I know, the title of this post is a little over-descriptive. But how could I leave out the three most critical components of this cake? (Actually, what I really wanted to name it was Meyer Lemon, Orange Flower Water, and Vanilla Bean Yogurt Cake…but that’s a bit of a mouthful.) Meyer lemons are in season right now, at least in the sunnier climes. Living in Brooklyn I can’t really claim that I’m cooking seasonally because they’re trucked in from a bazillion miles away, but I had a whole bunch of them left over from a catering event that I did. So I’m using ‘em! Orange flower water is often found in Middle Eastern desserts and is made from bitter orange blossoms. If you haven’t tried it, I really recommend seeking some out; it has a flowery, orange-y flavor and smell (hence the name “orange flower water”, I suppose). It can often be found in Middle Eastern shops, or in really well-stocked grocery stores.
Meyer lemons are actually a cross between regular lemons and oranges (or possibly mandarin oranges – I don’t think they know for sure). If you can’t find Meyer lemons, you can substitute the zest of one orange (that is, use the zest of two regular lemons and one orange in place of the 3 Meyer lemons). You can also leave out the orange flower water entirely. The recipe is adapted from one in Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City.
3 Meyer lemons
3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan (or you can be lazy like me and spray with cooking spray).
- Grate the zest of the lemons (preferably with a microplane zester), taking care not to zest any of the bitter white pith underneath. Juice 2 of the lemons. (Use the juice of the third lemon for something else; maybe some lemonade?)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and orange flower water.
- Add the vegetable oil, Meyer lemon zest and juice, and the scraped vanilla bean seeds.
- Add the flour and baking powder, and whisk until just combined (don’t over whisk at this point, or the cake will be tough).
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (The cake may start to brown excessively on the top; if this happens, cover with foil and continue baking.)
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack, remove the pan, and cool completely before slicing.