The past three days in Seattle have been stunners. Sunny for miles with deep blue skies– it finally feels like spring is here to stay. The entire population is outside, squinting and patting down pockets for sunscreen and dark glasses, sniffling from the crazy amounts of pollen blanketing everything, pink and shivering slightly (because it’s still not that warm) and generally enjoying life. I am with them. We walked for hours on Saturday, broken toe and all, just happy to be outside; even the dog was smiling. Sunday, the toe dictated a slow down and we had to cancel plans at the park, but I got all sorts of things done around the house. And so, mirroring real life, the effects on this humble blog of the gorgeous weekend were both positive and negative: not much writing (sorry) but lots of excited, inspired kitchen projects begun. My kombucha is FINALLY started, culturing away in the front kitchen, as is a gallon jar of sauerreuben (think sauerkraut, but with turnips, not cabbage). And I made a cake.
There’s nothing quite like a no-reason cake. I just felt like baking. I recently stumbled across the sweetest little cookbook called Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott, chock-full of the kind of recipes I lean toward: slightly old-fashioned, full of lemon, caramel, buttermilk and coconut and featuring a host of different dried fruits and jams. I marked so many pages. One recipe that caught my eye was the Ocracoke Island Fig Cake because it can be made with fresh or dehydrated figs or fig jam– and I had a jar of whole-fruit fig jam I have been plotting to use up for months. The book called for the cake to be made in a tube pan and finished with a buttermilk glaze; I don’t have a tube pan (gasp, I know), so I made a few adjustments and ended up with the prettiest little layer cake. The flavor is somewhere in the neighborhood of a carrot or spice cake: cinnamony and very moist, mostly thanks to the buttermilk. The fig is not a prevalent flavor but provides some sweetness, texture (I left mine in large chunks) and interest. I can’t wait to try making it with fresh or dehydrated fruit, and I think dates might be a great substitution or add-in. This is a fantastic cake. Enjoying a piece after dinner last night, I kept thinking that this might be a recipe I am known for: “Oh, and S is bringing her fig cake tonight…”
Fig Cake (adapted from Southern Cakes)
For the Cake:
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 c. grapeseed or canola oil
- 2 c. flour
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. salt (really)
- 1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 1 T. warm water
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. coarsely chopped figs or fig jam
For the Frosting:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 4 T. unsalted butter
- 2 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans and set aside.
With a whisk or hand blender, beat the eggs until they are frothy and light. Add the sugar and oil and continue beating until you have a thick, smooth batter. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; add half to the egg mixture and fold together with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Add the remaining flour mixture and the baking soda solution and stir to make a fairly smooth batter, then add in the figs and stir just until they are evenly distributed. Divide the batter between your two pans (I weigh the pans to get them as close as possible) and then bake for 25-30 mins. The cakes are done when they are golden brown and the top springs back when touched lightly; alternately, you can use the clean-skewer test.
Remove the cakes to wire racks and allow them to cool completely. When you are ready to assemble the cake, make the frosting: with a mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until it is light, then add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and whip until the frosting is creamy. Spread half on the bottom layer of the cake, cover with the second cake and spread the rest of the frosting on the top. I found that this amount of frosting was not enough to cover the sides of the cake, which was okay for me, but if you plan/want to cover the sides, consider a double recipe of frosting. Enjoy immediately; best at room temperature.