Two Cookbooks and a Lemon Cake

lemon cake1

* * * * * * *

UPDATE: The winner of Yogurt Culture (chosen randomly by my daughter) is Susan! Congratulations, Susan, you are going to love Cheryl’s book. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I enjoyed reading about your favorite cakes, and, as always, you’ve shared great suggestions and inspiration.

* * * * * * *

Two of my favorite food writers have cookbooks out. The books are on vastly different subjects, but they both feature great writing and a recipe for lemon cake. (I’m giving away a copy of one of the books, because I happen to have two. You’ll find details at the end of this post.)

yogurt culture cover

Cheryl Sternman Rule’s book Yogurt Culture, published last spring by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, got me back into the habit of making my own yogurt, which I now do almost every week. The book is much more than a primer, though. Cheryl delves into the history and economics of the world’s favorite dairy food, and sprinkled throughout are essays spotlighting how yogurt is used in cultures around the globe. Recipes are both savory and sweet and range from drinks and dips to vegetables and mains, and, of course, breakfast and dessert. Cheryl, a friend and a colleague, is the founder of the website Team Yogurt and the blog 5 Second Rule. (I also have, and love, her first book, Ripe.)

my kitchen in rome cover

My Kitchen in Rome is the title of the American edition of British author Rachel Roddy’s book (it was originally published in the U.K. as Five Quarters, a reference to, among other things, the neighborhood in Rome where she makes her home). Rachel is creator of the blog Rachel Eats and a food columnist for The Guardian. The book is a love letter of sorts to Roman food and to the city. Rachel pays tribute to quintessential Roman ingredients, such as artichokes, as well as places and people, including her Roman butcher. Her writing is warm and enveloping.

lemon cake0

A couple of weeks ago I made the Iced Almond Lemon Loaf Cake from Yogurt Culture and brought it up to my parents in New Jersey. They are elderly and increasingly frail. They don’t cook much anymore, and they certainly don’t bake. Watching them enjoy Cheryl’s lemon cake for breakfast one morning filled my heart.

I cut thick slices of Rachel’s Ricotta and Lemon Bundt Cake (which I baked in a loaf pan) and gave it to two construction workers who were installing a new front door at my house on a cold and blustery day.

I liked both cakes equally. They are everything you want a lemon cake to be: light, tender, infused with fresh lemon flavor. The other day I sat down to compare the recipes. They’re similar, but there are differences ~ Cheryl’s is made with butter and whole-milk yogurt, plus a little almond meal; Rachel’s uses olive oil and ricotta and contains more eggs.

lemon cake3

For fun I decided to combine the two recipes into one, which is the adaptation I’m sharing here. I couldn’t decide between yogurt and ricotta so I used a little of each. I opted for olive oil over butter because I am a sucker for olive oil cakes and also for the golden color it imparts. And I whisked in a little almond flour for the nutty flavor and pretty flecks it contributes.

Cheryl’s original recipe appears on page 248 of Yogurt Culture, and also on the books’s Amazon page. Rachel’s cake is on page 335 of My Kitchen in Rome. (You’ll find other cake recipes in her blog archives.)

* * * * * * *


The GIVEAWAY: I must have been really excited about Yogurt Culture because I apparently pre-ordered it twice and received two copies in the mail. This means I get to share one with you. To enter, leave a comment telling me about your favorite simple cake, or your favorite way to enjoy yogurt. Be sure to enter your email address (which will not be posted) so I can contact you if you are the winner. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on the blog on Monday, March 7, 2016, so please check this post for an update. The winner must contact me by the end of Monday, March 14, 2016, or the book will go to a randomly chosen runner up.

In bocca al lupo!

* * * * * * *

Thinking about where to go in 2016? Why not explore delicious Italy off the beaten path with me and my partners at Abruzzo Presto in September? Join us for a week-long tour exploring the food, culture, and landscape of this spectacular region. You can find the details on my tours page and please feel free to forward the link to friends and family with the travel bug.

For an authentic taste of Abruzzo and a sneak peek at our tour, please join Nancy and Michael Morizio of Abruzzo Presto and me on Thursday, April 14, for dinner at Le Virtù in Philadelphia. James Beard Award-nominated Chef Joe Cicala will prepare a special menu; there will be a pasta demonstration, great food and wine from Abruzzo, music, and information about our tour. You can find more information here.

