Whenever I visit friends at their homes, I like to take a cake. To get to my friend Gill's house for a girls' weekend with our mutual friend George, however, I had to fly, so the cake in question had to be something I could pack as carry on. Nothing fussy with frosting or layers. Something that could easily be stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me. And, most important of all, (for my own standards) it had to taste amazing. Fortunately, I had just the recipe. I've been making lemon yoghurt cake as long as I've known Gill, since we were film students together, and George and I were working part-time in the same café while sharing a house in a leafy pocket of Brisbane. All these years later, much has changed. For a start, none of us live in Queensland anymore. I'm in Sydney, George in Melbourne and Gill... well, she's just bought a little shack on the Great Ocean Road on the Victorian coastline. But I'm still making lemon yoghurt cake and we all still like hanging out.
...which is lucky, because hanging out with Gill these days means getting up early to check the surf, watching her paddle out into that cold dawn water, then waiting patiently for her to come in for breakfast. But it's no hardship posting to be sitting on a beautiful, almost deserted beach watching the sun come up, or your friend catch a wave all the way in to shore, or to be rewarded afterwards with her house speciality - a doorstop of a bacon sandwich, which wouldn't taste nearly as good if you hadn't been up for hours, breathing in all that sea air. It makes you HUNGRY, I tell you. Which is why that lemon yoghurt cake came in handy.
This is absolutely the best kind of everyday cake: sweet and tangy, the colour of sand and sun, light yet sturdy - perfect for carting on a plane or on a picnic, packing in a lunch box or just tucking into when returning ravenous from a day at the beach, sand between your toes and skin sticky with salt water.
Lemon yoghurt cake
Adapted from a recipe from Helen Josephson, an old family friend
I like to use Greek yoghurt in this cake but any sort of plain yoghurt works well - full-fat, low-fat or no-fat - just make sure it's not flavoured! The original recipe called for a syrup to be poured over the cake, but I found it was a whole lot of sugar for not a whole lot more flavour. The cake still keeps really well without it and besides, dispensing with that extra step means you get to eat it sooner.
185g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift flour, a pinch of salt and bicarb soda together and fold into butter mixture with yoghurt and the grated rind and juice of the lemons. Combine. Put into a loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven (180 deg C) for about one hour, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.