Moroccan Yogurt Cake
Welcome to the first post in my new series, Around the World in 28 Cakes! The idea for this foodie series has been rolling around in my mind since last May. At first I thought about starting a brand new blog that was just going to be focused on my around-the-world baking. But who's got time for one blog much less two?! In December I got really introspective about what kinds of things I wanted to share on buttons and blossoms and decided that this series just had to get published.
Around the World in 28 Cakes is going to be a series that shares recipes for cakes from different countries around the world. One of my favorite parts of travelling is sampling the food. Whenever I'm planning to go somewhere I always research where we're going to eat and squeeze in every kind of food the place has to offer. Food can tell you so much about a place from the daily lives of locals to the unique and interesting ingredients that are only available there.
Since there are other priorities for me right besides travelling (saving towards a house, finishing up my master's degree, commitments to friends and family), this cake series is my way of "travelling" and learning about other cultures around the world. While I may modify some recipes, I'm trying to find cake recipes that I can recreate in my kitchen using the same sort of techniques and ingredients that people in that country use. So without further ado, let me share my very first cake: the Moroccan yogurt cake!
Moroccan yogurt cake is also known as meskouta and is a traditional cake served as a snack at tea time or other time in the day. When I chose the Moroccan yogurt cake as my first cake attempt, I assumed things would be easy. Sure, the list of ingredients wasn't complicated. However, there were three things that made me nervous: using a tube pan for the first time, beating egg whites, and using the imprecise measurement of the yogurt cup.
Those things resolved themselves easily and this my new favorite recipe. Tube pans turned out to be no problem at all. Beating the egg whites was intimidating (didn't want to have the wrong consistency) but after googling it, rolling up my sleeves and getting into it, there was nothing to it. Using the yogurt cup to do all my measurements was honestly the strangest for me. I'm used to being very precise when I'm baking: leveling ingredients and reading the instructions time and again. But using the yogurt cup to measure the ingredients was actually fun and freeing!
The best part about baking this cake is the simple ingredients. I only had to rush out to the store to get two things: an orange (which I added in) and a cup of yogurt. Since I could not find a small enough container of plain yogurt, I chose to substitute Greek yogurt in. I'm really happy that I was "forced" to do this since it lightened up the cake calorie-wise and gave it a nice consistency.
A Moroccan yogurt cake can either be made plain or have some sort of citrus or fruit flavoring. I chose to add in orange zest to give it a nice tang and the zest seemed very appropriate and bright for this colder and gloomier time of the year. You could also add in your favorite jam for fruit flavoring.
Two techniques that you need to develop for this recipe: whipping egg whites into stiff peaks and measuring all your ingredients with the yogurt container instead of your traditional measuring cups. A planner in most aspects of my life, I tend to jump into kitchen activities head on. I have yet to bring a tried-and-true recipe to any gathering, which should be a no-no but hasn't led me wrong yet. So I glanced over the recipe but didn't really think through the fact that I had never whipped egg whites and that it can be a tricky process. If you're nervous, just Google it. What did we do before the internet?!? My tip: keep your hand mixer on the lowest setting and just keep going. It's actually easier to see that egg whites are stiff than I thought and it only took a little bit of testing to decide that they were "done". I also saw a tip to throw in a pinch of salt before starting. I did it but I'm not sure how that may have affected it. Better to be safe than sorry!
In the original recipe, the author made it a choice to use whole eggs or whipped egg whites and yolks. So if you get really nervous, you can use whole eggs but I cannot guarantee how the cake will turn out. Whipping the egg whites reduces the density of this cake which is already fairly dense.
As for that yogurt measuring cup, it's actually pretty easy as long as you remember that you're supposed to use the cup to measure. It also took me several minutes in the middle of making the cake to realize that "one measure" meant one measure of the yogurt cup. In those respects this recipe fit me to a T. It was an adventure to try out new techniques and, while I wouldn't say I'm an expert, I certainly have more experience than when I started.
Use the yogurt/measuring cup like a regular measuring cup. The reason you're using the yogurt cup instead of a traditional measure is that in many Moroccan homes, there are no standard measuring cups. They use various size bowls to measure ingredients as they are cooking. It makes you a little less precise, which made me nervous, but as long as you keep your measurements "standard" (filling to the same spot for each ingredient) the cake turns out perfectly.
I brought this Moroccan yogurt cake to my husband's family gift exchange at the beginning of the month. Remember how I said I never use a recipe that I've made before? I was a bit nervous that maybe it wouldn't work out this time but everyone loved it. Nick and I brought it home and the leftover slices were so good for breakfast (and maybe one late night snack). If all the cakes are as good as this one, I might end up making more than twenty eight!