By Daniel Dutch
You’ve just pulled over, and now your Dutch oven is staring at you from the back of your RV’s trunk, giving you that “what will you bake inside of me today?” look and feeling used and unloved, as always. (Like seasoning it before and after each use to prevent rusting isn’t enough attention!)
But that’s a perfectly valid question. What will you bake? What ingredients will you combine today in a unique way in your beloved black pot in order to bring a smile on your guests’ face?
I have a suggestion, and a pretty delicious one for that matter. This dish is rich and simple, and has a tendency to make people reach out for more. (I don’t know how it does it, I swear.) I’m talking about a rather classic lemon-yogurt cake, but a classic that deserve its status.
And like all good things, it won’t come along alone. It will be accompanied by a delicious apricot sauce, which goes together with this lemon-yogurt cake like politicians and sweet-talk.
So let’s not waste another minute, letting our precious Dutch oven sit there, uncertain of its fate, and see what it takes to bake a delicious lemon-yogurt cake everyone will want to enjoy.
These ingredients will yield enough batter for a 10-inch Dutch oven or round cake pan. To adjust for a 12-inch Dutch oven or round cake pan, add 50 percent more of each ingredient. For the 14-inch size, double the amount of ingredients in this recipe. The ingredients are listed in the order in which they’ll be used.
- 6 eggs, yolks separated from whites
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups cake flour or 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter (about two sticks), softened
- 2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
- Pre-heat the Dutch oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat egg whites with a hand mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, little by little, and continue beating until the mixture turns stiff.
- Sift flour, salt and baking soda together.
- Cream the softened butter for one minute. Add remaining sugar, a little at a time, and cream together for about 5 minutes, until it turns light, pale and fluffy.
- Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat just enough to incorporate before adding the next one.
- Add lemon peel and lemon juice, and mix well. Beat until it turns light, pale and fluffy again.
- Add yogurt and mix. The batter should turn quite liquid.
- Add sifted flour (with salt and baking soda), little by little, and mix just enough to incorporate. Don’t beat the batter or else it will release air and reduce the volume of the cake. Don’t worry if the batter seems dry – the egg whites will moisten it.
- Fold in egg whites until well incorporated. It’s important not to beat, but just gently fold in. The batter should turn out creamy.
- Pour into a lined cake pan or pre-heated and lined Dutch oven. Cover and cook for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if it’s moist, it’s okay.)
- Optional: In the meanwhile, mix the sifted confectioner’s sugar with the lemon juice. The resulting mixture should be very thick, off-white in color and opaque/translucent.
- After the cake is done, remove it from the pan or dutch oven and let it cool for about half an hour or so, preferably on a cake rack. Pour the confectioner’s-sugar-and-lemon-juice over the cake, and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.
The secret is in the butter
Unlike many other cakes which rely on beaten eggs to be leavened, cakes relatively rich in butter, like this one, rely mostly on the butter itself to get this job done. It’s creamed together with the sugar to trap in as much air as possible, and only then, when this process is ready, should the other ingredients be added. That’s why you should really look for a light, pale and fluffy cream and put in some elbow grease to reach this stage. (Look at the bright side: You’re cooking and staying in shape, both at the same time.)
The creaming process should take about five minutes if you do it by hand (which is easier to control). If you use an electric mixer, it’s best to use it in spurts, as it’s easy to make the butter melt and result in a lumpy cake.
Now that we’ve seen how to bake the cake, let’s look at its companion, the delicious and rich apricot sauce.
A quick note before we begin. It’s easier to cook this sauce at home, store it in your fridge and just pull it out from the cooler when the cake is baked, like a magician pulls out a pigeon out of his sleeve.
Okay, let’s start.
- 2 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 pounds of ripe or frozen apricots, halved and pitted
- In a sauce, over medium heat, stir the water and sugar gently until the sugar dissolves. With a pastry brush dipped in water, brush down the sides of the saucepan from time to time so that any remaining sugar crystals stuck to the sides get dissolved as well. After all the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. Boil the sugar sauce rapidly for a minute or two. Remove saucepan from heat and let the syrup cool down for a few minutes.
- Add the apricot halves and poach in the sugar syrup for about five minutes, or until they become tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots into a sieve which is set over a bowl. Reserve some of the poaching liquid. With the back of a spoon, press the apricots flesh through the sieve and discard the skins.
- Serve this way or thin the puree with some of the poaching liquid until it reaches the consistency you desire.
The taste of this sauce is of average sweetness. If you want it less sweet, you can use half of the sugar indicated in the recipe.
This sauce can be served hot, but I think it tastes better cold, so I like to let it cool down, cover it with plastic paper and put in in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. The cold sauce poured over a lukewarm slice of lemon-yogurt cake is just a feast.
And with this, our recipe for the lemon-yogurt cake and apricot sauce has come to an end. But if you’re interested in more interesting recipes for cakes, breads, stews and roasts, etc., you can visit my website, www.OutdoorDutchOvenCooking.info, where I have more delicious recipes waiting for you and your guests.