Turkish Yoghurt Cake
If I could make only one cake ever, it would be this, because it has everything: it’s moist, nutty, fruity, mildly spicy, and flavourful but not rich; it has the perfect density; it's easy to make and is susceptible to different ‘interpretations’. You could change the nuts or leave the nuts and raisins out, and add fresh berries or candied fruit; you could put icing or frosting on top, or drizzle citrus syrup; you could make any one of the flavours more pronounced (cinnamon, citrus, vanilla). You could bung in other flavourings, such as liquor – rum, brandy, sweet sherry, Tuaca, Grand Marnier – or actual vanilla seeds, or fennel or anise. It’s a cake to dress up or down, a cake for all seasons and occasions. It is Turkish Yoghurt Cake.
Apparently this cake comes in many versions. Claudia Roden's much simpler recipe (no nuts, raisins, cinnamon or vanilla) features lemons and lemon zest instead of orange, and Greek-style yoghurt; hers also has a lemon syrup, which she describes as 'optional'. But the one below is the recipe I know. I don’t recall where I found it, but I’ve made this cake several times, and this recipe represents my idea of improvement. My recipe has more walnuts, more raisins, less butter, and slightly more salt and vanilla than the original version. I also toast the walnuts before baking with them. In my opinion, toasting much improves the taste, but you need to be quick: the lightest broiling is all that’s needed – just a few minutes – or the walnut oil burns and the flavour becomes nasty.
I’ve put asterisks next to the parts of the recipe I’ve changed, which gives you the option, if you’re trying it, to change it back.
TURKISH YOGHURT CAKE
NB: This recipe cuts the butter slightly (from 1 cup), boosts vanilla extract by ½ tsp and walnuts by ¼ cup, and raises the raisins from 1/3 cup in the original recipe. * shows my additions/adjustments. ['Tablespoon' here is the UK/US measure equalling 15 ml.]
Equipment: 10-inch tube pan, electric mixer, two large mixing bowls, scraper or spoon spatula.
3/4 cup/ 6 oz (about 1 ½ sticks) high-quality unsalted butter*
1½ cups sugar
1 cup/ 10 oz plain yoghurt
2½ cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (lightly toasted*)
½ cup golden raisins or flame raisins*, the latter chopped
1 generous teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (i.e. zest of about one medium orange)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons* vanilla extract/essence OR seeds of one vanilla pod + 1 tsp essence.
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp [+ ⅛ tsp*] salt
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts and raisins.
In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to beat until well combined. Add the yoghurt.
Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Preheat oven to 350F.
Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until incorporated. Turn mixture into pan, and bake for 1 hour (or 40 minutes if using a traditional fan-assisted oven*), or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on a rack, then remove from the pan. *If your oven drops the temperature on the 'convect' setting -- mine does by 25°F -- then bake for the full hour.