* * * * * * *

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Lemon Cake | Torta al Limone

This cake combines recipes from two of my favorite food writers: Cheryl Sternman Rule and Rachel Roddy. It is golden and tender and infused with the fresh fragrance of lemon zest. While this recipe calls for both ricotta and yogurt, feel free to simplify and use one or the other. Drizzle icing over the cooled cake, as Cheryl does with hers, dust it with powdered sugar, or enjoy it plain. Adapted from a recipe in Yogurt Culture, by Cheryl Sternman Rule, and a recipe in My Kitchen in Rome, by Rachel Roddy.


  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (nothing too assertive), plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 packet lievito Paneangeli (see Note) or 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Finely grated zest of 2 organic lemons or 1 lemon and 1 orange

  • Icing
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, lievito or baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ricotta, and yogurt (it will look broken up but will come together once you add all the eggs). Drop in the eggs, one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition, until the batter is smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Dump the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until you have a thick batter. Stir in the zest, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking. Set the pan on a rack and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter and invert the cake onto the rack; re-invert and let cool completely.

To ice the cake, sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in the yogurt and the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is smooth, thick, and drips slowly from the whisk. Wave the whisk over the top of the cake to drizzle lines of icing. (If you like lots of icing, double the recipe, which is what I did.) Allow the icing to set before serving.

NOTE Lievito Paneangeli is an Italian leavening agent flavored with vanilla that is used for making cakes and other sweets. You can substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder per packet of lievito.

, , ,

65 Responses to Two Cookbooks and a Lemon Cake

  1. jamielifesafeast February 29, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    Good golly, I love a good lemon cake and both sound fantastic – so it is fun and interesting that you combined the two. I love the idea of including the tang or yogurt and the earthy cheesiness of ricotta and although I love butter cakes I do love what olive oil does to a cake. A recipe I have to try!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:12 am #

      This would be a good one to serve to your guests at Hotel Diderot! xo

  2. Rosa Jeanne Mayland February 29, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Oh, this cake is beautiful and extremely tempting! I’ve always loved lemon cakes, especially if they are generously drizzled with icing.



  3. Joanna F February 29, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    I really like a French-style “gateau au yaourt”, such a versatile recipe it can be adapted for any seasonal fruits or flavors.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:14 am #

      I’m not familiar with the French-style yogurt cake. I’ll have to look it up, as I’m sure it’s delicious. Thanks Joanna.

  4. afulton801 February 29, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    I am not sure if it counts as a cake, but my favorite is cake-like sweet cornbread, cooked in an iron skillet. It’s sweetness is Southern, and its a perfect match for barbecue of any kind.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:19 am #

      I love sweet cornbread too, but I thought that was Yankee style. Serious Eats has a really good recipe for browned butter cornbread that I’ve been making lately. My favorite so far.

  5. siegalpaula February 29, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    I Love a sour cream pound cake recipe that I make with yogurt

  6. eastofedencook February 29, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    Lemon desserts are a personal favorite, especially in the middle of a gray and dreary winter day.
    Our favorite and very simple way to enjoy yogurt is with seasonal fruit. I put this together every morning for our daily snack time.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:21 am #

      Yogurt with fruit (and a generous sprinkle of granola) is one of my favorite breakfasts.

  7. vils m. disanto February 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    My absolute favourite simple cake is just a basic pound cake, sometimes with lemon zest added in, and other times not. Butter makes it nice, but so does olive oil!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:23 am #

      I’m a pound cake lover, too. Somewhere in the archives is my recipe for sour cherry-mascarpone pound cake. No extra leavening–just butter, flour, sugar, eggs, mascarpone, and lots of air beaten into the batter.

      • vils m. disanto March 7, 2016 at 11:26 am #

        I found your recipe for the sour cherry-marscapone cake! Three sticks of butter, this must be incredible! =)

  8. Huguette Hebert Romano February 29, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

    Thank you for the lemon cake recipe… looks delicious 🙂 My favorite cake is a banana cake in which I add my secret ingredient “Maple Syrup” 🙂

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:25 am #

      That is a genius touch, Huguette. Thanks for sharing. We LOVE maple syrup around here, especially since our son goes to college in Vermont!

