Tender and moist yogurt cake dotted with pears, cranberries and chocolate chips. Perfect for dessert, brunch, or as an afternoon snacking cake with a cup of tea.
I've been making this yogurt cake for a long time, since I first saw it on Food52. I've made it with oil, as in the original recipe, used various fruits, and made it with and without the chocolate. (Hint: it's way better with even a few chocolate chips.)
I think the first thing that drew me to it was the yogurt. Since I live in high altitudes (7100 feet), I lean towards a cake recipe with yogurt for added moisture and tenderness.
I still remember my first experiment with a cake up here in the mountains. I made a triple layer chocolate cake, interleaved with billowy whipped cream. It was one of Dorie Greenspan's. And it was beautiful. But when I sliced it, the middle layer literally slipped out and flew off the table onto the floor. Did I mention it was for a close friend's birthday?
It was humiliating. And it was a long time before I made another cake.
Since then, I've learned a lot of tips for baking at high altitude, and just baking in general. Even though I went to culinary school, where we did a LOT of baking, I've learned so much more over the years from both home bakers and those working in bakeries.
And fall, for me, is baking season.
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What does yogurt do in a cake?
Yogurt does two things that are important, no matter what altitude you're baking at. But it's even more important when baking at high altitudes.
#1: Yogurt adds moisture to a cake.
If you're baking at sea level, feel free to use either a regular soft yogurt or Greek yogurt. If you opt for Greek yogurt, reduce the amount by one-third, and make up the difference with water.
If baking at high altitudes, say higher than 5000 feet, soft yogurt is your best bet as it adds a greater liquifying effect. But if you only have Greek yogurt on hand, reduce the amount by at least one-third, or however much more you need, in order to get the same consistency as soft yogurt when you add the water.
#2: Yogurt contributes to a more tender cake.
Acid breaks down the strength and elasticity of gluten in wheat flour in the recipe, promoting a more tender cake. Additionally, higher acidity levels help a cake to set up faster in the oven, which is important at high altitudes. Yogurt brings that acidity to the table, as does buttermilk. I often add 1/4 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt to my cake batter for this reason – whether or not it's called for in the recipe.
👩🍳 Ingredient and Prep Tips
See the above tips for soft yogurt vs. Greek yogurt. I tend to use full-fat yogurt, as the additional fat contributes to a cake's moisture, but if you're baking this cake at sea level, it doesn't matter as much. Go with your own preference.
I've made this yogurt cake with various neutral oils in place of butter, and prefer butter. The cake using oil was slightly more moist than with butter, and the cake tenderness was the same in my tests. But I preferred the flavor with butter.
As with all my recipes, I use unsalted butter.
Both Bosc and Barlett pears are great choices. I peel and seed the pears before cutting them into chunks.
Bigger chunks are better than small chunks, to get a stronger pear flavor. If the pieces are too small, they almost seem to disappear in the baking process, since their flavor is so mild.
Slicing an unpeeled pear for the top is optional, but recommended for an extra kick of pear flavor. Mine often slide to the side as the cake rises, but no one complains 😁 .
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Yogurt Cake with Pears
- 6 ¾ ounces (191 grams) all-purpose flour, (1 ½ cups)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder, double acting, (reduce to 1 ¾ tsp at high altitudes)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, (or 1/4 tsp of table salt)
- 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup yogurt, full-fat, (see notes for substituting Greek yogurt)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 pears, divided (Bosc or Bartlett)
- 1/3 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a loaf pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until they're completely combined. Whisk in the yogurt, and when cooled, add the melted butter
- Pro-Tip: If the melted butter is still hot when added to the sugar and eggs, the eggs may start to scramble. Cool before adding.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the sugar – butter mixture.
- Stem and peel one pear, slice in half, and scoop out the seeds. Cut into chunks no smaller than ¾". Slice the other pear in half, scoop out the seeds and thinly slice.
- Pour ⅔ of the batter into the buttered loaf pan, and spread the pear chunks over the batter. Sprinkle ½ of the cranberries and ½ of the chocolate chips over the batter and pears.
- Pour the remaining batter over the pears. Arrange the pear slices on top of the batter, and sprinkle the remaining cranberries and chocolate chips. Lightly press the fruit and chocolate into the batter. It shouldn't be completely submerged, only pressed into the batter.
- Slide the loaf pan into the oven, and reduce the heat to 350˚F. (If baking at high altitude, bake at 375˚ for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature to 350˚F.) Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Place the loaf pan on a cooling tray to cool. If you plan to remove the cake from the pan all in one piece, allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges a few times, gently lifting the cake up from the bottom along the edges. Flip the cake over onto a plate, and then gently turn over.
- Serve with ice cream or sorbet.