovers blog.” The recipe is a take-off on an old French classic, the sort of humble treat that “a grandmother would make,” Wizenberg writes. It is traditionally made with ingredients measured from a yogurt jar, a small glass cylinder that holds about half a cup.


Sara Solovitch is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.


French Yogurt Cake

  •  ½ cup plain yogurt
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  3 eggs
  •  1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  •  2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  •  ½ cup olive oil



  • Juice from 2 lemons
  •  ½ cup powdered sugar



Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar and eggs, stirring well until blended. Add the flour, baking powder and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate.

At first, it will look like an Alaskan oil spill, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes. While still warm, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like syrup.

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