This lovely, not-too-sweet-cake is inspired by my new home, and the fig tree growing next to my back porch. It’s not a fancy cake, there is no icing to make or spread. The flavor comes from fresh figs. Some are chopped and added to the batter and the remainder are cooked down into a light jam and spread between the layers. The result is a moist, light cake which is slightly remniscent of a Fig Newton in taste (although not in consistancy).
September is almost over and Fall is upon us.
While I miss the already cold nights of my home in the mountains, there is much to learn and enjoy in my new home in Charlotte. Our house is nearly furnished. The insistant tasks of unpacking and reaaranging have given way to the more pleasureable activiries of exploring the garden and our neighborhood. We have a good sized lot, especially for a city lot. It once was heavily wooded but the previous owners cleared a large lawn for their dogs, creating a blank slate for me to work with. The first step is to spend some time seeing what treasures are out there.
Along the left fence there are some raised beds. When we looked at the house before we bought it, the beds were carefully tended. Tomato plants were staked and a trellis of cucumbers was flourishing, There were a number of other plants just starting to grow and I anticipated inheriting a summer harvest. Upon our arrival however, the tomato plants were gone as were the cucmbers and the trellis. The beds are overgrown with zinnas (planted to discourage aphids) and all that remains are some Italian sweet peppers and a few spindly eggplants.
Over on the right side of the garden, against the house, there is a true treasure: a healthy and abundant fig tree!
Fig trees are one of my favorite plants. They ask little of you, growing in full sun or in a slightly shaded area. They don’t need watering unless it’s a long spell without rain. And they produce fresh figs! You will find Mission figs in the supermarkets, but I prefer the common garden fig. In every home I have had since I returned to North Carolina I have found a fig tree. I use the figs in salads, on cheese platters (both sliced and in the form of jam) and I like to bake them into muffins and cakes.
Tomorrow, our children and grandchildren are coming for a Sunday barbecue. Time to get baking!
Start the cake.
Beat butter and sugar together until it is as light and creamy as it can be. Then beat it a little longer! 5 minutes are least.
Add an egg and keep on beating–another 2-3 minutes.
Stir some flour together with baking powder and salt. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter then a third of a cup of half and half. Repeat this twice more until you have added all the flour and a cup of half and half.
Finally fold in some vanilla, a little almond extract and chopped figs.
Pour the batter into two 8″ pans and bake until the center springs back when touched and it pulls away from the sides of the pan, 25-30 minutes. Cool the cake layers completely befoe assembling the cake.
While the cake is baking, make some fig jam out of fresh figs, brown sugar, a little water and some lemon juice. Put everything in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.
The jam is done when you can run a spoon through it and it doesn’t fill back in.
Let it cool.
When you are ready assemble the cake by placing almost all of the jam on top of one layer and spreading it right out to the edges.
Top it with the second layer and pile the remaining jam on top. I finished mine with some almonds just for the added crunch. It’s entirely optional.
FRESH FIG CAKE WITH FIG JAM
FOR THE CAKE
- ¼ c butter room temperature
- 1 c sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 c flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c Half & Half
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 1 c chopped fresh figs
FOR THE FIG JAM
- 2 c chopped fresh figs
- ¼ c brown sugar packed
- ¼ c water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
MAKE THE CAKE
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8” round cake pans with baking spray.
- Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat it for at least 5 minutes at high speed, until it is very light and creamy. Stop and scrap the bottom of the bowl at least once.
- Add the egg and continue to beat for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 c half and half. Mix together then add half of the remaining flour and another 1/3 c of half and half. Stir this in and then add the remaining flour and last 1/3 c of cream.
- Fold in the vanilla, almond extract, and the fresh figs.
- Divide the batter equally into the prepared cake pans. Bake in the oven 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes in the tins and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
MAKE THE FIG JAM
- While the cake is baking, make the fig jam.
- Place all of the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the jam is thick. It should stay separated in the pan when a spoon is stirred through it.
- Let the jam cool completely
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
- Place one layer of the cooled cake on a cake plate. Top with all but ½ cup of the jam.
- Spread the jam across the cake and to the edges. Top with the second layer.
- Pile the remaining jam on top of the cake. Garnish with a few almonds if desired.