At last we approach fig season- one of my absolute favourite fruits, and so synonymous with Middle Eastern cuisine that it would be wrong to incorporate them into a bake which didn’t boast nuts, heady spices or sweet floral flavours; of course this cake contains all three, making it one of my favourite recipes I’ve posted on here to date. It’s not too sweet, nor is the icing too heavy, just a well balanced, flavoursome bake with flavours which work beautifully together. I hope you enjoy.
For the cakes
100g chopped dried figs
zest and juice 1 orange
2-3tbsp rose water
250g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
400g grated carrot
225g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
large pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 heaped tsp ground cardamom
1tsp mixed spice
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
For the icing
300ml double cream
200g cream cheese
2-3tbsp rose water
50g chopped pistachios
1tbsp dried rose petals
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
Roughly chop the figs and discard the stalks. Tip into a bowl and add the orange juice and rose water. Leave to soak until required.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and both sugars until pale and thick. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a small amount of the flour with each egg to prevent curdling).
Stir through the grated carrot and soaked figs (along with any juice the figs haven’t absorbed). Mix together the dry ingredients and pistachios and fold through the batter until no streaks of flour remain.
Split the batter between the prepared tins and level off. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Let the cakes sit in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, place the cream, cream cheese, honey and rose water in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until pipe-able. Adjust the levels of sweetness and rose flavour to taste.
Once the cakes have cooled down, slice them in half horizontally, leaving you with 4 equal layers. Pile the rose and honey cream into a piping bag with round nozzle. Place the first layer onto a serving plate and pipe little mounds all over the surface, then top with the next layer. Repeat until all the cream mixture is used up, then sprinkle rose petals and pistachios over the top and arrange the figs in an attractive way, if using.
I know I’m getting a few months ahead of myself by posting a fig recipe (usually they come into season around late July), but when I saw some particularly plump, dark looking figs in my local fresh produce shop, I couldn’t help but cook them up with some delicious accompaniments. You could recreate this super simple recipe using any seasonal fruit- rhubarb, greengage or peach would work particularly well.
Ingredients (serves 6)
400ml Greek yoghurt
3tbsp runny honey
2tsp rose water
10-12 ripe figs
Few sprigs thyme
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Place the yoghurt, 1tbsp of the honey and the rose water in a bowl. Mix together then transfer to a muslin cloth and tie up the corners. Sit this in a sieve over a bowl for at least 24 hours (refrigerated).
After 24 hours the liquid will have drained from the yoghurt, leaving you with a thick, smooth labneh.
Once the labneh is ready, prepare the other elements of your dessert. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper. Slice the figs into either halves or quarters (depending on your visual preference!) and spread out on the tray (cut side up). Drizzle with the remaining 2tbsp honey and sprinkle over the sumac. Roughly break the thyme into the tray too.
Roast the figs for 20-25 minutes until very tender and sticky. While the figs are cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured, then roughly chop.
To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the labneh onto your dessert plates and arrange some fig pieces on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds and lastly, garnish with some thyme, if you like.
Ripe, pink fleshed figs are one of my very favourite fruits and pair brilliantly with so many other ingredients, from goats cheese and honey to cured hams and walnuts. In this cake I have used dried figs soaked in tea ( a method commonly used with dates to make sticky toffee pudding) to flavour the spiced sponge, then added a salty sweetness with the caramel drizzle and finished it off with a tangy mascarpone cheese icing, earthy pistachio praline and slices of fresh fig. Though the finished cake makes for a really beautiful centre piece, you could also enjoy it as a warm pudding with the salted caramel and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For the sponge:
300g dried figs, chopped
325ml hot black tea
185g soft butter
275g light brown soft sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
375g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch black pepper
For the salted caramel (this is a sort of cheats caramel- a bit like butterscotch sauce):
50g golden syrup
50g light brown soft sugar
50ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the pistachio praline:
150g caster sugar
200g shelled pistachios
For the mascarpone icing:
300ml double cream
3-4tbsp icing sugar
fresh figs and herbs
Preheat the oven to 170c fan (325F/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep square tin (around 22x22cm).
Place the chopped dry figs in a bowl or jug and pour over the hot tea. Leave to infuse while you start making the cake batter.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar along with the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Once the eggs are incorporated, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. Fold until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined then tip in your soaked figs (along with the tea) and fold once more.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
While your cake is baking, make the salted caramel. To do this simply pop the butter, syrup, sugar and cream in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat, add the salt to taste and leave to cool.
Next, make the pistachio praline topping. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar starts melting. Swirl the pan occasionally to coat the pistachios and prevent burning. Once the sugar has completely melted increase the heat and turn the pistachios with a wooden spoon until the caramel reaches a deep golden colour, then tip onto the prepared tray and leave to set hard.
Lastly, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until you have a spreadable (but not overly whipped) consistency.
Once your cake is baked, prick lots of holes all over the surface and pour on about 2/3 of the salted caramel, allowing it to sink into the sponge. Leave to cool in the tin.
When your cake is completely cool you’re ready to decorate. Spread the mascarpone icing in an even layer all over the top and sides (or just the top if you like, it’s up to you!) and smooth with a palette knife. Use the remaining cooled caramel to drizzle down the sides then crush up the praline and sprinkle around the edges. Arrange the fresh fig slices on top and add some woody herbs (such as rosemary) for colour.