There is something about this cake. The texture is moist but not crumbly. It’s strong - forte - it doesn’t melt in your mouth; it gives you something to chew on. And something to hold a nice runny fruit preserve on top.
It’s not overly sweet. You can completely change its flavor with two swipes of a lemon rind over the grater.
It satisfies. You don’t want to eat it all day. You just want what is there.
When I was an exchange student in Italy as a high school student, my friend Ornella, with whom I worked in the kitchen of a pensione in Piemonte, hand-wrote this recipe for me before I left. I made it once, but it was so plain I didn’t know what to do with it. Back then I needed excitement. frosting. Sugar. I tucked the recipe into my cookbook and forgot about it.
But a few weeks ago I went to New Jersey to celebrate my dear mother-in-law’s birthday, and there was this cake. It looked like a regular American-style birthday cake, with its white frosting, but when we took a bite it was so very unexpectedly different and delicious we all tried to guess what made it so good. Was it bread flour? Maybe yeast? We didn’t know. We just kept eating.
I found my old friend’s recipe last week and thought about it. The olive oil and yogurt might do the trick. I love the simplicity of this recipe, too.
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. plain full-fat yogurt
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. powdered vanilla sugar that was left over from the Christmas pan d’oro (you could just add some vanilla, though)
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix ingredients together. I just lumped everything into one bowl and stirred with a spatula, but you could separate the wet and dry ingredients if that makes you happy. Pour into a greased 9” square pan and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
I added the grated rind of about 1/2 a lemon and a handful of blueberries to the batter, which was nice.
I also topped it with strawberry jam and some fresh sliced strawberries, and served it with whipped cream. Everyone was happy.