French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

Greetings from London Paris!

Are you having a hard time keeping up with us? Yes, I’m feeling a bit like that myself!

A few days ago we were in London visiting our daughter and her family. But Scott and I are celebrating a 40th anniversary this year, and we were busy this spring, planning a week together in Paris. We bid adieu to our little family in London on Tuesday and headed to France on the Eurostar.

We been here for two days now, and are having the time of our lives in a delightful little (very little) flat that we’ve rented in the heart of the Paris Latin District.

You’re going to laugh when you hear one of the things that I couldn’t wait to see when I got to Paris.

These adorable little yogurt jars.

Our Little (very little) Paris Apartment -French Yogurt Jars

I know, I know, that sounds a bit strange, right?  But I read about this wonderful Lemon Yogurt Cake a few weeks before we left for our London/Paris trip, and was so intrigued by it’s charming history that, not only could I hardly wait to make the cake, I was also dying to see these fun little jars in person.

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

The history? I figured you want to know. The story is told that this humble, simple recipe is one that grandmothers (and lots of others too, I’m quite sure) all over France are renowned for. The French name for the cake is actually Gâteaux de Mamie, which translated is: Granny Cake. The part of the story I love is the way these French grandmothers measure the cake ingredients – with yogurt jars!

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

Yogurt in France has been traditionally sold in small, round glass jars (these days you can find it in all kinds of containers, but in the past, it was mostly sold in the little jars). The recipe starts out with one jar of yogurt. The rest of the ingredients are measured in that same jar: two jars of sugar, 3 jars of flour, one jar of oil…

Don’t worry though, you don’t need to have French yogurt available to make the cake. It turns out that each jar holds one half cup (120 milliliters),  so it’s easy to translate the recipe to more classic cooking measurements.

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

I tried out the cake before we left on our trip and it truly is fantastic! Definitely a keeper-recipe! The cake is super moist and a simple lemon syrup that’s brushed on while still warm, yields an amazingly delicious, crisp, citrus glazed crust. It doesn’t really need any embellishment, but a dusting of powdered sugar is a lovely finishing touch.

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

The first day Scott and I were in Paris, we stopped at a small grocery store near our little apartment. I immediately checked out the dairy case and, sure enough, there were the famous little jars. I served the yogurt the next morning for breakfast and discovered that, not only are the jars quite charming (I’m taking a bunch of them home), the yogurt is smooth, creamy and incredibly delicious; definitely a win-win-win!

French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake - a fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist and super delicious and it can be thrown together in minutes!

So there you have it, French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. I love the name, especially when you know the story behind it. Whatever you decide to call it, make it! I know you’re going to love it, and, if you need a charming little jar to measure the ingredients, just let me know; I’ll have a few extras in my prop closet!

P.S. Wondering what our tiny, but charming Paris living quarters looks like? We’ll be sharing a post tomorrow titled “Our Little Paris (very little) Apartment” with lots of pictures. If you’d like to see lots of behind the scenes Paris shots, you can also follow us on Instagram.

Our Little (very little) Paris Apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris

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French Grandmother's Lemon Yogurt Cake
 
A fabulous cake with a really fun history. It's moist, super delicious and can be thrown together in minutes!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • For the cake:
  • ½ cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • grated lemon zest, from 1 medium-size lemon
  • ½ cup sunflower, grape seed or canola oil
  • For the glaze:
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup (1½ jars) of powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Spray a 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray, rub inside surface of pan with a paper towel to cover evenly with the spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and spray parchment paper lightly. Set aside
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and zest, mixing to just combine.
  4. Add the oil and stir well. Don't worry, at first it will seem to separate, but keep stirring till smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.
  7. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes; then turn it out of the pan onto the rack.
  8. Combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir until smooth. With a pastry brush, gently pat the glaze all over the cake. Just keep going over the cake till the glaze is gone. Some of it will drip off, but most of it will soak in. Allow cake to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and serve.

 



108 thoughts on “French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake”

  • Lemon is my favorite flavor. This cake looks so easy. I will be making it soon. I LOVE little jars and boxes. The little yogurt jars are perfect! I would bring home as many as I could fit in my suitcase. I hope one of my friends goes to Paris this year so I can request some of the jars. Thanks for the recipe.

  • So thrilled I just found this recipe, can’t wait to try it tomorrow.
    Funnily enough, we just returned from our ten year anniversary holiday (a surprise trip to Paris) and I brought back a bunch of the yoghurt jars – they are so cute! Glad to hear about them and to use them for more than flowers. Thanks

  • This recipe is the best for French Grandmother”s Cake ever, I have tried a few others, but it is has been a year since I started using yours and I always get this beautiful tasty cake. And I can use your recipe as a base and turn it into so many other cakes, like Blueberry Heaven Cake, Spicy Carrot Cake, Orange Cake, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Cake, etc. Thanks a million!!!