  9. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way February 29, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    That is super generous of you Dominica. I love cookbooks and I simply enjoy reading them like novels. I don’t think I’ve ever given away any of my cookbooks – of course I don’t have any doubles. I lemon sponge cakes. They are simple yet delicious!!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:26 am #

      Lemon sponge cake, so light and delicious. Perfect for spring. As for giving away the book, I accidentally bought two copies, so why not share one, right? I’m happy to spread the yogurt love. xo

  10. Hope cohen February 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    I💛lemon and yogurt. In the mornings, I often eat full fat yogurt topped w/ Za’atar, Maldon salt and olive oil.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:28 am #

      That sounds delicious; I love yogurt in savory dishes. Thanks for the suggestion Hope.

  11. jotsfromasmallapt February 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    Oh..indeed! she says….one can never have enough…cookery books. I think I own at least 7 wonderful Italian cookbooks, but having a wee more Irish blood than Italian…CLODAGH’S IRISH KITCHEN and the Guinness Cake found therein…would have to top my list of favourite cakes! and…Please please please don’t forget to make Clodagh’s frosting. It would have to be the next best eating experience…other than being there, that is!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:31 am #

      After I read your comment I had to look up Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. Somehow I had never heard of the author (she sounds pretty famous). Well, of course I bought it (thanks Amazon…???) and there’s so much in there I want to make. Thank you for bringing the book to my attention.

  12. carol L February 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    This sounds wonderful. And my favorite is a sour cream and chocolate chip pound cake as well as a lemon pound cake Thank you for the giveaway chance and the recipe
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot ) com

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:33 am #

      Another vote for pound cake. I usually put sour cherries in mine but I’m sure my kids would much prefer chocolate chips. Thanks!

  13. linda February 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Yogurt in the morning with granola and a drizzle of honey, maybe sprinkled with coconut or chopped nuts, is my go to breakfast or lunch. Hope’s savory flavors sound delicious. I’m going to give it a try 🙂

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:34 am #

      We are kindred spirits, Linda. Yogurt with granola and honey (sometimes with a few berries mixed in) is my go-to breakfast on many a morning. Cheers, D

  14. ciaochowlinda February 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    I received Rachel’s book and am loving it – not just for the wonderful writing and recipes, but for the nostalgia I get when I read about Rome. I’m not familiar with the yogurt cookbook, but you’re making me want to pull out my old yogurt maker from 30 years ago down in the basement. At the least, I want to try that cake. I love how you combined the recipes and came up with your own version, that I’m sure is delicious. And hi to your dear mom and dad. I hope to see you at Le Virtù.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      Rachel’s book really brings Rome to life, I agree. And yes, I would love to see you at LV! xo

  15. Marilena @ February 29, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

    This cake looks so scrumbtious – I wish I had a big piece right now!

    Being Greek, I absolutely love yogurt and I enjoy it every single day. My favorite way is with a simple drizzle of good honey, some toasted nuts and lots of fresh fruit on top. I look forward to finally meeting you this coming Saturday at “Les Dames D’ Escoffier’s” panel discussion.

    Thanks for the giveaway chance Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:40 am #

      So nice to finally meet you Marilena. I’m sorry I was under the weather. I’m looking forward to coffee soon. xx

  16. Susan February 29, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi. I am new to your blog, and was touched by what you wrote about watching your elderly parents enjoy the lemon cake you brought them for breakfast. My mother is in her 90s, and is blind, has vascular dementia, and is becoming increasingly frail. But she still enjoys good food, and lemon is one of her favorite flavors, so you have inspired me to bake this cake for her. When I visit I always bring her something special to eat, usually fresh fruit, some form of chocolate, or something very flavorful and pungent, as she lives in a nursing home, and the food is very bland. My favorite cake would be the dark chocolate cakes my mother typically made for birthdays when I was a child. Growing up, Droste’ s cocoa was a very special ingredient for flavoring chocolate cakes, but now there are so many choices, such as Black & Green cocoa, and so forth.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:44 am #

      Thank you for your kind comment, Susan, and for sharing your story. A slice of dark chocolate cake is always a special treat. We always had a box of Droste cocoa in our cupboard when I was growing up. I still buy it when I find it at the grocery store. Cheers, D

  17. katetq February 29, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    I love lemon cake–from lemon pound cake to Maida Heatter’s 62nd Street Lemon Cake to Lemon Poppy Quick Bread. And now I’m going to make yours–I have some leftover ricotta that’s begging to be used….

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      I used to love the lemon poppy seed cake from The Moosewood Cookbook. I haven’t made it in years. Thanks for reminding me. I’m not familiar with that Maida Heatter recipe. Will have to check it out. Thanks!

