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Lemon Yogurt Cake & An Ode To My New Town…

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

I have to start this post by going over an email exchange I recently had with a reader. I think it was quite enlightening on both sides from various reasons. He sent me a message asking if there was still spots available in the workshop Tami, Mindi and I are teaching in Birmingham, Alabama in July. (details here) My answer was a resounding and honest "Yes! Would love to see you there!" and here is part of the exchange that ensued that made me profoundly sad and just as excited.

Him: that’s great! But why on earth Birmingham, Alabama?!!

Me: ? what do you mean?

Him: it’s A-la-ba-ma. Ugh…

Me: hey! I live here now!  Have you ever been to Birmingham? Alabama?

Him: No.

Me: then why the prejudice? Preconception?

Him: I so wish you had it in Atlanta, like the one in April.

Me: so you’ve been in Atlanta? Georgia?

Him: No.

Me: seriously now. Why not Alabama?!

Him: you know, history and stuff. People. Not much happening there.

It went on a bit longer but I will spare you the dialogue format.



Yes. Alabama has a troubled past. So does Georgia. So does South Carolina from where I hailed. So do many states in the US. So what…? It made Alabama history that much richer. Its residents that much aware of the outside view the rest of the world has on them and their desire to prove it wrong that much stronger. I am proud new Alabama resident. I have fallen completely in love with Birmingham and the state surrounding this amazing growing city.

Troubled past makes your present. Your present does not have to follow suit to your past however. Birmingham is full of life, full of neighborhoods vibrant with people casually meeting up for a glass of wine on their back deck or walking over to the nearest neighborhood par or restaurant. Pockets of life, bursting with creativity. Artists, galleries, studios. A music scene bursting at the seam. Many a James Beard nominated and winnning chefs. The food… Oh my, the food. Alabama is not red pick up trucks and barbecue. It is. But it’s also so much more…

Summer berries

One thing that struck me about Birmingham was not only the incredible food scene and how friendly people were (and I come from friendly city Charleston…and we got nothing on Birmingham. Trust me!), but how lush, pristine, clean and green the city was. And how much it was nothing like I thought. And I am sure a lot of us thought. And think. Still. That conversation with a reader is not new or unusual. I am happy to change their minds or at least show them some of the attributes that this city bears.

Birmingham hosts Southern Living magazine, Cooking Light magazine, Oxmoor House, Hoffman publications and numerous crazy talented photographers, food stylists and prop stylists. And I had no idea about that either when I got a call to consider a photo position there. And I was blown away. And so happy to be in this mecca of talents. Both culinary and visual.

Wild Blackberries

If there is one city to discover on your map this year, Birmingham should definitely be it. If there is creativity boiling inside of you but no one to help you harness, shape and deliver it, this city definitely deserves a second look. And more. It’s almost ridiculous to me how much Birmingham has to offer and that I find myself in the midst of it. Yep. Call me a proud new resident.

So, would you join us for a weekend of learning, sharing techniques, tips? Tami, Mindi and myself can’t wait to see you here. Where arts of all forms meet and create. Where Southern charm intertwines with urban sophistication. Some spots are still available. Details HERE.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

 In the meantime, I am leaving you with one of my favorite cakes. The first one my grandmother taught me how to bake. The quintessential "Gateau Citron Au Yaourt" or Lemon Yogurt Cake.

 Lemon Olive Oil Cake:

 Makes 12 muffin size cakes or two 8-inch cakes.

Notes: you can use regular all purpose flour for this or you favorite gluten free mix to equal two cups flour total. Most recipes call for canola or vegetable oil but olive oil is what we prefer. It adds a more pungent flavor to the cakes which I like.

For the cakes:2 large eggs1/2 cup granulated sugar3/4 cup olive oil (don’t skimp on the quality)1 cup plain yogurt (low or full fat)zest and juice of a lemon1 cup rice flour1/2 cup millet flour1/2 cup sorghum flour1 tablespoon baking powderpinch of salt

Prepare the mini cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F and line cupcake tins with cupcake liners, slightly brush the inside olive oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice and zest and whisk again so that everything is well mixed. Add the rice flour, millet flour, sorghum flour, baking powder and salt and mix until the batter is smooth. (You can do this in a stand mixer if desired)
Divide among the muffin tins, filling no more than 2/3 of the way up. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out free of crumbs.

