When it comes to easy summer desserts, you’re going to want to add this Yogurt Lemon Sheet Cake to your recipe box. (Does anyone still use those?) It’s sort of the epitome of summer desserts. First, it’s cake. Cake that is lightly sweet, lemony, tangy, and perfectly soft. It’s sturdy enough that you can cut a square and eat it out of hand, or you can go all the way and guild it with billows of lemony frosting and fresh fruit.
One of the most beloved and easy cake recipes we’ve adopted into our family is the classic French yogurt cake. The tradition goes that it can be made by measuring all of the ingredients using a standard (French) yogurt cup. And while this recipe doesn’t specify those measurements, it’s pretty close.
The Design Mom food editor, Lindsey, made this one based on Ina Garten’s French Yogurt Cake. (Are you a fan of The Barefoot Contessa? She’s one of my favorites.) The best of part of this delicious cake is that you can make it with a whisk and spatula only. No mixers needed.
This is exactly the sort of dessert I love to bring to any 4th of July get together. I can prep this ahead of time, and pack a mini-cooler with yogurt tubes and pouches to have on hand in the car. Our Independence Day plans are usually pretty flexible, so it’s nice to be prepared.
One of the best parts about this lemon sheet cake is it can be made by kids in its entirety. (Younger children will obviously need help with the baking part.) Now that my kids are a little older, can I just say how much I love that they sometimes bake on their own? June and Betty could whip this together in an hour and the rest of us can enjoy decorating it with them.
We like using Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain Yogurt in this recipe (from the quart), but you could use just about any variety you have on hand or like best. The Lemonade Yogurt Tubes are super yummy and would add an extra hint of lemon to the cake.
In addition to the tangy yogurt, this sheet cake has loads of fresh lemon juice. It’s about as lemony as you can make a cake, which I love. I’m a total fan of fruity, lemon desserts (especially versus chocolate desserts).
And really this sheet cake doesn’t even need frosting…it’s that good!
That said, I’ve still included two frosting recipes. : )
The first is a standard powdered sugar and butter frosting made with yogurt and a little more lemon juice. The second you’ll find in the notes. If you’re not a fan of super sweet frosting and would prefer a less-sweet, but still-creamy frosting, totally go with the second option.
It’s lightly sweetened whipped cream with a little yogurt and lemon juice folded in. The lemon juice and yogurt naturally thicken the whipped cream. It is heavenly! Whichever you choose will be the right one.
If you’ve got a summer party on the horizon, especially a 4th of July party, this is a recipe that’s perfect for that too. You can make the lemon sheet cake and frosting a few days in advance — Lindsey swears the cake gets better as it sits. And then decorate right before the party.
I know everyone loves the traditional American Flag berry decoration, but there are lots of other fun designs if you’re in the mood to mix things up — you can really get your kid’s creative juices flowing. We love the idea of quilt-like blocks, Americana bunting or pennants, parallel lines, concentric circles, and other geometric patterns. You can use other fruits to create other patterns or for other holidays or celebrations — a rainbow of fresh fruit on top would be perfect for celebrating Pride month.
Yogurt Lemon Sheet Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Stonyfield Organic Plain Whole-Milk Yogurt
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup neutral flavored oil or olive oil
For the frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-4 tablespoon Stonyfield Organic plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
5-6 cups fresh fruit (berries, pineapple, mango, kiwi, bananas, etc.)*
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease 10″ by 15″ jelly roll pan. Dust the pan with flour and tap out excess. (Note: if removing cake from pan before decorating, line bottom and two of the sides with parchment paper for easy removal.)
2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. Place sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the zest. Using your fingertips, rub the zest and sugar together until it resembles wet sand and smells fragrant. Whisk in the eggs until completely combined. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, and vanilla.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until just combined. Using a large silicone spatula, fold in the oil. The batter will smooth and shiny with a few remaining lumps. Be careful not to over-mix.
5. Pour batter into the prepared jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until cake is very lightly golden on top and springs back in the center when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in the pan.
6. While cake is cooling, prepare frosting. Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat butter until creamy. Add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Start to add the yogurt and lemon juice as the mixture thickens and become harder to mix. The texture should be the perfect spreading consistency. Add a little extra powdered sugar, if frosting is too thin or runny. Refrigerate until ready to decorate the cake.
7. To decorate cake: stir frosting to loosen it a bit then spread an even layer over the entire surface of the cake. Decorate with desired pattern using the berries and fruit of choice. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve; it will be easier to cut into pieces too. Use a little water for thinning the frosting, if needed.
– Wash berries well just before decorating and let drain well. I like to give them a quick soak in fresh water with a little apple cider vinegar added. This helps keeps mold at bay. Just give them a strain and quick rinse after soaking and let dry on a few layers of paper or cloth towels.
– When you’re thinking of fruit toppings, skip the fresh pineapple. The enzymes in the pineapple will start to break down the yogurt in the frosting and turn it bitter.
– If you prefer a taller cake, bake this in a 9″ by 13″ pan instead. It will need a slightly longer baking time, approximately 25-30 minutes. The center will bounce back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
– A whipped cream and yogurt frosting can be used instead of the sweeter frosting. Whip 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with 1-2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Fold in 2-4 ounces your choice of Stonyfield Yogurt (the Greek variety will give you a little thicker frosting) and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to decorate cake. Refrigerate before serving to allow whipped cream to set up before cutting into pieces.
Credits: Recipe and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.