Lemon, Yogurt, and Olive Oil Cake (with coconut sugar)


Ah, citrus season. Almost as great as pumpkin season, but not quite. As my friend and former roommate, Brigid mentioned on her new food blog, the citrus trees in Southern California are abundant and always great to have around -- except, of course, when your current landlord decides they look unseemly and proceeds to chop them down without giving you any warning.

Yes friends, I am sad to report that this happened to Paul and I today. We looked out our window to find that both the beloved lemon trees that adorned the walkway of our apartment complex have been chopped to tiny pieces and loaded into the back of a pickup truck. May they rest in peace.

When I saw that they had been removed, I ran down to the yard workers and asked them if anyone had bothered to save any of the lemons.

"They're all in the tuck," one of them told me. "It's parked out back and you can look through it if you want to."

He led me to the back alley where the dumpsters are, and showed me the flatbed of his pickup which was loaded to full capacity with hunks of tree trunk, leaves, and twigs poking in every which direction.

He frowned. "They might be buried pretty deep in there."

He opened the bed and started digging around, feeling blindly for the soft, round skin. He found a few and began handing them to me. They were slightly dirty from all the mess; some with bits of stem still attached and lovely pock marks and physical imperfections that only occur on home grown fruit. I managed to carry five of them in my arms, cradled like little babies.

"If I find anymore, I'll save them for you," he said.

"That's okay," I told him. "Just leave them for the other people in the apartment."

I wandered back to my kitchen and dumped them all on the counter top, wondering what would be best to make with this last batch. Lemon risotto? Lemon bars? Chicken with lemon and rosemary? Lemon poppy seed muffins?

I finally settled on merging several lemon cake recipes together and then adapting them to make the final product a bit healthier, yet still loaded with sweet and tangy flavor. I swapped coconut sugar for processed white sugar, which worked great. The only difference was that the sugar itself was brown in color, and thus made the cake resemble the shade of a spiced apple cake, as opposed to being the pale yellow of a typical lemon cake. I also swapped out the canola oil for olive oil, which made the texture richly and intensely moist.

I did, however, feel it was important to use confectioners sugar for the glaze. I mixed it with freshly squeezed lemon juice and then slathered it on top with a paint brush. There were multiple coats involved. The whole cake came out fantastic and I wouldn't change a thing.

All in all, I'd say it was a good way to honor our lemon tree's life.

Lemon, Yogurt, and Olive Oil Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole milk yogurt (not low fat or nonfat)
1 cup coconut sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or bundt cake pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to mix together the yogurt, coconut sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice until everything is combined. Add the olive oil, and mix again until the batter is smooth and well incorporated.

Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Next, use a butter knife to loosen the edges and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack. While it's cooling, make the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup powdered/confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Mix the powdered sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Transfer the cake to a plate, and then either drizzle or paint the glaze on the outside of the cake. Apply liberally, as you can never have enough lemony goodness.