  • I just made this with coconut oil instead of veg and some finely shredded coconut in the batter with the lemon zest. It was delightful!

  • Chris, the cake looks amazingly delicious! I was wondering about the yogurt though. Regular yogurt is *much* more thin & watery than Greek yogurt. The ingredients list says to use either. I am wondering which one you used, I am guessing not Greek.

    • Yes! Just let it cool completely then freeze, uncovered. After an hour, or once it’s well frozen, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil. When you thaw it, unwrap and allow to thaw completely. Enjoy!

  • I thought you might like to know that this recipe is my son’s most favourite cake recipe, ever. He’s 8, and he can’t get enough of it. I think I’ve this recipe about 20 times already for him since I found it some time ago!

  • What are your feelings about making this in a 3″ cake pan? I’m making a wedding cake for a friend and she wants a lemon cake.

  • love this cake. i’ve made it 2 times now however it’s never as tall and pretty as yours. Also I have the brown crust on the top as well – but when covered with powdered sugar and dehydrated lemon slices it’s not bad looking.

    Any tips at all would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi,
    The cake is amazing and so easy thank you! But I was wondering- mine came out with kind of a brown crust on top, did you cut this off and flip the cake so the bottom is the top?

    Thank you,
    Carey

    • Hi Carey,
      I do flip my cake and use the bottom as the top but I don’t have to cut anything off. I didn’t have to do this, but you might want to check the cake as it bakes next time and cover it with foil if it’s getting too brown towards the end.

  • Has anyone tried this cake with fresh limes. If so, how many would you suggest.

    The cake is sensational with lemon but I have a number of limes ready to use.

  • I just had my first three pieces of this cake, is to die for. I did just somethings, firstly used limes instead of lemons. Secondly used half a cup of coconut, desiccated. Thirdly used coconut oil instead of any of the suggested oils. Truly delightful Kate

  • I have tried this recipe twice. I love how easy it is to prep and the flavor. However, as it cools, it sinks in the center. Am I doing something wrong or does it need to be adjusted for high altitude? I live in Denver, the mile high city!. Thank you

    • I am not familiar with high altitude baking but I suspect that you might need to just bake the cake a little longer. A cake will sink when it’s not fully cooked in the center.

  • Hi Chris!

    I plan on making this for my mom for mother’s day, but I was wondering if I could half the recipe to make a smaller cake?
    We’re only 3 people in the house, so I’d like to make a 4 inch cake instead of 8. 🙂

    Thank you!

  • Hi Chris!

    I plan on making this for my mom for mother’s day, but I was wondering if I could half the recipe to make a smaller cake?
    We’re only 3 people in the house, so I’d like to make a 4 inch cake instead of 8. 🙂

    Thank you!

  • Hi, I’ve been making this cake for more than thirty years! It started when I was a student without a kitchen scales and was desperate for home baking. My aunt gave me this recipe, with three eggs, and I have not looked back. I have used any flavour yogurt, smooth or with bits of fruit. Baked as bar cakes in small loaf tins they used to be the first cake to sell out at the school fayre because they were so moist!

  • Hey!

    I absolutely love this recipe. I recently made this as a treat for my classmates in my french class, and it was a huge hit! The cake was so moist and really had a great lemon flavor, but it wasn’t overpowering nor was the cake overly sweet.

    My classmates were so surprised that the recipe was so simple and so incredibly easy. This recipe will definitely become something that I make more often. Thank you for sharing!

  • Hi Chris
    In your Gâteaux de Mamie recipe you state 3 eggs, is there any special reason why you use 3 when most recipes state 2eggs even those with all the other same ingredients measurements as yours
    Kind regards
    Jane
    Australia

  • Memories, memories!! We traveled to Italy last year with my sister-in-law and her husband. We loved the little jars of yogurt and decided they needed to return to the states with us!! When I saw your recipe/story it brought back so many wonderful memories. I immediately got one of our jars out and made the cake……it is wonderful. Its very moist and flavorful. Not only does it envoke wonderful memories but it’s so deligtful! Thank you!

    • That’s wonderful Vicki! It always amazes me, how food experiences evoke such strong memories! We love that cake and have done several adaptions to it over the past year; it’s that versatile!

  • I baked the cake for a family lunch and it was a hit…which usually doesnt happen with things i bake. Thanks for the recipe….it is quick to make and it was soooo fluffy, yummy and perfect!!

  • We made this cake last night! I read about it in a book and so wanted to try. Thank you so much for the recipe. We love it!

  • I have been looking for this authentic cake for a long time. I wasn‘t sure if it was the right one to my taste when I viewed it two weeks ago. Finally, I decided to bake it yesterday……the only change to it was I reduced sugar to 3/4 cup……well done!! My family and I love it very much. Thank you for posting it to share. Oh! I enjoy reading your story about traveling in Paris, lovely!

