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Lemon-Chia Seed Yogurt Cake

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Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

Lemon Cakes come in all shapes and sizes, all manners of baking. There are lemon-scented tender yellow cakes topped with rich lemon buttercream, dense lemon loaf cakes with their signature golden crown, sturdy lemon genoise bathed in lemon syrup, and light and ethereal lemon chiffon cakes. Lemon Poppyseed cakes are a classic version of lemon cake, as well.  Many recipes for lemon poppy seed cake contain two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar! Yikes. It’s not overly rich, yet and packed with tart lemon flavor. Read on for how to make it. 

Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

French Yogurt Cake

This cake is a version of a French yogurt cake. Cookies, cupcakes, and quick breads are not as prevalent in French baking as American baking. Also, typically the French are not home bakers because even the smallest villages have a pâtisserie. However, yogurt cakes break the norm in the French kitchen and are an easy make-at-home dessert.

If you don’t care how light or not light it is and don’t have any clue what I am talking about with “points,” don’t worry about it! This is a recipe for a super easy, one bowl, dump-and-stir cake I think you and your family will enjoy. The first iteration of this yogurt cake was in my cookbook Lighten Up, Y’all, but I’ve revisited it and decided I can do even better in terms of lightening things up and lowering the WW points. I’ve reduced the sugar from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup and swapped out the canola oil for unsweetened applesauce.

I’ve topped the cake with a thin syrup, popping up the lemon flavor and giving it a hint of additional sweetness. You can make this in a standard loaf pan, but honestly, I am a little weary of loaves! Baking it in a cake pan, well, makes it feel more like a cake! This recipe comes in at 3.25 points per 1/16th cake — so a “normal” slice. This recipe is nice for breakfast, with afternoon tea as a pick me up, or as dessert.

Lemon-Chia Seed Cake


Cha Cha Cha Chia!

I have substituted chia seeds for poppy seeds. Chia is considered a superfood because it delivers the maximum amount of nutrients with minimum calories. It has several of the same benefits as the other “super seed,” flax, but unlike flax seed, you don’t need to grind them to gain the health benefits. Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber and contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and antioxidants. They also absorb up to twelve times their own weight! As they expand, it will make you feel fuller and curb your appetite. 


Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

Eureka vs Meyer Lemon

The lemons you typically find at the grocery store are a variety called Eureka. (Seen above on the right.) The flavor is typically very sour, bright, and acidic. (Seen above on the left.) Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, Meyer lemons are highly aromatic, very floral, slightly sweet, and less pungent than a Eureka lemon. They are one of my favorite ingredients and the zest is lusciously aromatic.

Instagram How-To Make Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

Check out this quick video on IGTV for how to make it!

How to Make Self-Rising Flour

This is VERY IMPORTANT. I use White Lily self-rising flour in this recipe.  Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour that is low in protein and contains a leavening agent and salt. It is widely available in the South, but less so in other regions of the country. If you have a recipe that calls for self-rising flour, use the following formula to convert all-purpose into self-rising: To 1 cup  all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt.

Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

Pucker up, Buttercup

Want more citrus in your life? Check out Cooking with Citrus for a glossary and a simple salad recipe. It’s the season and citrus is so good for you! Eat it up! Thanks so much for reading. I hope you enjoy! I love this sweet little not-so-sweet cake. In fact, I think I’ll go have a piece right now!

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

PS. I am near a next level number on Instagram — and crazy enough, I got a blue check this week. (Fancy) Anyway, if you are over on IG may I ask you to please give me a follow? ALSO you can enter to win a FREE copy of LIVE LIFE DELICIOUSLY by Tara Teaspoon

Lemon-Chia Seed Cake

Lemon-Chia Seed Cake 

Makes 1 cake to serve 16 
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, French, Southern
Keyword: chia seeds, lemon cake, poppyseed cake, virginia willis, weight watcher cake
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup 0% Icelandic yogurt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • Finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesaucel
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously coat an 8-inch cake pan with baking spray. Set aside.  
  • Combine the flours, chia seeds, yogurt, granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest, 1/3 cup of the lemon juice, lemon extract, vanilla, and applesauce in a large bowl until well blended. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. 
  • Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, invert onto the rack, turn upright, and cool completely. 
  • Combine the confectioners’ sugar and remaining tablespoon of lemon juice in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Using a serrated knife, slice the cake into ½-inch pieces and serve immediately. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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