But until the weekend's feast, I didn't realise that the locals use them as a unit of measurement when cooking.
The French version of the classic English sponge uses a mix of oil and yogurt in place of the butter. The result is an incredibly light cake, with a firm crumb and lots of air. My daughter has vowed to throw away her sponge cake recipes and use this as her basic cake mix in all future baking.
Yoghurt cake is as versatile as it is delicious. The recipe below is for a lemon version, but any citrus fruit could be substituted. Line the cake tin with berries, pineapple, or peaches, and then turn the cake upside down before serving so the fruit sits on top. Make a simple version by cutting out the fruit entirely and adding a teaspoon of vanilla, or swap the vanilla for cinnamon and ground ginger, for rum, for a maple syrup...
The beauty of this recipe is that it's so basic to make, you can let your imagination run wild and eat the versions that didn't work quite as planned.
The original version of this recipe calls for jars, as you can use the empty yoghurt pot to measure out your flour, sugar, etc. But because not all yoghurt comes in French glass pots, I have converted the measurements to mililitres. Americans, 125ml is equivalent to ½ a cup.
125 ml plain yoghurt
250 ml granulated sugar
3 large eggs
375 ml plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp grated lemon zest
125 ml olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
60 ml icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180° Centigrade. Butter a 9 inch cake tin with deep sides (not a sandwich tin).
2. Put the yoghurt, sugar, and unbeaten eggs in a large mix bowl, and stir vigorously, until the eggs have been fully incorporated.
3. Add the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, and lemon zest - and stir well.
4. Add the olive oil and stir until you have a smooth, silky batter. Using a wooden spoon the entire mixing process shouldn't take more than a few minutes, and barely any elbow grease is required.
5. Pour the batter into your buttered tin and bake for around 45 minutes. The accuracy of your over will mean that cooking times vary - the original recipe called for 30-35 minutes, but my daughter's first attempt was in the oven for 50 minutes before it was ready to come out. The last 15 minutes were spent cooking under a tin-foil tend to stop the lovely browned top from burning. Check your cake around the half-hour mark to see if it is ready by inserting a skewer or sharp knife. It's not cooked until it comes out clean.
6. Cool the cake in its tin for 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
7. Meanwhile, make the glaze. The traditional recipe calls for lemon juice and icing sugar, but any tweaks you made to the cake will need to be reflected here. Use icing sugar, 50 ml of water, and a glug of booze (rum, Kaluha, and Frangelico would all work well), or pour 2 tbsps of maple syrup over the top. Whatever you do, spoon the glaze over slowly once the cake has been allowed to cool completely.
Recipe adapted from www.orangette.com.