  • Hi! A friend of mine sent me a link to this recipe. It looks amazing. I was looking for a light yoghurt lemon cake to try and this certainly made my list! I am loving your blog – and the photos are beautiful. I have pinned that beautiful breakfast table on one of my Pinterest boards. It was too beautiful to pass by. Have a great day!
    Roberta.

  • Hi,

    Made this for my son’s birthday and it was divine! Made a minor modifications – reduced sugar and used wholemeal self raising flour as well as almond and quinoa meal to make up the weight of the flour, covered it with lemon cream cheese frosting and put fresh strawberries in between (baked two cakes and layered it). Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing this with the world. It’s a fantastic, deliciously divine cake

  • The rest of the story is that this was always the very first thing that French kids learned to bake, because it was so easy.

    • So sorry you didn’t have good results with this. I hate wasting good ingredients. I have had letters from others who have made this and loved it so much that they made it several more times, always to rave reviews, not sure what could have gone wrong.

      Kind Regards,
      Chris

  • We lived in Germany near the French border and I loved collecting these yogurt jars. I have about 30 that I saved. They make great votive candle

    Holders and cases. So charming! This recipe looks great! Can’t wait to try!

  • The cake turned out beautifully. My friends commented that they would be broke, if I had charged for each slice, as they wanted more and more of it.

  • I spent ten years in the Netherlands, sos went into Paris quite often. (Spoiled me… so much to see and do in Europe) I loved Paris and went 5 times alone…enjoyed many different parts of the area. Oh, to have one of those jars for a souvenir….never saw them when I was there. Have fun and continue to make me homesick. LOL. although living in Sunny California isn’t bad. either. Thanks for sharing…

  • What a fabulous and magical anniversary gift to one another. It’s 40 for us this year as well.
    I’m making this cake. It looks divine and how perfect that it’s a Granny Cake. Don’t you love being older and justifying anything you want to do? I do it all the time. I feel a bit odd waving my hand for one of those adorable yogurt jars but I’m gonna if no one else has beat me to it. How cute and I love making recipes with kitchen items. My husband’s Aunt Maisie has a snickerdoodle cookie recipe she shared that does this very thing.
    Hope the trip continues to be fabulous and you have 40 more wonderful years together.

  • Happy Anniversary, Chris! Wishing you many, many more! We will be celebrating our 48th this year!
    Spending your anniversary in Paris sounds wonderfully perfect!
    There is a yogurt sold in my grocery store called Traderspoint Creamery. They sell their yogurt in the same little jars. Love those jars, too! It’s a pretty new product. Here’s a link to the company.
    http://www.tpforganics.com/products/our-single-serve-yogurts/
    As for your gorgeous cake…looks mouthwatering!

  • Omg this is one stunning looking cake and it came out just perfect!!

  • Oh Chris that breakfast spread is just beautiful! Would you believe I have a stash of about 12 of those jars. When I went to South America with my parents they had them on the breakfast buffet in Buenos Aires and Mum and I helped ourselves to them every day! I will have to use one to try the cake – maybe when the first of my lemons arrive for the season.

  • Hi Chris,
    Congratulations on your 40th wedding anniversary… What a wonderful way to celebrate. Many more wonderful, loving, peaceful, healthy years.
    I have an affinity for small jars. So I can understand you love of these adorable little jars. I am looking forward to making this cake. It sounds and looks so delicious.
    Dorothy

  • Happy anniversary to you both!!! We hit #29 this year—maybe I need to suggest Paris to Bill for next year??? Your lemon yogurt cake sounds wonderful—it sounds like it’s stood the test of time!!

  • I made this today to take to a friend recovering from surgery. It was delightful, in looking back at the photos, mine was not as golden brown as yours, I did not want to overbake it, but the golden crust looks so good, I will play with the time a bit more.

    Have you ever done this with butter rather than oil?

    Also, did you put the glaze on the bottom side of the cake (as it baked) by flipping it over, or did you turn it again to use the top side? I had no parchment so used a fluted sided tart pan with a removable bottom, I buttered it well and the cake came out no problem.

    Everyone loved the result of painting on the glaze and allowing it to soak in, I just wondered if it would absorb more on the bottom or top & which end to put up for best results.

  • I had not one but two French grandmothers who had no yogurt jars to measure with but they did just fine with a small teacup. One was mamie and one was grammy. Neither one ever had a written recipe but they both taught me to love to cook. My dad’s mother would bake bread with me every Saturday morning. I would knead for the longest time and she’d bake my tiny loaf. It was only when I was 14 and she died that someone told me that she would bake a different loaf because I was always dropping the bread on the floor. 🙂

    My other grandmother very rarely spoke English and I refused to speak French. Only the weird people at church spoke French (to a kid). I still learned to cook by watching her nearly every day.

