I have one of those market totes you’d see on the streets of Paris. It’s knit from water reeds that look like a soft wicker. The top edge is trimmed with a line of leather. It’s my co-op and farmers market bag. Walking home from the store yesterday with my tiny person in tow and a baguette and green onions poking out from the top of our tote, I realize I’m in one of those “What people think I do” collages. You know the kind that ran around the internet last year with six square images set on a black background? At first thought, I’m certain I’d appear in one of the perfectly styled initial images. Woman with well-behaved child walking home hand-in-hand from the market with a beautiful bag of produce. But as I start to break out into a run, I realize I’m not her. I chase my tiny human down praying the baguette is still intact. At least there’s a cool tote on my shoulder, even if it’s barely hanging on. There’s a picture of that in the collage too.
At home, she climbs onto the counter. We peel apples and make the simplest of cakes. She helps by stirring and tasting and making sure the counter is well covered in sugar. It’s starting to look like a sandbox in here. “Really good, Mom.” She calls me mom. We whip cream, and I manage to wallpaper our corner of the kitchen with it. She called me mom!?
In an effort to inch my way back into the square with the classy Parisian woman, I skip the brown sugar and cinnamon sautéed apples, and start with butter and fresh thyme—a savory spin on a seasonal classic. In the last minute, I add wine to the skillet. With a blue flame roaring beneath, it yields a loud finishing crescendo. Holding her hand to her ear, Hallie asks, “What’s that Mama?” I feel on top of the world again.
I plate the dessert—a wedge of cake topped with wine sautéed apples and a loose yogurt cream. It’s decided. I’m a much better Parisian wanna-be serving dessert than I am out on the streets. If you see a lady walking fast with one of two straps over her shoulder, say hi. It’s me.
About the recipe: the cake itself an adaptation of a Gâteau au Yaourt, a yogurt cake commonly made in France with young children. I first read about the cake in Bringing up Bébé. The recipe was originally written to use a 6 oz. yogurt container as a measuring utensil. I’ve written the recipe according to US standards. However, you can use a 3/4 cup, or a scoop as I’ll call it, for all your measurements. So 3 scoops of flour, 2 scoops of sugar, a scoop of yogurt and oil, and 2/3 a scoop of milk. It’s the easiest cake you’ll ever make. The crumb is thick and the sweetness is light, making it the perfect snacking cake. It’s also the perfect backdrop to wine sautéed apples topped with a loose yogurt cream.
Make the cake. Preheat oven to 340° degrees. Lightly spray the interior sides of an 8-inch round pan with neutral oil. Use a paper towel to wipe smooth. Add a spoonful of flour and shake around the edges to lightly coat. Discard extra flour. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper cut to size. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, yogurt, oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold flour mixture into wet ingredients until just combined. Pour into cake pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until center is baked through. Cake will crack while baking. Remove from pan and allow to cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Cake can be made a day in advance.
Make the apples. Peel, core, and slice apples 1/4″ thick. Place in a bowl. Pour sugar over and stir. Let sit for about 15 minutes. To a cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Once hot and bubbly add apples, being sure to scrape the leftover sugar remnants into the skillet. Add a couple sprigs of thyme and cook for about 8 minutes. Once apples are golden and just limp, pour in wine and cook for a minute more to burn off the alcohol. Sautéed apples with a light sauce will remain. Turn off heat.
Make cream. Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat cream, powdered sugar, and extract together until stiff peaks. Beat or stir in yogurt until just combined. Cream will be loose.
Assemble. Cut cake into wedges. Top with apples and sauce remnants from the skillet. Pour loose cream over and serve. Keep leftover cake in an airtight container.
The original recipe doesn’t call for the addition of milk. But I found the cake too dry without it. Feel free to sub in a different liquid, like apple cider in the case of this recipe. We’ve also subbed in pureed berries with great results.