since it’s supposedly turning to fall weather (if you call 90 degrees fall) i wanted to make a dessert to use up the figs that keep popping up everywhere. i’ve been on an italian food kick lately, and anything by the hazan family is really doing it for me right now. in that spirit of flavors, here’s my version of dorie greenspan’s “fig cake for fall.” i would argue that the stoneground white cornmeal i used, as well as the local honey, and local figs makes this more of a southern cake than an italian one, but who can argue with the great ms. greenspan? not me. also, since i wasn’t about to go buy ruby port for one recipe, i used tart cherry juice. not quite the same, but close enough.
a fig cake for fall-ish
3/4 cup tart cherry juice
1 cup honey, divided
2 thin slices lemon
16 – 20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the figs and sauce:
stir the port and 1/2 cup of honey together in a small saucepan. toss in the lemon slices and bring to a boil over medium heat. lower the heat, add the figs, cover the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the figs are soft. using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a bowl. raise the heat and cook the poaching liquid until thickened. set the sauce aside. i poured the sauce through a mesh strainer before setting aside, because i’m not a huge fan of seedy sauces. or seedy people.
for the cake:
preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. butter a 9-inch springform pan, add a round of parchment paper and butter and dust the insides with flour, tapping out the excess. (i used a regular nine inch cake pan with no issues, but the parchment paper was a huge help. just flip it out onto a rack when cool, and flip back onto a plate.)
whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. put the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. add the butter. beat butter and sugar together until creamy. add the eggs one by one, beating for one minute in between each. pour in the remaining 1/2 cup honey, add the vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes. reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. this step only took about 30 seconds to make a thick batter. pour the batter into the prepared pan. jiggle the pan from side to side to spread the batter evenly, then scatter the poached figs over the top.
bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. run a blunt knife around the edges and remove the sides of the pan. cool the cake to slightly warm or to room temperature before serving it with the sauce.