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.
Tahini, a thick sesame paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, is my go to ingredient for when I want to add a deep, nutty and slightly bitter flavour to a dish. I don’t usually think of incorporating tahini into my baking (for some unknown reason), and more often than not I’ll just pop it into baba ganoush, add it into a yoghurt dressing or drizzle it neat over slow cooked lamb and roasted roots to balance out a sweet date syrup glaze. This being said, yesterday I fancied making some cookies (someone put a stop to my wild and spontaneous lifestyle please…) and decided to bring tahini into the mix alongside sea salt and rich dark chocolate- the major players in my cookie game. The resulting cookies are absolutely delicious with a good balance of sweet, savoury, nutty and salty flavours; one hundred percent give the recipe a go, it’s a real winner.
110g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
150g dark brown soft sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp sea salt
300g plain flour
300g coarsely chopped dark chocolate, plus 50g extra for decoration (optional)
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Place the butter, tahini and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mix curdles or you’re worried about curdling, add 2tbsp of the flour with each egg.
Once the eggs are well incorporated add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour then mix to combine. Finally, add in the coarsely chopped chocolate and very briefly mix once more just to distribute through the dough.
Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then line even balls onto the prepared trays leaving room for spreading (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are turning a light golden colour but the middles are still very soft (they will firm up during cooling).
To finish the cookies melt the additional dark chocolate and drizzle over the tops, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
This cake is super easy to bake and is great if you’re looking to experiment with different flavours; the cardamom adds a distinct hum of spice to the light sponge which pairs really well with the earthy pistachios and super sweet white chocolate topping.
For the cake:
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
375g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
100g chopped pistachios
For the topping:
150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160 (fan). Generously grease a bundt in with butter then sprinkle over some flour. Shake to coat the edges completely then tip out any excess (this should ensure that the cake doesn’t stick).
Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk (or a stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition (add a little bit of the flour each time if you’re worried about curdling!).
Once the eggs are fully incorporated and you have a smooth mixture, add the (remaining) flour, baking powder, salt milk, and cardamom. Whisk until light and well combined.
Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
When your cake is ready a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Once cooked, rest for 5 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
Once your cake and topping have cooled you’re ready to decorate. To do this drizzle the white chocolate over the bundt and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals for a simple but elegant finish.