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.
This deliciously refreshing tart is simpler to bake than you’d think, and it rounds off a summer lunch perfectly. A classic lemon and lime filling encased in sweet short pastry is always a crowd pleaser, but the basil added to this one balances the sharp citrus with a sweet aromatic flavour; a great twist on a much loved warm weather dessert.
For the pastry:
185g plain flour
90g caster sugar
90g cold, cubed butter
3 egg yolks
For the filling:
175g caster sugar
150ml lime juice
50ml lemon juice
zest 3 limes
zest 3 lemons
125ml double cream
large bunch basil
lemon and lime zest (fresh or candied)
First off, make the pastry (you could buy shortcrust pastry instead of making this special sweet variety yourself- if you do, just follow from step 2). The easiest way to do this is to place the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz together until a breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved (or rub together with your fingertips, handling as little as possible). Once you reach this stage, add in the egg yolks and blitz again, very briefly, until the mix just comes together to form large lumps. Tip the pastry out onto a clean surface and shape (again handling as little as possible) into a thin disc. Now wrap this pastry disc in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Very lightly grease a 22-24cm tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a floured surface to a little under 3mm thick. Line your tart case, using a ball of spare pastry to push right down into the corners. Run a knife around the top of the case to neaten the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
Fill your pastry-lined tart case with non-stick baking paper and baking beans then blind bake for 10-15 minutes (until the walls are set). Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is sandy and dry but not overly golden.
Now it’s time to make your filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150c. Place your eggs, sugar, zest, juice, cream and whole bunch of basil in a saucepan and leave off the heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes some scum will have formed on the surface; skim this off with a spoon then place the saucepan on a gentle heat. Warm until hot to the touch (not boiling), then sieve to remove the basil leaves and zest. Pour this filling into the prepared pastry case and bake for 15-25 minutes until the middle has a uniform and slight wobble when gently shaken.
Cool completely in the tin to allow the filling to fully set (this will take an hour or so) then remove carefully, slice up and serve. Decorate as desired and keep refrigerated once cool.
I’m a big fan of rhubarb (I’ve decided putting it in granita with lime zest is my favourite way to eat it- I’m sure that could be blitzed into a daiquiri of sorts as well… anyway I digress) and thought I’d take the last stems of the season to make some nutty frangipane tartlets. This recipe calls for pistachios and almonds in the frangipane to create an earthy flavour which I think pairs really well with the tart rhubarb.
For the pastry:125g plain flour, 70g butter, 1tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg yolk, 2tbsp cold water
For the rhubarb: 75g caster sugar, 100ml water, 2 stems rhubarb
For the frangipane: 50g butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 egg, 75g ground almonds, 75g shelled pistachios (blitzed until roughly ground), 1tbsp plain flour
To make the pastry, place the cold butter and plain flour in a food processor along with the salt and sugar. Blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs then whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add half this liquid to the crumbs and pulse until they start clumping together. If it still seems a little dry, add another teaspoon of the egg and briefly pulse again. As soon as the dough forms little lumps stop the machine and tip out the contents. Press together and shape roughly into a disc (don’t overwork). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease and flour four small (about 8cm) tart cases.
Once the pastry has firmed up a little, roll out to about 2-3mm thick. Line the tart cases, carefully using a little ball of spare pastry to get it right into the corners. Trim away any excess and chill again for 10 minutes.
For the rhubarb, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat then bring to the boil. Remove from the hob and add in the chopped rhubarb. Leave it to soften in the hot syrup until required.
Now it’s time to blind bake the tart cases. To do this just line the pastry cases with some baking paper and baking beans to ensure that the walls are supported. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a sandy consistency is achieved with no grey areas.
While the cases are baking make the frangipane. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and pulse to fully combine (this should take a few minutes). The final consistency should be smooth and creamy (remember, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a stand mixer, electric beaters or a wooden spoon!).
Now it’s time to assemble. Just place 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the frangipane into the tart cases, smooth out then top with some rhubarb pieces (don’t overfill, remember leave a little bit of room for expansion).
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Top with some white icing if you like and enjoy warm or cold with a big dollop of creme fraiche.