  18. Marisa's Italian Kitchen February 29, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    Simple lemon cakes made with either yogurt or sour cream, served with fresh berries are a personal favorite of mine. Your cake looks lemonlicious!

  19. Constance March 1, 2016 at 2:43 am #

    I love Marcy Goldman’s banana cake from her Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking but always substitute nutmeg for the cinnamon. It’s an oil cake which I prefer more and more over a butter cake because they stay moist longer.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      Ooh, that sounds good. I’ve adapted a banana cake recipe from Mollie Katzen with sunflower oil, but I’ve never made it with olive oil. Thanks for the suggestion.

  20. lisa March 1, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    My fallback cake is a pound cake made with bosc pears, vanilla, yogurt, and nutmeg. It is equally good with a drizzle of vanilla glaze, a dollop of raspberry jam, or just plain.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      Pear pound cake?? That sounds outrageously good. Do you chop the pears? I’d love to know more. Thanks!

  21. Gabrielle Schaffner March 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    Mmm. I’ve made Rachel’s cake a few times and I love it. We had it for breakfast with some yogurt on the side….Can’t wait to try this version!

  22. Barbara W March 1, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    This is one way I love yogurt–on top of ratatouille. Had it last night: a bed of brown, red, and black rice, ratatouille I’d frozen last summer when zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes were flavorful, all topped with a heap of plain Greek yogurt. Hope that doesn’t sound too odd. It’s delicious! Domenica, thanks for the book give-away and for the inspiration to make a lemon cake.

  23. Diane Peak March 1, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    I love baking with yogurt. It makes baked goods so moist and tasty! Very often in recipes, I will substitute yogurt for sour cream! Much healthier, and just as good in baked goods!

  24. Mary Ann March 2, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    My favorite cake is Cream Cheese Pound Cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries in the spring.

  25. Eileen Piehler March 2, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    Love yogurt. So much you can do with it. My grandchildren love everything I make with it.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 8:59 am #

      You’re right; it’s such a versatile ingredient. I think many people forget that. Thanks for chiming in.

  26. Maria Elena March 3, 2016 at 7:07 am #

    I eat yogurt everyday for lunch with additions such as fruit, nuts or honey. Making my own yogurt would be perfection! Thank you for the opportunity to win your giveaway!

  27. Nadia Murray March 3, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    definitely pound cake or as the french call it gateaux weekend. I love a good moist dense poundcake in all variations but lemon is number 1. this recipe is so appealing with the yogurt and ricotta olive oil and almonds and the lovely glaze drizzled over top.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 9:01 am #

      I love that the French call it gateau weekend. The Italians call it torta quattro quarti (four quarters cake). Delicious however you call it.

  28. Adri Barr Crocetti March 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    And I keep swearing that I do not need any more cookbooks. But the deal is that there are some people whose recommendations I must follow, and you are among them. Plus to say I adore lemon cakes would be the understatement of the year. I especially enjoy them made with some Lemon Agrumato from Abruzzo. For a favorite simple cake, that’d be Alice Medrich’s Sherry & Olive Oil number.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 9:04 am #

      That lemon agrumato would be perfect in this cake. And now I have to find Alice Medrich’s sherry olive oil cake. I love a good sherry cake. Thanks Adri xx

  29. Chiara March 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    ho cominciato la dieta ma mi concedo almeno di apprezzare le foto e desiderare una fetta di qualcosa di delizioso come la tua torta al limone !

  30. Mo potter March 3, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    Anything lemon gets my attention! I like my yoghurt with fruit, any kind. Recently picked up a Cuisinart yoghurt maker on clearance and loving the yoghurt it makes. Would love the book for more ideas.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for your comment Mo. Homemade yogurt is so much better, isn’t it.

  31. Frank Fariello March 5, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks for the tips, Domenica! Somehow, although I had heard of Rachel Eats, I hadn’t followed the blog or even realized she was based in Italy! I’ll need to start paying attention…

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 9:10 am #

      There’s always new inspiration out there. Rachel is a wonderful writer. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her blog.

  32. Sharyl Wolter March 5, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    I love banana cake without frosting!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 7, 2016 at 9:11 am #

      I agree, good banana cake doesn’t need frosting, maybe just a dusting of powdered sugar…Cheers, D

Leave a Comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: