grandmothers of sils’ apple-yogurt cake

I used to be a fennel/anise/black licorice-hater, too. I say “too” because I know that it’s impossible to bring the flavor up without at least someone in the room saying “ew.” Like beets in anything or nuts in cookies, its presence is a deal breaker for a surprising number of people.

But I have always been certain that the foods we like to eat we were introduced to in a way that warmed them to us. Mike and Ikes? Ew. Ouzo with seltzer in tall glasses as we snacked on salty pistachios while sitting out on the balcony of my professor’s hotel room with a handful of my classmates after a long day of painting on the Greek island of Corfu one summer? It was impossible not to love, creating a clear delineation between my anise-hating and anise-loving days on the timeline of my tastebuds.

tastebud timeline

[Oops, got a little carried away with the Tastebud Timeline idea.]

So when I came across a cake recipe in my New Cookbook Obsession that involved a good amount of Sambuca (or ratafia, much more difficult to find), I was torn between wanting to make it and the threat that I would be forced to eat the whole thing by myself because of people’s refusal to come around on the flavor. Turns out, my husband doesn’t much hate the flavor either, and I left everyone else to figure it out for themselves.

While I think we all agree that there is nothing better than cake, cake with a good story behind trumps the competition any day. This one, The Grandmothers of Sils Apple and Yogurt Cake, first introduces us to these grandmothers, apparently something of a phenomenon in Catalonia after they formed a cooking club some 12 years ago with the idea of exchanging and recording traditional recipes that would otherwise disappear with their generation. In another time or place, this might have resulted in some inexpensively bound book for distribution at church bake sales and through immediate friends a family, instead made them famous. They’re on television, they hang out with celebrity chefs and they make grandmothers in the rest of the country green with envy.

applesapple chunksbattercraggy yogurt cake

With good reason. If this cake is any indication of their cooking savvy, consider me hooked. When you bake as much as I do these days, the playing field gets too wide for superlatives, and yet I have found another: This is the moistest cake I have ever made. Demanding a good reason that I should have to wait 31 years to find it, I did some research and realized that this has much in common with the French standard gateau de yaourt.

Still, I think it’s the lemon yogurt, olive oil and anise flavor that makes it unique. You can of course swap things, other boozes like Cointreau or apple brandy for the anise or skip it altogether, yogurt flavors besides lemon, honey for the sugar if you’re trying to give it a Jewish New Year spin, and I’m sure that pear could take the place of apple, if you must. But I’ll be making it just like this from here on out, closing my eyes and imagining a little Corfu sun beyond my squint and some Grandmothers over my shoulder urging me not to skimp on the spirits.

grandmothers of sils' apple & yogurt cakegrandmothers of sils' apple & yogurt cake

One year ago: Giardiniera (Pickled Vegetables)

Grandmothers of Sils’ Apple and Yogurt Cake
Adapted from The New Spanish Table

This is, in my mind, a true coffee cake, not overly sweet and best unadorned. It keeps exceptionally well, and is, if possible, more moist on day three than day one.

Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup lemon yogurt*
1/4 cup anise liqueur, such as Sambuca
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light olive oil
3 cups finely diced or shredded peeled and cored baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Jonagold, or a combination
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the cake
Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)

1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour and 9-inch springform pan.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Beat in the yogurt and liqueur until completely smooth. Working in batches, beat in the sifted flour, alternating it with the olive oil. Gently but thoroughly fold in the apples.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan, tap it on a counter to level the batter, then smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake the cake on the center rack until the top is golden, a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean**, and the cake springs back when you touch it, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack.

4. Run a thin knife around the side of the cake to loosen it. Remove the side and the bottom of the pan, then place the cake on a cake platter. (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead.) Wrap it loosely in plastic until ready to use. Serve the cake sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, accompanied by creme fraiche, if desired.

* For serious! I can’t tell you how many lemon yogurts I picked up at my totally yuppie gourmet grocery store before finding a single one with real, actual lemon in it and not artificial flavoring. I’m not naming names, but there were brands that I really expected better from. I finally landed on Stoneybrook Farms low-fat with lemon puree on the bottom. Why I went through this trouble when I could have just, uh, squeeze lemon juice into a plain yogurt, I don’t know. But just to warn that if you’re going through the effort of making a cake from scratch, you might want to make sure your lemon yogurt is the real deal.

** For some reason, this never happened for me. Well beyond the baking time (though my oven runs a little cool) the toothpick was still coming out with some damp crumbs attached while the top was golden and springy, so I took it out. It was cooked just fine in the center, so if this happens to you, don’t worry.

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107 comments on grandmothers of sils’ apple-yogurt cake

  1. I love the timeline! Sometimes going from not liking something to liking it is a gradual process, but I find that, as often, it’s almost like flipping a switch. Eggplant was like that for me. Hated it until I started eating various eggplant dishes in Chinese restaurants. Granted, it’s a different variety of eggplant, but it paved the way to other eggplant dishes for me.

    The cake recipe sounds delicious, by the way. Not overly sweet and unadorned is exactly the kind of dessert we need more of.

  2. Jelena

    I love cakes like this! I’ll have to try it sometime soon.

    Does the diced apple become a part of the cake, or can it still be picked out after it’s baked? Not that I would, but I’m just wondering texture-wise.

  3. How strange. My hatred of anise was overcome one summer in a sun-filled, richly planted, bee-buzzing garden in the village of Le Tholonet in southern France, sitting at an amazing stone table drinking Pastis and water with a couple of my fellow students. I couldn’t believe how far away I was from what I considered “my life” at the time. Your timeline is brilliant, btw.

  4. This entry makes me happy for so many reasons. First, that chart is fab. Second, I think it often takes the right experience to convince people they like something they thought they didn’t. I say that as someone who started off a very picky eater, but these days I have very few dislikes and I’ll try anything once.
    And finally, anise, apple cake, yay! I make these anise-saffron shortbread cookies I love, but I’m always wary of who I serve them to for fear of licorice-haters. Sad, b/c those cookies are damn good. Oh, and if you’ve got leftover liquer, try David Lebovitz’s absinthe cake, I made it with arak and it was great.
    Ew, and the yogurt thing doesn’t surprise me at all, these days the only brand I buy is total/fage.

  5. The idea of lemon yogurt and anise together freaks me out a little. Also olive oil in cake freaks me out a little. I might try this, though, but not with the Sambuca. And I will brave the olive oil.
    Yogurt is scary now – every brand I pick up has all sorts of crap that is not yogurt in it. I only eat the Stonyfield Farms stuff because I can’t handle the weird chemical taste other yogurts have.

  6. Stonyfields Lemon yogurt is a constant in my fridge; it goes into a lot of baking for me, especially pancakes and waffles. I love its tangy delicious taste just as it is too, maybe with a scoop of granola or maybe some crushed almonds as a topping.

    Cake looks good, but count me among the anise/fennel dislikers, and not one to suddenly become open minded any time soon. Been there, tried that and am not interested. Some things you just gotta leave alone. Of course, leaving it out as an option works for me too

  7. Sarah

    LOVE the chart. Is anyone else full of shame about disliking the things they dislike? I love food and will try anything, but have a large number of things I detest, and I am deeply ashamed. How can someone who says she loves food hate: olives, asparagus, anise/fennel/licorice, citrus flavor in baked goods, or almond flavor in anything? The good news is that I try eating olives and asparagus at least once per year in hopes of turning over a new leaf. But at 29 it hasn’t happened yet. Sigh.

  8. Amber

    This looks so good! If you were to use plain yogurt and add lemon juice instead of seeking out the elusive lemon yogurt, would you have to increase the amount of sugar?

  9. M

    Once you throw up shots of Ouzo and your pasta dinner after spending a night in a Greek taverna on Santorini, you might change your mind about loving it. So don’t do that and your pinkish line of anise love should extend well past 30.

  10. rachel

    Ok, you going overboard on the timeline is exactly why we are such dedicated Smitten Kitchen readers! Thanks so much for creating support for those of us who love food but have weird issues. Raw tomato haters unite! Wishing you and Alex a very sweet and Happy New Year…

  11. Cathy

    In my corner of the world, the love-hate line seems clearest around cilantro. I was among those who think it tastes like soap until my first pregnancy. Ever since, I’ve loved it. So that would be part of my timeline for sure.

  12. Jen


    Have you ever read “The Man Who Ate Everything”? The beginning of his book instantly made me feel better about the fact that I hate certain foods. He talks about the humps he had to get over when he became a food critic.

    From time to time, though, I wish I could get over a few of my food reservations. My husband loves olives, and I simply can’t stand them. Even our cat will eat them!

  13. Envi

    the cake looks great!
    can’t believe your rice timeline!! have you tried cooking it the pasta way? cook in excess water and strain…super and easy!

  14. I belong in the “hate anise/licorice/fennel” camp though, occasionally, I do love a dish that has those flavors in it if it’s not overwhelming. Love your timeline. And I agree with Envi above – if I don’t have time to mess with rice, I cook it like pasta.

  15. Ha, i made this very cake last night – inspired by your recipe above and in the spirit of Rosh Hashana, but since I am one of the true anise/licorice haters (i can handle fennel in certain situations), I substituted Sambucca with Calvados – came out very nice indeed. Oh and I made my own flavored yogurt too (with limes instead bc somehow, shockingly, we were out of lemons!!)

  16. Deb! Perfect timing! I read your blog yesterday and realized this was the perfect Rosh Hashana Cake! I too went home yesterday and made it! You are correct – it’s moist, delicious, light, and easy! Of course, I did make a few modifications. As I am one of those people who don’t like licorice, and I didn’t want to go to the store if I could help it, I changed the flavor palate just a teensy bit.

    I swapped the Sambaca for Cointreau. I swapped the lemon yogurt for vanilla (though I used the same brand). I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Amazing! Perfect! The flavor is so light and so unique.

    Also, I put my mandolin to good use once again. Best device I’ve ever purchased based on a blog recommendation. That thing keeps on giving back. Thank You!

  17. That sounds good. I’m curious about the ratafia reference though – is ratafia something other than wine/alcohol infused with fruit, as the Times implied it was a couple of weeks ago?

  18. KW

    Deb, Do I need to substitute anything if I don’t want to use the anise. This sounds delicious, but I too have been to Corfu, and my memories of Ouzo are not nearly as pleasant as yours. We did room temp. shots of the stuff at the Pink Palace, youth hostel. It’s all a blur.

  19. I love cakes with yogurt! Love the flavour it gives and the texture! And apple~ Mm~ Like KW, we should have to add something if we were to skip the liqueur, yah? Maybe more yogurt? Or, some milk perhaps?

  20. Hmm. I made this cake on Saturday, Sambuca and all, and it came out kind of…weird? Pre-oven, the batter tasted delightfully light and promising. Post-oven, it looked exactly like the one in your picture, and filled my kitchen with a lemon-apple-sugary yummy goodness. I cooled, wrapped loosely in plastic, and on Sunday the top had taken on a sticky, wet look. Not good. Gave it a few minutes to dry out before shaking on some sugar, and then cut into it. The texture was, I think, flan. Certainly not cakelike at all. Undercooked? I got clean toothpicks twice. Was it the non-fat yogurt I used? Was it because I had plain yogurt and added my own lemon? The world may never know, but I was oh-so sad.

  21. Anne

    Found you thru the mention in last Sunday’s Times Magazine. So far, loving what I see, and pretending I can smell it…

    Also, the timeline is brilliant. Well worth the effort.

    A possible answer to your rice dilemma: a rice cooker. I know rice is supposed to be stupidly easy to make, but who doesn’t forget they’ve put it on the stove, or add too much water? In college, a good friend of mine (who is Chinese-American) had a real shock when she saw me cooking rice on the stove. She had never seen anyone *not* use a rice cooker. She gave me one for my birthday, and I’ve been a convert ever since.

    Some rice cookers have steaming trays. My fancy Zojirushi (thanks, Mom!) has separate settings for white, brown, and sushi rice, as well as rice porridge, plus a timer so that you can set up your rice porridge at night and just pull the pickles and dry shredded pork out of the fridge in the morning. What more could a Chinese Lit Ph.D. student (erm, me) want?

  22. squashi

    WOW what a disaster! I used plain yogurt & lemon juice & zest. I used Pernod instead of sambuca. I lowered the sugar b/c my apples (empire & fuji) were so sweet. I used EVOO instead of “light” olive oil (though I used 1 tbl canola oil to lighten it up). Oh, and I may have added 1/8 tsp too much baking powder. Finally, b/c I hate things to lack salt, I added a pinch. I kept it in an oven for abour 90 mins b/c it just never seemed done. The cake has a VERY odd, flan-y texture, and a weird bitter aftertaste somewhere between olive oil and aluminum.

    (Full disclosure: Perhaps I am biased against this thing because I also DROPPED IT on my floor while I was testing it– don’t ask- so it cracked and got all ugly)

    Well, I won’t say whether or not it tastes good in a few days, since I just pulled it out of the oven. But for now, I’ll say that I am very depressed about this cake! I’ve been longing to make it for months! Where did I go wrong?

  23. squashi

    well, three-ish days later and the taste really is pretty good. I’m not sold on the texture, entirely– it’s kind of dense (maybe because, like an idiot, i DROPPED the cake?) — but all the bitterness from the first taste on 1/18 is gone. In fact, it’s nearly addictive. Though it DOES taste really strongly of olive oil.

    Rosalee– I can’t taste anise at all. For that matter, i can barely taste the apples, or the lemon. But if you don’t want to have a 1/8 empty bottle of sambuca lying around, I’m sure that another fragrant alcohol will be fine. Apple brandy, or frangelico, or something almondy.

  24. Emily

    this looks absolutely amazing….for some reason it reminds me of this easter grain cake my grandmother makes. hmm…..
    well either way, i have to try it. have to.

  25. Bee

    Things I used to hate but now I *love* – olives, capsicum, onion, fetta cheese, cauliflower, dark chocolate, marinated mushrooms, pork, coriander/cilantro.
    The only things I don’t like are seafood (most of it, i love fish and i like lobster) and cumin. yuck!

  26. beckyg

    I substituted valencia orange for the lemon (used a little juice, pulp, and zest), plain all natural yogurt for lemon, Frangelica for the Sambuca, and cut the apples larger than directed…..and it came out AWESOME!!!!


  27. LCS

    Thank you for the recipe.

    Instead of a cake, I made them into 16 cupcakes. In place of the lemon, I used a small-to-medium sized orange (juice and zest) for the yogurt (which I used vanilla). I also left out the Sambuca. Instead, I used 1 1/2 teaspoon of almond and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I would probably decrease the amount of almond to maybe 1/2 teaspoon. Still tastes great.

    Thanks again.

  28. I found this but had no sambuca, no lemons, no lemon juice, no lemon yogurt!

    I did have some good cognac, two pluots and some Stoneyfield plain yogurt though! Pureed pluots, blended with yogurt (leaving remnants behind in the mixing bowl for a hint of pluot in the whipped cream frosting) and this cake came out fabulous after 40 minutes in the oven.

  29. Forgot to add I skipped any anise at all and went the ol’ nutmeg/cinnamon route with a dash of cocoa powder and a dash of cayenne. I’ll try the lemon/anise next time. I detest black licorice, but anise in other dishes, especially baking, and I love it.

    I’d highly urge anyone who still thinks they hate it to try this recipe as it stands; I bet you’ll turn!

  30. Amie !

    OMG, deb. We had a dinner party at my tiny studio this past Friday. We made baby octopi(puses), polenta, turnip & fennel salad, spicy greens, salad with squash and pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, and I was looking for this cake, and the universe led me to this recipe, and the cake DISAPPEARED within minutes. Okay, not like 10 minutes (my friends are somewhat civilized), BUT STILL – disappeared! My father wants me to mail him some to Florida. Thank you! And your son is SO precious! Mazel Tov!

  31. Thanks again, Deb! I made this last night and just brought in 1/2 to share with my coworkers. The cake has a great bouncey consistency, likely owing to the olive oil and light sugar. I would probably add some vanilla next time and try to lower the temperature slightly so it does not brown on the top so early.

  32. Maya

    I found this recipe and was a little hesitant because of the anise flavor- I’m not a huge fan. I had some pastis on hand and used that and it turned out fabulously. Hope you are getting some rest. I had a huge burst of energy- I did a lot of baking, etc in the first 6 weeks after each of my kids was born and then the “tired” hit me like a ton of bricks! Good luck!

  33. Kelly

    I made this cake using plain yogurt with fresh lemon juice (I just kept tasting it until it was lemony enough for me). I also used 1/2 tsp of anise extract instead of Sambuca. It came out great! Super moist and not too sweet. Will definitely make it again!

  34. Shannon

    Deb can we use ouzo instead of sambuca? (I have a bottle of it that just won’t die, it’s like a magic cauldron)

    Otherwise I want to make this rightnow

  35. Sarah

    Hey Deb – It’s hard for me to distinguish the colors, but does your chart show that you were a vegetarian until a few years ago?

  36. Judy

    I wanted to like this cake so badly but it didn’t work out for me. Not sure if I did something wrong or what, but it was really, really wet inside. More like a pudding than cake. It looked wonderful but when I cut in to it, I did not like the texture. I confess to using regular olive oil as I didn’t have any light but that shouldn’t matter, should it?

  37. Emily

    Deb. I could die. I am so in love with this cake. I did chicken out on the sambuca and instead used stongly brewed lady grey tea. The flavor didn’t come through super strongly, but I think it is there (though I don’t know that I would really notice if I didn’t know about it). I only had an 8-inch non-springform pan, so I lined to bottom with parchement and buttered and floured that and didn’t have any sticking issues, and I made 6 cupcakes with the batter that didn’t fit. This cake is light, delicately flavored, and amazing in every way. Plus, I can convince myself that the cupcakes are really muffins, and muffins are a breakfast food. They have fruit! They’re healthy!

  38. Ariana

    FAILURE This was my first cake FAILURE from SK. I’m guessing my oven was too hot and the cooking time not long enough as my cake came out dense, heavy and basically unediable. It was a big disappointment and a waste of fresh ingredients considering your Torta di Pere and Mom’s Apple cake came out superbly!!!.

  39. Hello from Belgium, the land of beer and chocolate ^_^ I just made this cake tonight and just like some others, ended up with a flan-like texture. It’s still good, but far from what I expected. I just do not know what happened: cook for too long? Oven too hot? It is also the first time I “fail” a recipe from Smitten Kitchen as all the other dishes I made were a huge success (made the oven ribs and peach crumble last weekend and those were killers!!). Would be grateful to know what happened for this cake to turn up like a flan though ;)

  40. Helka

    This cake was a disappointment for me too.. have to agree with the previous two commenters on first time not liking a SK recipe. I waited with it for a couple of days, but it’s the same. Its texture is ok, but it’s very mild and boring, basically all I can taste is a hint of sambuca and apple. Maybe my apples weren’t tasty enough or maybe I went wrong with making my own “light olive oil” with regular extra virgin and some canola, but I don’t think I will be trying this recipe again.

  41. Ariel

    A very nice weeknight cake, mixed it up and had it in the oven in about 30 minutes. Used regular olive oil, jonathan apples, unsweetened all natural lemon yogurt and pernod. Has a complex flavor that even my kids liked. Incredibly moist!

  42. Grace

    I had the same result as some of the others here- my cake came out very dense despite looking exactly like the picture at the top of this post. Was really sad, as I looked forward to making this cake and having something light to nosh on. The taste is okay but the texture really throws me off. I used regular olive oil, didn’t have sambuca so i put in some white wine and vanilla instead. As for baking time, my oven ran a little hot so the toothpick came out clean at 55 minutes and the top looked golden brown. After an hour or so of cooling, the sides of the cake pulled away from the pan and the cake stopped “springing back” when i touched it. Sigh. I’m guessing the regular olive oil contributed to the denseness, but I would really like to know where I went wrong.

  43. WhitneyB

    Same as the ones above… At first I wasn’t sure if maybe I messed up and forgot a cup of flour or something! It’s very dense and moist and I tried baking it for an extra 15 minutes or so. I love the flavor, though. The anise-yogurt-hint of olive combination iis fantastic and I wish the cake were fluffier and more cake-like.

    I’m still one of your biggest fans, but not sure what to do with this recipe…

  44. Hillary

    Can you make lemon yogurt using fresh lemons and plain yogurt, and if so how much lemon flavor are you going for? I am looking for the best way to use up this tub of yogurt that may or may not expire in two days…

  45. Tanya

    I’m a little late finding this recipe – searching for something different for Rosh HaShanah this yea – but got sidetracked by the timeline…this struck such a note….loved olives from the day I got pregnant (and still do)….took me years to apppreciate fennel but now I cook with it all the time. And I am with you on the honey-roasted peanuts – can’t think what I ever saw in them. Off to try the cake now.

  46. This looks amazing. I buy pounds and pounds of apples this time of year (and gather them when they fall in the streets of Berkeley). I am not a big cake eater, but this looks too good not to try soon. I don’t have any anise liquor, so I’m thinking of roasting some fennel, pureeing it, and diluting it with a little dark rum…

  47. I did it! I made the cake with caramelized fennel and dark rum in place of the anisette. Used some blood orange olive oil, too, and bumped the fennel flavor up with a little crushed star anise. Delicious, even for a non-cake fan. Thank you. I’m going to try it toasted next. For the story of what I did to your recipe, visit “TheKaleChronicles” and look for Apple Cake. I look forward to seeing what you get up to next. Cheers! Sharyn

  48. Andrea M

    I just made this cake with no wheat, and it is incredibly delicious. Here are the modifications I made…1 cup full fat plain yogurt from Indian grocery store with juice from one small lemon, 2 tsp baking powder instead of 1 1/4 tsp, hand-mixed everything, since I don’t have an electric mixer, my flour mixture was as follows: 1/2 c each brown rice flour, sorghum flour, spelt flour, almond flour, 1/4 c ground flax meal, added one tsp of cornstarch. Cooked at 350 on my oven’s “quick bake” setting, for about 57 minutes or so. My cake came out golden brown firm and easy to slice, even when warm (I couldn’t wait!) but moist in the middle, and no gluten!

  49. maroussia V.

    I just love this cake…. Discovered it only recently browsing on the net for apple recipes. I did not change anything to the recipe, except I used Marie-Brizard as I had no Sambuca. A great success and it sells so well at the small café I bake for!
    Thanks for having shared such a wonderful recipe!

  50. Joanna G

    Amazing cake. Followed the recipe but used extra virgin olive oil and added some lemon rind. What an amazing texture. So moist! Thanks again for a great recipe!

  51. Sam

    Mine was golden brown with a clean skewer in about 35 mins, after which I placed aluminium foil on top and kept it in the oven until the baking time as in the recipe. The result – good flavour but very dense. Not cakey or crumbly at all. I omitted the liqueur (chucked in some anise sugar instead, but just a tiny bit), used canola oil and mixed plain yogurt with juice of a lemon, but otherwise followed all directions. As I said, it tasted good, so no regrets there, but the result was really not as expected. I read many others had a similar result, so I wonder what went wrong…
    Thanks for the recipe, though (perhaps it should come with a note that it doesn’t deal well with modifications…)

  52. I just put this wonderful cake in the oven, and I hope it will turn out to be one of those recipes, that i can always turn to, when friends and family come together…

    Thank you!

  53. Ten Broeck

    Going Greek all the way with this one! Using Ouzo and Chobani Greek Yogurt (since that was the only lemon yogurt my grocery store had). Just put it in the oven- we’ll see how it turns out. Thanks for this wonderful recipe, Deb!

  54. Ten Broeck

    Total fail :( I baked the cake for 1hr 15 min at 350 and despite a clean toothpick the cake was hiding it’s gooey center from me. Could it be that because I used EVOO inside of light olive oil that the cake is particularly dense and failed to bake through properly? The flavor of the cake is quite nice but unfortunately this just did not turn out well for me.

  55. Just made it tonight, and my house is smelling amazing right now. The other olive oil cakes I have baked have always required way longer baking time than what the recipes said too. My question is, if you don’t eat it right away, would you store it wrapped in plastic in the fridge? Thanks!!!

  56. The Sambuca taste was really subtle in the finished cake. When I served it at the bday party last night, nobody could guess what flavor it was. Like Ten Broeck, I was concerned about parts of the inside looking under-cooked, even after I baked it for almost 90 minutes. One of my guests reassured me that some olive oil cakes from the Mediterranean are supposed to have a bread pudding-like texture. I’m temped to just over-bake it next time and see what happens. The top of this one was a beautiful light golden color but never dark brown, so maybe I could have left it in the oven longer?

  57. Robin

    Thanks very much for posting this recipe. My wife Tina made it last night, using plain (lactose free) yoghurt and lemon juice. This cake is heavenly!

  58. Louise allen

    Deb:. Sounds wonderful – I have 2 questions. Any suggestions for a non alcoholic substitution for the liquer? Aldo – does it freeze well? Thanks

  59. Maria

    Debbie! oh my lord, I got to this page from your cucumber-lemonade and click on ‘seven years ago’. I grew up in Catalonia (though not Sils), and my first thought was ‘lemon yogurt cake!’ followed by ‘how did I miss grandmothers of Sils???’. Bringing together old time Catalan recipes, mmmm. Well, it turns out I was a bit too young too notice at the time the Grandmothers of Sils were really famous (according to the internet).
    But the lemon yogurt is a win :-) (my grandmother’s version doesn’t include anise liqueur… regional variations? who knows.)

  60. Elaine L

    I, too, just got here from the cuke-lemonade page. I’m going to be trying it with applejack brandy instead of the Sambucca. You mentioned above that for a Rosh Hashanah theme, honey could be used instead of sugar–can you suggest how much, and if other liquids need to be adjusted?

  61. deb

    I would start with a half-swap to be safe. (Also, not to be a tease or anything, but I just pulled a second round of an apple-honey cake out of the oven. If it’s as good as it looks, I’ll share the recipe on Monday.)

  62. Margot

    Really no salt? I added some anyway. I would add more if I made it again.

    I baked it using a dark-walled pan, and the oven may have been a bit above 350°. It baked up springy, and the cake tester was clean-ish. The cake is fairly pudding-like in the middle, but in an OK way. I like the anise flavor. I felt like I was adding a lot of sugar, but it’s definitely not too sweet.

    It would be useful to have a weight measurement for the apples, rather than just a volume one, given that they’ll be a big source of liquid. I wonder if #67’s problem with sogginess had to do with that.

    Thanks for the interesting recipe!

  63. Lucy

    Just for the record: Mike and Ikes were not anise flavored. They were fruit flavored. Perhaps you were thinking of Good and Plenty, which had licorice centers?

    I get your point of course, but you are hating on the wrong candy.

  64. So i tried it last night… Left it 1h 30 in the oven … And i think its still raw. I used normal olive oil and can taste it above everything- not so sure that was a good idea- i will tru again sometime because you recipes have always turned out perfect for me. Although next time I’m skipping the liquor and putting a third of the olive oil… And maybe some more yogurt to make up for that!

  65. Simone

    I enjoy your website and have made many of your recipes successfully, thank you. However, this cake is inedible. Like many comments above, mine did not cook through and has a mushy pudding-like center. I wish I’d read the comments before attempting it. I hope you consider noting this problem in the recipe so people stop wasting their time and money trying to make it.

  66. Kris

    I just tried this cake and am not sure it worked out! It didn’t seem to rise very much – it doesn’t have the fluffier, rised appearance of your photo; mine turned out dense/European style. I know it’s not my baking powder since I used it yesterday for muffins (Megan Gordon’s pear hazelnut ones, which I make ALL the time!) and they turned out totally fine…is it maybe because I halved the recipe and made it in a smaller rectangular pan? I also used plain yogurt mixed with some fresh lemon juice and zest…I can’t see how that would make a big difference, although some recipes are odd that way. Anyway it’s still moist and very tasty!

  67. Elina

    Hello Debbie! I love your site ! I tried to make this cake following your instructions but it came out like uncooked with pudding like texture. I baked it for 70 minutes and instead of lemon yogurt l squeezed half lemon from my lemon tree in a Greek yogurt .Also I used regular olive oil. What went wrong because I would like to try it again..

  68. Emma

    There have been a lot of negative comments about this cake recently, but I want to report that mine came out fine. I had to bake it for 90 minutes before I stopped getting uncooked mix on the skewer, & I think maybe I could have taken it out a few minutes sooner; but it rose beautifully, has a lovely pale moist centre, & hasn’t got the leathery texture you sometimes find with oil cakes. I didn’t use Sambuca, on account of not having any, & settled for cider because I was opening a can anyway to make bread with (no? Another time), but next time I’m going to use plain yoghurt & my quince gin, which I think wil perfume the cake beautifully.

    If you didn’t want to use alcohol for any reason, do you think rose or orange flower water might work?

    As to aniseed, do you not think that some of what converted you is quality? I cannot stand licorice, but am addicted to fennel & caraway & early Discovery apples with their anise tang. I suspect fresh, quality ingredients sway me over artificial flavours & sweeteners.

  69. I used plain whole milk yogurt, substituted limoncello for the Sambuca, added a teaspoon of orange extract, and swapped in a bit of the barley flour that you recommended in the strawberry summer cake. It was delicious, but even though I baked it for about 20 minutes longer than called for, it was kind of wet—not uncooked, just an odd texture that looked underbred, but was still as firm as a cake would normally be. It is a bit hard to describe so I am not sure if this makes sense. Regardless of the strange texture/appearance, it tastes great!

  70. BP

    Do you think this recipe would work if I used soy yogurt? My daughter is allergic to cow’s milk but I would love, love, love to make this cake for her! I wonder if the soy would make a difference in how the cake comes together. Thanks for your help! I’ve been a huge fan of your recipes (and hilarious writing!) for years!

  71. I made this with plain yogurt and lemon zest because where I live lemon yogurt is not sold (I know). I used the olive oil I had around the house, and it gave the cake a pleasant pungent note. This cake is very plain but very satisfying if you are looking for a down-to-earth dessert or afternoon-tea snack. It kept very well wrapped at room temperature for three days. Thank you for this recipe!