For the summer berries:

Mix together 1/2 cup each blackberries, pitted and halved cherrries and raspberries.

Toss with 1 tablespoon honey and let sit for 20 minutes. Serve with the cakes.


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Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things June 14, 2013 um 2:13 pm

I like the sound of this one, and especially the use of millet and sorghum flour. I wonder if I might be able to exclude the rice flour? Beautiful recipe.

KWahlman June 14, 2013 um 2:27 pm

Gah, well after that post I think I need to buy a plane ticket to Birmingham!

Momentos Editados June 14, 2013 um 2:49 pm

Lovely pictures! πŸ˜‰

Unknown June 14, 2013 um 2:57 pm

Ah yes – everybody has preconceived notions of places they've never been. Having lived in Switzerland, France, the US and Canada I've experienced a great deal of 'ideas'. I've never been to that part of the US, but my husband has visited Alabama and Mississippi and speaks highly of his travels there. As per usual your cake looks amazing and so perfect in it's single serve size.

adriprints June 14, 2013 um 3:22 pm

I think people in general should get out more. I'm from the south and have lived in New England, the Southwest, and have visited much of the U.S. Currently, I live abroad. People who haven't spent a lot of time in the south don't get the allure and the richness of the area.

That aside, can't wait to make this cake. The raspberry fields open in a few weeks!

Unknown June 14, 2013 um 3:51 pm

Isn't it bizarre how some folks just can't seem to see beyond for a moment. I'm in Ottawa which apparently is supposed to be this cold, boring city. Instead it is vibrant and full of not only gorgeous food but beautiful people too.

kankana June 14, 2013 um 3:54 pm

Never been to Alabama. But I will never judge a place just because of it's history. That's silly thing to do πŸ™‚
Lemon cake sounds lovely!

Jad @ New South Food Co. June 14, 2013 um 4:54 pm

Obviously has never eaten in Birmingham or read any major food publication. The few times I have eaten in Birmingham I have been AMAZED!

[email protected] June 14, 2013 um 5:20 pm

I think you will love every city you live in. Yup! Just love the city, you will find how beautiful it is. You have to love it first, and then you can find the beauty inside it. Anyway, I like the recipe, it looks so yummy. It is not too complicated, and it is dessert. I love dessert. πŸ™‚

Sara June 14, 2013 um 7:29 pm

Lovely! I am a huge yogurt cake fan, and it's always amazing with fruit. πŸ™‚

Unknown June 14, 2013 um 9:39 pm

I'm excited that you have moved to Birmingham, Alabama. I know what a cultural center it is since I'm from Alabama. I hope to attend one of your workshops one day!

Sharon June 14, 2013 um 9:42 pm

Thank you so much for helping to correct the misconceptions and help people understand what an awesome city and state this is! I loved reading this post and am so happy you wrote it. πŸ™‚ Yay for all the amazing stuff going on here!

Ondina Maria June 14, 2013 um 10:44 pm

These soft, pale and sometimes rich colours are a feast for my eyes.

Ever considered a workshop in Portugal? Porto, where I live, is a wonderful city (I've been pretty much in love with it for the past 36 years) and I would love to have you here, show you around – everyone says I'm a great tour guide, maybe I should change career – and learn from you…


Tieghan June 15, 2013 um 1:11 am

Yum! These are beautiful and sound so good!

Ruthy @ Omeletta June 15, 2013 um 2:56 am

Cake looks incredible- loove yogurt cakes, especially in the summertime. As for Alabama, I've never been but have always wanted to go! It's been on my list, and I've never heard anything but good things.

Peggy June 15, 2013 um 8:53 am

You have such incredible photos here that I think you could talk me into eating about anything with them. I absolutely love your blog! Keep up the good work!

Carrie Pacini June 15, 2013 um 1:22 pm

I run into so many people that have preconceived notions about the south but in truth it’s bursting with culture, cuisine and creativity with open minds. There are so many layers to enjoy. I wish I was in town because I would love to attend your workshop. I’m crossing my fingers that you will do another one in Birmingham!

Kelly_Π•Π»Π΅Π½Π° June 15, 2013 um 1:47 pm

Divine. Do you tend to use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, or the lighter, cheaper, non-extra-virgin stuff? The flavor of EVOO is just so strong!!