    I love this cake.and I hope you have the best time in one of my favorite cities in the world. I think of you and want to visit Rue Cler to buy cheese or ready to cook meals or olive oil or fruit. 🙂

  • I think your apartment looks charming! What a lovely table you have set. A room with a view 🙂 I love lemon cakes and can’t wait to try this one! Happy Anniversary!

  • Happy Anniversary! How wonderful to spend it celebrating in Paris! Love the picture of your apartment. Cannot wait to see more. I was in Paris for the first time back in 2010 with my husband and two sons. I love that city and want to go back again! Thank you for sharing this recipe and the history of the yogurt jars. This looks very good and plan to make it soon.

  • Love the little yogurt jars ! Question regarding the cake – is the yogurt full fat, low fat, etc? I buy non-fat and am wondering if that would work or should I splurge and buy full fat for this cake? I like all things lemon, especially desserts. I am planning to make this and serve with a small dollop of lemon curd 🙂 Thanks for sharing and Happy Anniversary.

  • Happy 40th to you and Scott, Chris! What a “romantic” way to celebrate this milestone. There is absolutely nothing in the world like “April in Paris” and I envy you enjoying everything Français! My hubby and I lived in Normandy for a year (years ago…he was working there) and we loved it. Enjoy yourselves and scarf down those baguettes for me! Mmm!

  • Happy 40th Anniversary!! What a beautiful milestone!!! This cake looks just FABULOUS and I am impressed you have all these recipes to post on vacation! LOL! XOXO!

  • I just bought one of those little jars of yogurt the other day, it was lemon flavored and I was so intrigued I am going to try to recreate it. This cake looks wonderful, and I am a recent convert to baking with yogurt, Your Paris digs look heavenly, how will you ever leave??

  • What a wonderful cake!!! And awesome little jars!! Plus the glass is always so much healthier! No BPA .Our stupid little yogurt cartons are for sure lowly compared to these! Wonder why they are used in France and not here? My guess for what you wanted to see the most was the famous cooking school, the CIA? Is this sweet table scene from your apartment? I can’t wait to see!

  • Oh I LOVED seeing this cake! I have wanted to make one since I read about it in a book. French Kids Eat Everything or some title like that. Now that I’ve seen how gorgeous yours turned out, it goes to the top of the list. Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh Chris! What a lovely table and view! I love the sweet story, too. I especially love that it’s called a grandmother’s cake. Don’t we all always want to do something special for our grand babies?! I look forward to trying this lemon cake! I think I need a cute little yogurt jar, too! If I make it to Paris again, I will surely look for them!

  • Trying this today. Aren’t the French grocery aisles with yogurt & desserts amazing. There were so many lovely treats to try, even in the pre-made section. I remember trying a lemon tart in a black box from that “pudding” aisle. YUM. Can’t want to visit France again and try more goodies.

  • Going to make this next week … yum! Would you please post a picture of your very tiny Paris kitchen? Would love to see where you’re creating your culinary delights at the moment 🙂

  • 40 years of happy marriage is a big milestone! So Paris worthy! Congratulations. I was in Paris in 2009. Ah to be back to that wonderful city! I love this light granny cake; and the little yogurt jars. Thanks for sharing the little history, so fun to read!

  • Congrat’s Chris on 40 years, that’s wonderful! I love this story and your cake sounds wonderful and moist. Plus that quaint apartment will be so nice and cozy to celebrate your special anniversary and of course being in Paris!

    Have a fabulous time!

  • That cake looks wonderfully delicious. Those little jars are the cutest things. I need some of them too. Love it!!

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!

  • Best wishes on your anniversary. This cake looks like I need to make it! Is there some way to get those little jars of yogurt?
    Have a great time on your vacation.

  • I don’t usually comment on a recipe until I’ve tried it, but this one looks so good … and I’ve decided it will be one of the birthday cakes for my daughter and I who share the day soon. Interesting story about the little jars too. I love your so little apt in Paris .. how wonderful it must be to sit at that perfectly-laden table with a view that most of us can only dream of!

    • Thanks Joan! Is really fun to eat there in the morning. Scott goes out for fresh croissants a few blocks from the apartment, and we enjoy the time before the day begins to really zoom! The cake is sooooooo lemony and delicious! Bon appetit!

  • I was just about to start chanting, “Paris, Paris, Paris!” Because it seemed you had not posted anything. But now we have a lovely recipe and a charming shot of an artfully laid breakfast table. As we know a little of Paris, Scott probably had one foot in the sink and the other on the bed to get that picture!

  • Your apartment in Paris looks so bright and lovely! Happy Anniversary!!
    The cake looks super moist and heavenly!

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