Every summer, chocolate grows a little neglected in my kitchen. I don’t mean to let it happen — in my mind, there are few higher confectionery callings than brownies or ganache — but as soon as I start seeing rhubarb and strawberries and raspberries at the markets, and just today peaches (!) and blueberries (sorry NYC, there are none left. I bought them all), I start daydreaming about crisps and cobblers and grunts and crumb cakes and suddenly the winter’s stash of chocolate has grown soft and neglected in my pantry.
You could argue that a lot of chocolate desserts can feel too heavy in the summer, especially those flourless truffle bombs and their gooey warm restaurant-plated compatriots. I know, I know: What kind of pregnant woman rejects chocolate? But such weighty sweets have lost all appeal since I started carting around a tiny Bruce Lee in my abdomen; real estate needs to be carefully allotted so not to draw the ire of this 1.5-pound bundle of fist jabs.
Thank goodness for David Lebovitz, however, for a reminder that not all chocolate desserts need to be a study in the art of decadence. Some, like these chocolate yogurt snack cakes, are light, mildly sweet and infinitely moist, but never overly intense. Yogurt cakes are a French standard — Clotilde introduced me to the gâteau au yaourt years ago, with it’s simple yogurt-cup measurements and I’ve yet to find an adaptation of it since that I didn’t love.
David’s is no exception, and the fact that it came from his new book about real life in Paris that has made me laugh so hard, I am sure my neighbors think (or, well, now know) I am nuts, doesn’t hurt. I don’t think I’ve so eagerly anticipated a book since, well, ever because although few probably gaze at Paris with rosier colored glasses than Alex and me, I equally love stories about some of the realities of living there, be it eating hamburgers and fries with a fork and knife (bananas, too!), a penchant for male Speedos (“pour l’hygiène !” they tell David) or in the chapter that precedes this recipe, stories about his cleaning lady that spends half a day polishing the buttons on his food processor and the plastic holes on his alarm clock but regularly forgets to clean the bathroom. This is my kind of beach read, gritty and hilarious, yet also craving-inducing to the point that we have to swing by the grocery store on the way home so we can make snack cakes, pronto.
One year ago: Sweet Cherry Pie
This is almost a rarity in the world of chocolate cakes — light and not overly decadent; perfect for breakfast or a snack or, you know, right now.
Makes 12 cupcake-sized snack cakes or 16 mini-springform ones
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (David recommends aluminum-free baking powders, such as Rumford or Bob’s Red Mill, as do I)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners or lightly butter the pan. Or, if you’re Deb and have to be fancy dust off that much-neglected mini-springform pan and coat it with a nonstick spray.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from the heat. (Alternately, you can do this in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, then in 15 second increments, stirring well between each until smooth.)
3. In another bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup oil with yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla and almond extracts.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple times, then add the melted chocolate and stir until just smooth.
5. Divide the batter among the muffin or springform cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (less for mini-springforms, more for muffins, though your oven may vary) or until they feel barely set in the middle and a tester or toothpick comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving with coffee and a nice dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and any berries you can scrounge up in your fridge. Or, you know, as is.
Do ahead: These cakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for four days.