Bonne Année! Dependency and what I gave up
Se rendre compte & We can be heros, just for one day

The Lazy Man's French Cake & faire son beurre

Occasionally someone writes in to ask about room rates at our vineyard. Now's a good time to clear up any confusion: the rental ads seen in this newsletter are not referring to our home (how I'd love this to be our kitchen! Hélas, it belongs to Mas de Perdrix, a dream-come-true place to stay in Provence, with it's well-appointed kitchen and well-appointed everything!
Mas de la Perdrix-the perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…click here.

"faire son beurre"

The French definition for faire son beurre is: gagner grassement sa vie, or to fatly earn one's living. Maybe a better translation is: to earn a good living

 hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word
Download MP3 or Download Wav Faire-son-beurre

Quand on pédale dans le yaourt, on fait son beurre.
When we pedal in yogurt, we make our butter. 


"Quand on pédale dans le yaourt, on fait son beurre."

    by Kristin Espinasse

While looking up citations for today's story--which partly concerns a yogurt cake--I found this funny Bulgarian proverb, which turns out to be a handy lead-in to today's missive! Except that the following story, unlike the quote, has nothing to do with making money. 

This essay is about making things, or creating--something I never thought I could do without coffee. But then I once made the same assumption about wine. And that turned out to be a CROCK--keeping me imprisoned from writing for the longest time! 

But there are other kinds of prisons. There is the prison of numbness. Wading through this kind of soul thickness feels very much like pedaling in yogurt, or as my mother-in-law puts it: pedaling in the choucroute. (Certainly sauerkraut would be harder to pedal in, thus more illustrative, but because this story is leading up to a recipe on yogurt cake and not sauerkraut cake, let's keep on track with the "pedaling yogurt " lead-in. Now where were we?)

...We were, three days ago, sitting beside a branch of leaf-bitten kale, Smokey and I, when the joy of gardening left me. Remembering to remain aware, I focused on the feeling--a kind of blandness. Bland as that polenta I made for a couple of Indians from Mumbai who desperately resorted to pouring tabasco (only thing hot in my kitchen) over the dish.

Spice! Maybe I needed more spice in my life? I whispered to Smokey, who sat chewing on a very bland stick.  There in my garden, it didn't take long to realize that coffee-sevrance had something to do with this état d'âme. At least now the abstract feeling had an identity! It even had a name: Caffeine Free!

Feeling somewhat better for the awareness, I looked over at my faithful garden hand. I think there is a place for coffee in my life, I said to Smokey, who listens to my thoughts. But for now, let's go bake a cake!

Guided by another feeling--a feeling named Chocolate!--I hurried to the kitchen to let the internal wave incarnate itself into a veritable Gâteau au Chocolat.

Because I am a lazy cook and an even lazier baker, I relied on an old standby: The Classic French Yogurt Cake (recipe here) --the easiest cake in the world to make. Use it as a base for any cake you are too lazy to make (recently I've used it for Carrot Cake, and before that banana bread!).

Knowing the measurements by heart, all the joy, now, is in tweaking things! Less sugar, less flour, more chocolate powder.... Once the batter was poured into the pan I remembered the pistachios, chopped those and tossed them on top. Next, I noticed the tangerines, sliced those (leaving on the skin) and placed them artfully around the nuts. Then, a drizzle of honey on top and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Standing back, I gazed at my cake and felt a familiar sensation, the one that was missing back in the garden.... Looking at what I had created, I enjoyed a rush of satisfaction. Come to think of it, I felt psyched! Which is exactly how I feel with that first cup of coffee.

Oh, man, I'm looking forward to that! 



Have fun coming up with your own version of the Lazy Man's French Cake, which can be dressed up for celebrations, too! Use this traditional Yogurt Cake Recipe - given to me by my brother-in-law, Jacques (seen in this Christmas dinner photo, beside my bearded son!).

to leave a comment click here, or use the comments link near the end of this post.


French Vocabulary
la citation = quote
état d'âme = state of mind, mood, emotion
amicalement = yours, regards, with goodwill

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Batter up! I am unable to upload a photo of the actual cake I made, but you can see it here at instagram

Here are a few versions I have made, over the years. The first has sliced plums. The second has lemon juice added to the mix, an a dusting of powdered sugar. And the one below is a marbled version (divide batter in two bowls, then add chocolate powder to one, then pour into pan in two layers.)


Thank you for sharing this post! Have a lovely weekend. I'll be posting photos daily here.

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your making me hungry, nice job!

