Here in Los Angeles, I’m seeing fresh figs everywhere – tis the season.
I usually prepare figs in a number of savory dishes – usually appetizers and salads, but I wanted to do something sweet and interesting. I’ve also gotten a bit obsessed with baking recently – probably as I’m writing a book, and baking is not only a great procrastinating activity, but it’s also very soothing & therapeutic after a hard day at the computer.
I used an Italian Olive Oil and Lemon Cake as the base of this recipe and adapted it to include juicy junks of fresh fig. I’ve always loved an olive oil cake because I love the slightly unusual fruity and familiar taste of an oil that I use almost everyday – also because I LOVE to not use butter whenever possible – not because I think it’s unhealthy, but more because I don’t want my thighs expanding with my suddenly rather sedentary lifestyle (the writing prohibits my usual 90 minute yoga classes and hikes up the canyon.) This is a dairy-free cake, but made with a 5 eggs. The egg whites are what makes the sponge beautifully light.
Fresh Fig & Lemon Cake
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 unbleached flour
5 egg yolks
4 egg whites
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh figs, chopped
Confectioners sugar for dusting.
Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust oven rack to middle position. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with oil, line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper and oil it.
Grate the lemon zest and mix with flour.
In an electric mixer and large bowl, beat yolks and 1/2 cup sugar at high speed until thick and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and add 3/4 cup olive oil and the lemon juice, beating until combined. Fold it into flour mixture with a metal spoon until well combined.
Whisk the egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt on high speed until foamy. Continue whisking and slowly add 1/4 cup sugar until egg whites hold soft peaks.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Gently is the operative word because “folding” is all about getting air into the batter. If you just mix it in, all the air bubbles in the egg whites are crushed, so be very gentle here! Very gently fold in the figs.
Pour the batter into the pan and release air bubbles by gently tapping pan against work surface. Evenly sprinkle 1tbsp tablespoon of sugar over the top of the batter. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes. When done, a toothpick should come out clean and the top will be gently browned.
Run a knife around the edges of the pan and allow the cake to cool to room temperature before turning the pan upside down onto a wire rack.
This cake is as perfect as a cake gets for me: not too sweet (I hate cloying sweet,) and yet each mouthful will include a piece of sweet baked fig. The figs tend to sink to the bottom resulting in a kind of upside-down cake effect, although you won’t serve it upside down. I served it both for dessert and as an afternoon treat. My daughter was horrified at the idea of an “olive oil” cake, but when she tried it ….yuuuuuuuuuumie!
I recommending serving it as a dessert with a generous dollop of Creme Fraiche. If you are serving it as a little treat to go with your coffee or tea, make sure you use a fork, as it’s not a particularly firm cake.