Is anyone out there as happy as I am to see fresh figs at the market? When I spotted them during my last shopping trip, I quickly grabbed a dozen or so without a recipe in mind. But this is the beauty of figs–they are so versatile. They pair well with salty charcuterie as appetizers and are especially wonderful preserved. In fact, one of my major goals this year is to make my own fig jam. I just need to get over my fear of canning. Until then, simpler preparations will have to do. Instead of jam, let’s have some cake to welcome the start of fig season.
During our trip to the South of France last year, one of the prettier vistas to appeal to my foodie sensibilities was the row of fig trees lining a section of the promenade at St. Jean Cap Ferrat. They stood proudly on the concrete walkway, a narrow divide between the Cote d’Azur and the über luxurious villas that are out of reach for a mere mortal like me. I can only imagine the beauty within the walls of these villas but at least the blue water welcomed me each day I stepped in it. As an added bonus, I was able to pick a couple of figs and taste them at their freshest.
This simple cake is humble and unpretentious. It is the sort you might find served in a small restaurant in a quaint village. The restaurant owner’s wife or mother might have baked one like it in the morning to serve as the sweet of the day. I’ve been to places like this and the tarts or cakes sitting on the back counter of the restaurant would always assure me that we’ve selected the right place to dine. This cake highlights the freshness of the figs with simple ingredients: eggs, butter, olive oil and sugar. It is moist and not too sweet, complementing the mellow flavor of the delicate fruit.
I’m very selective of recipes that I strongly encourage you to try but this is one of them. Grab some fresh figs and make this cake soon–you’ll be happy you did.
Fresh Fig Cake
* Adapted from Patricia Wells’ Winemaker’s Grape Cake in At Home in Provence
- Butter and flour for the cake pan
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- Zest of one lemon
- 10 ounces chopped fresh figs
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, making sure to tap out the excess flour. Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick and a pale-yellow color, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, vanilla extract and mix until blended.
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the lemon zest with a whisk. Spoon the mixture into the other bowl with the batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix it once again. Let the mixture rest for 1o minutes to give the flour time to absorb the liquid.
- Stir 3/4 of the figs into the batter then transfer to the pan. Place the pan in the center rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, arrange the rest of the figs on top of the cake and bake until the top is a deep golden brown. This will take another 35 – 40 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then run a knife along the sides of the pan and release. Leave the cake on the pan base and let cool to room temperature before serving.