Geraldine Ventura

Kristin, As I read your blog each day, I keep waiting for an announcement that you are working on a novel. You have such gift with words and telling stories. In the meantime I love all of the stories you write in the blog. Hope to make your cake soon. Do you have an ounce measurement for the yogurt?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Geraldine! I realised,  recently,  that I enjoy writing short essays. Maybe I am still intimidated by a novel-length story,  but I think it may be that the short stories are for me. 


Good morning Kristi!
I love short stories. One of the best books of them is "The Pastures of Heaven" by John Steinbeck. You should try a couple.Space one out over a month on your blog. Keep us hanging from one day to the next. It could be fun.
Creativity and coffee....hmm. Whatever works Just remember...not 5 cups a day. I too am a person who likes to create, tweak things whether it be cooking, painting, photography, sewing, or turning antique items into something useful in the house. I have the "I can do that" syndrome when I see certain things. Unfortunately over the years I have found that I can't do all those things, some yes, all no. But I think like anything else, it is the journey with the end product being the icing on the cake IF it works.
I think I will try that cake and see what I come up with...thank you.

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

For a minute I thought that was your new kitchen in that top photo.

You've inspired me — I'm going to make that cake again today.


Help me get "pedaling in yogurt". Do you mean wading through, or did you mean "peddling". Somehow this phrase doesn't resonate either in English or French (via the Bulgarian). Is there another way to express this in English?

Kristin Espinasse

Divya, I think  in the original sense,  there is the idea of pedaling fast (through liquid),  whereas in another expression (my mother-in-laws) the idea is about not being able to advance (in thick sauerkraut). It was just a funny expression that happened to have the word yaourt--so I ran with it =-)


Hi Kristin,
Thanks for your posts Kristin! I love the cozy photo of your family and friends through the window. I can imagine all the fun and laughter going on. I will have to make the yogurt cake again! Mas de Pedrix sure has a beautiful kitchen!


Yum! I've made your yogurt cake many times, but haven't in a while so it's on my agenda for this weekend. I'm thinking little mandarin oranges on top with some chocolate chips in the batter.

Just watched your cake baking video with Smokey and enjoyed it just as much this time as the first time!

Merci Kristi!


I do so love your posts!! Will be making this cake for sure. I do have question about your decision to stop coffee "cold turkey". Do you feel that is necessary because you just can't cut back some? Praying you find happy middle ground. Our Lord is faithful. 🙏🏼

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

One day I will have to try this with carob. (I acquired an allergy to cocoa in my mid-twenties.) I have not baked a thing since Christmas cookies 2012, I think. Looks yummy. I checked it out on instagram, too (though not a member). (I sometimes go to Flickr and check out Lost N Cheeseland to view lovely French pastry shots.)

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Joy. I wasnt sure about being able to cut back. I will see what happens when I go back to coffee, after this break.

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Kristin, I just viewed your latest Instagram on laptop (vs the one cake pic via my phone). The morning shot is amazing. I can see the star and crescent moon so clearly. And, if one follows the crescent moon down and to the left, it almost looks as if there is a cross planted in the earth, the way the brush is naturally arranged. Sweet photo!

Patricia Sands

Three cheers for decaf ... and your yogurt cake! That particular état d'âme strikes all of us de temps en temps and you found the best way to deal with it. See you on IG!

Sherry in Kentucky

I really must try that cake. Love this latest rendition. Nuts and citrus-genius.

By the way -- I have a recipe for polenta that is definitely not bland. It involves lots of cream, butter, cheese, cayenne and rosemary. My forever go to for polenta. Let me know if you would like the recipe and I will find it for you.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Uncle Jacque's French yogurt cake? I'm hooked! Love today's version. Whenever I make it for other people, they always ask for the recipe. Sometimes I like to use almond meal in place of some of the flour. A little crumbly but so good. This cake is definitely a solution for the lazy, au pif baker!

As for is such a comfort drink. As much the drinking of it as the coffee itself. Tea can be the same.

So uplifting that your garden is still growing and flowers still blooming. Exciting to see Jean-Marc on the news. Such a huge project he has ahead.

Tiens bon!


