Yogurt Cloud Cake
Showstopping desserts don’t have to mean fancy techniques or expensive ingredients or even butter and chocolate. Sometimes it’s more about a willingness to change the way we think about every-day food items we keep. Sometimes favoring simplicity + ingenuity wins the day.
A small mountain of fresh figs doesn’t hurt either.
Based on a recipe using ricotta, mine features strained Greek yogurt instead, and turns out like a cross between cheesecake and a fallen soufflé. Lemon zest and earthy thyme is a deliciously refreshing and unique combination that works really well together in both savory and sweet applications. I actually wish I added just a bit more of each.
Because this light-as-a-cloud cake is not overly sweet to begin with, but I still want it to shout dessert! — that mountain of ripe (lemon juice laced) figs.
What’s in it for me?
In addition to gut-friendly, immunity-boosting probiotics, one 8-oz serving of yogurt provides about 30% of the calcium DV, roughly 7% that for magnesium, more than 10% of the potassium, plus roughly half of your daily iodine. Comparing fat-free + whole milk versions (plain), a serving ranges from 9 to 14 g protein and 130 to 150 calories. Greek yogurt — strained to remove much of the liquid whey — contains similar calories, but nearly double the protein + often 50% or so less sugar.* (Learn more about yogurt health benefits + how to make your own.)
One whole egg contains more than 6 grams of complete protein. While most of the fat and cholesterol come from the yolk, so do many of its beneficial nutrients, including choline, vitamins A, D, E and K, plus lutein + zeaxanthin — two antioxidant carotenoids that play a critical role in eye health.
Pure honey imparts a natural sweetness, and provides small amounts of minerals + antioxidants with potential antiseptic and antibacterial properties; while thyme is among the fresh herbs highest in antioxidants.
A member of the mulberry family, figs are a source of polyphenols and the flavanoid quercetin, both of which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. At only 110 calories, one serving of figs (about 3 small-medium, or 150 grams) provides almost 10% of your daily calcium, potassium, and vitamins K and B6. Figs also have nearly 2 grams of fiber per fruit, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and digestive system happy.
Fresh figs won’t be around much longer, so stock up while you can. Otherwise, berries, chopped apple or pear, segments of orange or grapefruit would be nice substitutes. You could also dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, or simply go for it plain and simple, unadorned.
If you haven’t tried a cake recipe like this before, you’re in for a real treat — enjoy!
Tell me… What is your favorite no-frills baked dessert?
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt -- use any percent fat you like (fat-free shown here)
- 4 to 5 medium figs, stemmed and cut into quarters
- 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, separated
- 1/4 cup pure honey, divided
- 1 Tbsp flour -- really any you like is fine since it's such a small amount (GF sorghum used here)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus more to garnish, if desired
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
- Preheat oven to 350º F, with a rack placed in the middle position. Lightly grease a 6-inch springform tin, and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. (Alternatively, grease and line the bottom of a 6-inch round cake tin or ceramic/glass oven-safe dish.)
- Place a very fine-mesh sieve, or a standard sieve/strainer lined with a clean coffee filter, over a bowl, and spoon in the yogurt; set aside for 1 to 2 hours to drain some of the liquids. (The yogurt drains faster at room temperature. It is perfectly safe kept out for this amount of time before cooking, but you can absolutely pop yours into the refrigerator, if you prefer.)
- In the meantime, toss the quartered figs with the lemon juice; refrigerate until needed.
- When the yogurt has released some of its liquid whey and thickened up, transfer it to a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir together with the egg yolks. Add 2 Tbsp of the honey, the flour, vanilla, thyme leaves, lemon zest and pinch of salt, and stir again to incorporate.
- In a separate bowl, use a clean whisk, hand beater or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp honey, and continue to beat until they hold firm and glossy peaks. Using a rubber scraper, very gently fold the whipped egg whites into the yogurt mixture. Don't worry if there are a few lumps remaining in the batter; you do not want to overmix.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared tin/dish, and gently smooth the top with your rubber scraper or a small offset spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed up and slightly golden. The center should be just set, springing back slightly when very lightly pressed.
- Remove the tin/dish from the oven, and place it on a wire rack. Quickly and carefully run a thin, sharp knife or small offset spatula around the edges (to help prevent cracks in the top + the edges from tearing away as the cake cools and likely shrinks slightly). Now, walk away and leave the cake, still in its tin, to cool on the rack for 1 to 2 hours. Then, cover the tin loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours, up to overnight.
- When fully chilled, remove the sides of the springform, leaving the cake on the base of the tin. Place on a cake plate, and refrigerate until ready to serve, covered loosely with your piece of plastic wrap.
- Just before serving, slice the cake into 6 wedges (or 8, if you like) with a sharp, straight-edged knife (not serrated), rinsing the knife with warm water between slices to prevent sticking. Top with some of the lemon-dressed figs and a few more fresh thyme leaves, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers, covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days, or overwrap the plastic with foil and freeze in a zipper-top freezer bag up to 1 month. (Cake can be baked up to 3 days made ahead, well wrapped and refrigerated.)
+ Swap lemon zest and juice for any other citrus, such as lime, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, Meyer lemon or key lime.
+ Try a different herb in place of the thyme, e.g., a 1:1 swap for minced fresh basil or mint leaves, or half the amount (1/2 tsp instead of 1 tsp) of stronger flavored herbs like minced fresh rosemary or sage.
+ Or omit the herbs entirely, and instead opt for spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.
+ Trade the vanilla extract for almond to give it a nutty twist, or try just a few drops of potent orange blossom water or rosewater instead.
Recipe adapted from The Spruce.
*Note: Yogurt contains less lactose than milk and ice cream, meaning it might be a tolerable option for those with lactose intolerance/sensitivity, particularly strained Greek styles that have even lower levels of lactose (and other sugars) as a result of the straining process. Improve tolerance by eating yogurt with other foods, and sticking to only a small serving at one time. (Not appropriate if you have a diagnosed lactose/dairy allergy, unless your physician approves and has provided explicit instruction.)
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