The summer of 2016 is the summer when I learned to love figs. Thanks to some friends who have a huge fig tree that produces the sweetest fruits, I’ve been lucky to have an abundance of figs to eat on their own and to use in baked goods. The latest fig-themed dessert to come out of my oven is a Fig and Almond Cake. This hearty but delicate cake perfumed with almond extract is nutty, tender, and barely sweet. Figs are scattered on top of the cake batter and sprinkled with a bit of sugar to caramelize in the oven. The cake is best eaten the day that it’s baked as it tends to get mushy pretty quickly because of the moisture from the figs.
If you want to learn a little more about figs, check out this article on how figs get pollinated. A bit of a warning though, the details are a bit of a horror movie, and depending on how easily grossed out your are, you may never want to eat a fig again. So remember, you’ve been warned.
Gorgeous figs from a friend’s tree
The cake comes out looking beautiful with figs scattered over the top of the cake batter [even though I put my figs “wrong side” (cut side down ) up].
Fig and Almond Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
(from NYT Cooking)
4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup natural raw almonds (not blanched)
¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon almond extract
12 to 14 ripe figs
- Heat the oven to 375° F.
- Butter or spray a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan (I used one with a removable bottom, and that helped ensure that the cake stayed intact when I removed the outside of the pan); set aside.
- Put almonds and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and grind to a coarse powder. The finer you ground the almonds, the less crunchy the cake will be.
- Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; pulse to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, honey, and almond extract.
- Add the dry ingredients (the almond mixture) to the wet ingredients, and stir together until batter is just mixed (don’t overmix).
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Remove the stem from each fig, and cut the fig in half.
- Arrange the fig halves cut-side up over the batter. Don’t leave a large space between figs as they will shrink when they bake. It’s OK if the figs are touching each other.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the figs.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden outside and dry at center when probed with a cake tester.
- Cool before serving.
Note: This cake is best when eaten on the day that it’s baked.
When I moved to my house almost a year ago, my yard was mainly grass and concrete. One of the first things I did was plant some fruit trees (peach, plum, and nectarine). In the meantime while I try to patiently wait another year until my trees yield fruit, I get an extra jolt of excitement when friends surprise me with fruit from their mature fruit trees. The latest food gift was 2 pounds of ripe, sweet black figs from a 20 year old tree. I don’t usually bake with figs, but this unexpected gift inspired me to make Fig Bars topped with a pecan crumble. Somehow the soft, buttery bottom crust manages to support a thick, juicy layer of fig jam while the nutty, sweet pecan crumble provides a bit of crunch and holds everything in place. That said, this is one of those recipes where if you love figs, you’ll absolutely love this recipe, but if you’re just mildly into figs, this one might be fig overkill for you.
Fig Bars with Pecan Crumble
Makes one 8×8 inch pan
(adapted from Fine Cooking)
Crust and Crumb Topping
2 oz. (1/2 cup) pecans
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lb. very ripe figs, stems removed, unpeeled
1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 Tbs. lemon juice; more or less to taste
Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8×8-inch baking dish by lining it with parchment paper or lightly grease.
Crust and Crumb Topping
- In a food processor, grind the pecans with 2 Tbs. of the sugar until fine; remove and set aside.
- Put the flour, the remaining 1/4 cup white sugar, the brown sugar, salt, and baking powder in the food processor and process until blended.
- Add the butter to the food processor and process until the mixture looks crumbly.
- Add the egg yolk and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is wet and clumping, about 30-40 seconds (it won’t form a ball).
- Pack two-thirds of the dough into an ungreased 8×8-inch baking dish; set aside the other one-third of the dough.
- Bake until the dough is lightly browned and keeps a slight indentation when you press it lightly, about 15-25 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, coarsely chop the figs.
- Put the chopped figs in a nonreactive skillet with the sugar, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices have reduced and the fruit is tender and thick, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon zest, add the lemon juice to taste, and set aside. Note: If not using right away, refrigerate in a closed container. This fig jam keeps for weeks, so if you like, make it well ahead of time.
Assembling the Fig Bars
- In a mixing bowl, crumble together the remaining dough with the reserved pecan and sugar mixture.
- Gently spread the fig jam on top of the baked crust.
- Sprinkle the dough mixture over the filling. The top will look crumbly.
- Bake until browned on top, about 25-35 minutes.
- Cool completely before cutting into bars 1-1/2 inches square.
Note: The bars keep well for about a day or two. They’ll get a bit too mushy and soggy after that.