Kristin: No, I have not forgotten you but computer was out justbefore Christmas and then went out of town. New system installed, and I am having much difficulty. I am a nerd. Perhaps I might be able to communicate. A la prochaine vivian

Janine Burge

Madame Kristen,
Je suis d'un faire un voyage avec ma famille parce que ma fille joue hockey sur gazon dans en Floride. L'an denier, j'ai fait le deux gateaux yaourts. Je les aimais beaucoup. Est-ce que tu as fait cinquante a la fois? Je pense que je voudrais les faire une fete au printemps. J'écrite en français parce que ma fille fait ses devoirs français. J'espère que vous aimez bien mon français. J'ai fini à apprendre le français il y a trois ou quatre ans.
Sincèrement et Bonne année,

sophie borg

Hi, Kristin!
I just read in today's paper, well, e-edition of the LA Times--the US health police have just approved the consumption of coffee up to 5 cups a day!. Yay! So, don't deprive yourself, and if it helps, stick to the Fair Trade organic products. Sorry, I don't really mean to give advice mais voila :)

..and thanks again for your blog, warmest wishes for a good 2016.



Il est super !Bonne Année~


Hi Kristin, love my emails--agree with all except--coffee is a gift of the gods--don't cut back :)

Kristin Espinasse

Id love the recipe, Sherry. Thank you!


I love that yogurt cake recipe and all its variations. It's also great with cacao nibs and/or chocolate chips. Now I'm getting hungry.

Jan F

Does anyone know the equivalent for regular baking powder?


Love today's expression. Bonne et heureuse année 2016!

Chris Allin

Two to three teaspoons. That has worked for me. If using three,
make certain that they are level teaspoons.

I once forgot the baking powder entirely. A flat cake didn't stop
my husband from eating it! The recipe seems pretty error friendly.

Anne Marie

After reading The Hundred Foot Journey for the 2nd time, I too was craving more spice in my life for 2016. I checked out two Indian cookbooks from the library and have begun turning up the heat. It's fascinating to learn about different spices and how to roast and combine them to create exotic flavors. With the cold, dark winter evenings, I'm now serving food that is putting some extra spice in life!


thank you for another fun and creative writing. Will memorize todays expression and plan to use it. Thanks, N

Kristin Espinasse

Haha! I once forgot the eggs! Jean-Marc happily ate it anyway! Thanks for the measurements, Chris. Hi to George.

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Oh, dear Kristi, how similar we are (or shall I say your stories are so relatable?)! I must try your new version of the cake, for I am a lazy baker too who loves both simplicity and chocolate. Being mindful, watching how emotions come and go like the clouds, is a good practice and especially enjoyable when accompanied by your wise and loyal companion, Smokey. Loved your line about his bland stick!

Marjorie Cannon

I,also,adore the yogurt cake, and make it in an old black skillet, a wedding present in 1944 from my future Mother in law. My fav is to use drained canned sliced peaches. Merci Mucho for the lovely recipe and for You!

edie schmidt


Merci for the photos of the variation on the French yogurt cake. All look delicieux! I will have to try that myself.
Wishing you a bonne annee.

Edie from Savannah

Jim Anderson

Please be careful regarding the difference between "it's" (it is) and "its" (belonging to it).

... with it's well-appointed kitchen and well-appointed everything!



Our dear Kristi,
This is just a(nother)wonderful post!
Especially enjoyed(as always) the beautiful pictures,especially Christmas with your family(wrapped itself around my heart!) and the ones accompanying that heavenly recipe.
I was also really interested in your response to Geraldine,about your preference to write short essays.Which you are so gifted at doing!You bring so much pleasure to all of us,your fortunate readers.
I have always written,and in younger days had aspirations to create a novel.I gave up when I looked myself in the mirror and admitted I didn't(and still don't) have the patience.Instead I began writing short stories about the joys of my life,then and now-- our Yorkshire Terriers.Writing about them turned into a 25 year career with The Yorkshire Terrier Magazine,from which I retired a couple of years ago.I am so grateful for the opportunity to do what I loved and,like you,Kristi, the fulfillment it brought.
We are so blessed to be shown the way we are to go.And I think it was Matthew who said sometimes the way is shown by shut doors instead of open ones.
Natalia XO

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I thought of it as churning milk to make butter. Does it work the same to start with yaourt?

Kristin Espinasse

Natalia,  Loved reading about your experience with writing,  and the conclusion you came to. Thank you for what you shared about Matthew. I think that is so true.

Diane Young

You really like to create. It's a terrific talent. All the variations you have come up with for The Cake. I can't eat some of the ingredients but can admire your love of decorating in so many ways and using lots of different flavors. Mangez bien.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Diane.💛

bill richardson

Kristin: Je viens de faire le gateau yaourt. C'est tres simple et avec un bon gout. J'ai deja donne' le recette a' un ami et ca lui plu aussi bien. Sincerement, Bill Richardson

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks,  Bill. So good to hear it!

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