Nejla’s Yogurt Dessert

Nejla’s Yogurt Dessert on blue plate
Photography by Stephen DeVries / Food Styling by Nathan Carrabba

Nejla Orgen serves up traditional Turkish pastry in her new home of Auburn, Alabama as a nod to her old home in Turkey. Nejla’s Yogurt Dessert is a modification to revani, a syrupy sponge cake found throughout Turkey. She’s omitted the gritty semolina flour found in most revani, to yield a softer, spongier version that absorbs more of the sugar syrup.  

Nejla’s Yogurt Dessert
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  1. 4 cups water
  2. 4½ cups (833 grams) sugar, divided
  3. ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  4. 3 large eggs
  5. 1 cup plain yogurt
  6. 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  9. Garnish: prepared whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries, or finely ground pistachios
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water, 3½ cups (648 grams) sugar, and lemon juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and remaining 1 cup (185 grams) sugar; add yogurt.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder; add to egg mixture, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until fully incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan (smoothly top if necessary). Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Cut cake into 2-inch squares. Place squares on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread squares out on pans, allowing plenty of space between squares. Pour half of cooled syrup over each pan of cake squares. (Both cake and syrup should still be warm, but not hot.) The cake will soak up the liquid, and each square needs room to expand.
  6. Let sit for 1 hour; turn squares upside down. Leave them on pans until most of the syrup has been absorbed. Then flip the squares back up.
  7. Garnish with whipped cream, sliced fresh strawberries, and finely ground pistachios, if desired.
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