Melanie June 15, 2013 um 2:23 pm

I adore Birmingham! I live in Nashville and originally moved here from Greenville, SC so I understand the stereotyping from outsiders. I feel sorry for them – there are pockets of sophisticated, Southern brilliance all over the South that they will never experience.
Thanks for the recipe and artful images – this will be a divine dessert for an upcoming backyard party I've been invited to join!

Grandbabycakes June 15, 2013 um 2:38 pm

Birmingham is really awesome and so is this beautiful cake.

Rachelle June 15, 2013 um 5:48 pm

I love that this is gluten free! The photos make it look so creamy and yummy.

As for Alabama … I too was blown away! It's been awhile since I've been to Birmingham, but I remember being quite impressed.

It's interesting how people have misconceptions about places. I just got back from a trip to Croatia (beautiful country!) and before I left everyone was asking me if it was safe. It was more than just safe, it was amazing!

Simones Kitchen June 15, 2013 um 5:55 pm

People can be weird like that sometimes. I would seriously love to co to Birmingham, but well…. It is a bit far… I can tell you that…:) the cake looks absolutely gorgeous!

goboroot June 15, 2013 um 8:36 pm

Beautiful ode to your new place, Helene. I believe that there are always cool people and talents anywhere, you just have to find them!
You made me want to know more about Alabama now:)

cheryl June 15, 2013 um 8:53 pm

Wow, what a perfectly snobbish, conceited, elitist, and arrogant comment that man made about a place he probably had never even been to!
I've never been to Birmingham but, after you described it, I definitely want to go.

Peter Horton June 15, 2013 um 9:31 pm

THat looks absolutely amazing. I'm partial to lemon desserts, myself.

Kiran @ June 17, 2013 um 8:30 pm

Can't imagine having a pre-conceived notion about any place until you've actually live there πŸ™‚

And what a delicious ode to Alabama πŸ™‚

Elizabeth G. June 19, 2013 um 8:53 pm

I am from Mobile,Alabama and am proud of my home state. Yes, we've made our share of mistakes, but we have come a long way in the last 20 years. I love that you've fallen in love with Birmingham. I have family there and visit often. It is a beautiful city, with a rich culinary culture. Thanks for the tribute to this fair city/state! πŸ™‚

Rocky Mountain Woman June 21, 2013 um 6:39 pm

I hope there are still a few red pickups and barbecue joints! I haven't been in quite some time (years), but have fond memories of how quaint it all was…

sylvie bailly June 22, 2013 um 9:11 am

So nice… love the cherries picture.
So sorry living in France and cannot go to your workout!
I am reading "Plate to pixel" and found a lot of inspiration…
I'm looking for a tripod like you have in the book, a versatile one, can you tell me the reference of it? found a Benro ( affordable) and a Gitzo ( too expensive)
mine is definitively out
have a good day!

Unknown June 22, 2013 um 10:12 am

These look SUPER moist and yummy!

Anne June 22, 2013 um 9:17 pm

Oh my, this looks beautiful!

Helen June 25, 2013 um 7:00 am

I love Lemon cake yumm

Tara June 25, 2013 um 12:57 pm

Welcome to Alabama! We've lived here for three years, but in Montgomery. Unfortunately, Montgomery still holds many of the typical Alabama stereotypes. However, we adore Birmingham and make day trips there often. We also spent an afternoon in Huntsville and had a wonderful meal. We have really enjoyed the food in this state. Amazing farmer's markets and so many great restaurants to try. Glad you are enjoying your new home and wish I could attend your workshop in July!!

Denise Morris June 30, 2013 um 4:00 pm

Now I want to move to alabama!then I could take your workshop! I miss the south and hope to move back one day! Lovely post and recipe! Thankyou

Meg { Milk and Cotton } July 3, 2013 um 12:24 am

beautiful photos as always and this sounds incredibly tasty!

Cindy July 3, 2013 um 1:18 pm

You got me twice: Alabama now is on my to visit list and I am so adding this recipe to my shopping list. I have always wanted to make Yogurt cake, this is it. Thanks

Julia July 15, 2013 um 2:26 pm

This lemon cake looks yummy, should give it a try, great looking photos!

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