Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands.
My grandmother, mother, and aunt used to make this cake for family feasts, often cutting it into two layers with a piece of string and filling it with sweet cream to turn it into something more elaborate and festive. Its Greek name, tou yiaourtiou, means "the one with the yogurt."
Makes one 10-inch round cake
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 large eggs, separated
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup full-fat yogurt (not thick)
• 1 cup fine semolina
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/3 cup brandy
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
• 1 cup coarsely chopped unblanched almonds
• 1 1/2 cups sugar, or 1 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons honey, or 4-5 tablespoons marmalade
• 1 1/4 cups water
• Whole zest from 1/2 lemon, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
• 3-4 tablespoons lemon liqueur or brandy
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan or a spring form pan.
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the sugar. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the remaining sugar with the egg yolks until light-colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the butter, yogurt and semolina.
Sift together the flour and baking powder. Beat the flour mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, together with the brandy and lemon zest.
In a large bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, shake it gently to even the surface, and sprinkle with the almonds. Press them lightly with a spatula so that they are almost completely submerged in the cake batter. Sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons sugar.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir the sugar or the sugar and honey (if using the marmalade, do not add it yet), water and lemon peel together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. If you are using marmalade, add it now.
Add the liqueur or brandy. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, discard the lemon zest from the syrup and very slowly spoon the syrup evenly over the cake, covering the entire surface. Let cool completely before serving. Store at room temperature.