  72. Katie

    Hi Deb- I found this old recipe while down a rabbit hole looking for an apple dessert. (I think I’ve decided on your apple sharlotka for my dinner party)
    These paragraphs are why I adore your writing, and of course your recipes. The history behind the recipe is so lovely, I agree that it makes a cake tastier. And your story about the love/hate of fennel/anise? SO beautifully written, and so true! So many times it just takes that one experience to challenge everything we thought we knew. Thanks for making me smile, and teaching me how to cook.

    PS I spent my honeymoon in Istanbul, years ago. We drank raki with water everyday, and now I cannot have that flavor without those beautiful memories creeping back. XO

  73. Monica

    I got some green fennel seeds in our CSA this week, and also do not have any ouzo or Sambuca. Do you think it would work to substitute fennel for the liqueur?

  74. Una

    I bought a bunch of beautiful very ripe pears from the farmers market, so I substituted them for the apples and added almond extract and it was perfect — not too sweet, which I like, and wonderfully moist. Perfect for breakfast the next few days with that creme fraiche. A week later I’ve another in the oven at this very moment; this time I pulled from your banana bread recipe and threw in some uncooked millet for texture… 31 more minutes till I find out how it worked! I love recipes like these that I can riff on to accommodate what’s in my pantry. Thank you!

  75. Anne

    Just cut into the Sils cake which looks beautiful but so moist it’s more like pudding?! Used Lemoncello and lemon olive oil. Guess I’ll be toasting slices! The toothpick tested clean and it bounced back when touched. Amanda had the same result, but I couldn’t find a response from you to her. Just wondering!

    1. deb

      It’s been (cough) a few years since I made this but I remember it being tender and lovely inside, not mush or anything. I should revisit it but I can’t get away with putting all that booze in cakes with kids around anymore (they ruin everything, heheh).

      1. Anne Doyle

        Apparently several others experienced the same thing- more like bread pudding than cake. Oh well. Can’t win them all. Onward!

        1. Lindsay

          Yes, when I made it, definitely more like pudding. Shame because the flavor was great-might have to try adding anise to a different yogurt-cake recipe?

      2. jjjeanie

        wait–I thought if you cook or bake with alcohol, the alcohol itself “cooks out” and you’re just left with the flavor. Not true? (I do remember hearing once that former alcoholics aren’t supposed to have alcohol in their cooked/baked goods, so maybe I’m wrong.)
        OK, in anticipation of others’ comments, here’s what Dr.Weil (google, natch) said: “After being added to food that then is baked or simmered for 15 minutes, 40 percent of the alcohol will be retained. After cooking for an hour, only about 25 percent will remain, but even after 2.5 hours of cooking, five percent of the alcohol will still be there.”
        so, ok, never mind. (On the other hand, in this recipe, 5% alcohol seems ok to me for a kid . . . but i’m sure it depends on the family. Don’t they sometimes give babies brandy when they’re teething?)

  76. WhitneyB

    I have become slightly obsessed with this recipe. Okay, so here’s the deal. I made this years ago when I first discovered the Smitten Kitchen blog and loved it. Didn’t make it again until this week and now I’m thinking about it all the time.

    When I made it this week (2019), I shredded the apples. I didn’t have a large springform pan, so I improvised using the silicone muffin tin and silicone loaf pain in my current kitchen. The batch in the loaf pan came out pudding like and disappointing, as others have described. The muffins turned out well! They were extremely moist but still recognizably cake-like, whereas the loaf was dense and like a bread-pudding on the bottom half. I did want to kick up the flavor a notch, so I boiled some of the liquer and made a lemon drizzle to put on top.

    Unsatisfied, I took a note from Deb’s story and tried again. This time I used the classic French gateau au yaourt recipe: 1 pot of lemon yoghurt, 2 pots sugar, 3 pots flour, 1 pot olive oil, 0.5 pot liquer, 1.5 t baking powder, pinch of salt, 3 eggs. (One pot is approximately 1/2 cup.) The other change I made was to toss in 1 chopped apple instead of shredding it. The texture was a very light cake, with apples studded throughout. And this time I just poured a capful of liquer straight over the top!

  77. erikaheller1

    In response to comments indicating the cake was too wet, I did some research and found that America’s Test Kitchen recommends spreading the diced apples on paper towels, blotting them dry to absorb moisture then mixing them into the flour to further absorb any moisture the apples might let off during baking. So, I used that method with this recipe and results were terrific. Couple of tweaks made out of necessity during Covid 19 lockdown – Used whatever kind of apple the grocery delivery service brought, added 3/4 t anise extract in lieu of sambuca, zest of 1 whole lemon and plain Greek yogurt in lieu of lemon yogurt. Terrific outcome.