Editor’s note: This reader recipe is an online addition to our September 2017 cover story, “Recipes from the heart.”

Finnish yogurt cake

By Susan Bianchi

When I was a college freshman in 1968, I wanted to give Christmas gifts to several young men I was dating and to neighbors and friends back home. I decided to bake and mail cakes. No need to know clothing sizes, music preferences or reading habits. In those days, it was common to have exams before Christmas, so a gift of goodies to eat while studying for semester finals was perfect.

One boyfriend had given me a cookbook devoted to Christmas recipes from different countries. I picked several recipes from that book to start what became a holiday tradition that lasted over 40 years. I mailed between 30 and 60 loaf cakes to an evolving list of friends, classmates, family and community workers year after year. After I married an engineer, packaging the cakes became an assembly line project that took over the week of Thanksgiving, climaxing with a trip to the post office on Black Friday. Some friends looked for our cake to start their Advent season. I also delivered a second batch of cakes in person later, often to celebrate my Dec. 23 birthday.

Over the years, certain recipes became enduring favorites as I modified them to make them my own. This was one of those. For one thing, it doubled, tripled or quadrupled easily. It shipped well, too. The original used potato starch, but plain, instant mashed-potato flakes were more readily available. The cookbook version suggested using unseasoned bread crumbs on the greased pan to prevent sticking. I found that works beautifully with all types of quick breads and loaves, adding a bit of crunch to the edges as well.

This recipe brings back happy memories of Christmases past. I hope to be making it for many Christmases yet to come.

Recipe (makes 1 cake)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk yogurt
¾ cup dry unseasoned instant mashed potato flakes
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 2 teaspoons of brandy
Pinch of salt
Non-stick cooking spray
Plain, dry breadcrumbs for the pan
Optional: Powdered sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan (A foil one is fine.) with cooking spray and coat with dry breadcrumbs. Gently shake out the excess.

Sift together flour, potatoes, baking powder, soda and salt onto a piece of wax paper. Beat the yogurt until smooth with a mixer and then blend with sugar, egg and chosen flavoring. It is possible to use vanilla or lemon flavored yogurt in addition to or instead of the extra flavorings. Do not use low fat or nonfat yogurt. Organic whole milk yogurt is even better, if you can get it.

Mix the dry ingredients into the yogurt batter until thoroughly blended. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan and bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When done the cake will be golden brown and a tester will come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool on a rack until the cake shrinks from the sides of the pan. Turn upside down on the rack and continue cooling.

Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

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