A Fig Cake for Fall
from "Baking - From my home to yours" by Dorie Greenspan
3/4 cup ruby port
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 yellow 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 tempereatur
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.
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust the insides with flour, tapping out the excess.
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 well after each addition. 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. 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.
I had to make some adjustments due to the fact that quite a few of the figs I bought Saturday mysteriously vanished until Sunday... I halved the recipe, and used a 7-inch springform pan. I had no Ruby Port, so I used "Brosek", a sweet, red dessert wine from Croatia (don't even think of comparing it to port - it's red, it's sweet, it's wine, that much they have in common) my parents gave me as a present for looking after their house and garden while they were away on vacation. It is just coincidence that they went to Croatia this year again.
Fiddling with a recipe not always works out, at least for an inexperienced baker like me. How much is 1 1/2 eggs? I used two medium-sized eggs, and the batter was just right. The cake turned out nice and moist, but I do not know if I like the texture of the poached and baked figs. They are a bit grainy. And the cake lacks spice, but I am not sure, which. Cinnamon? I don't think so. Hmm, I have to go and sample another piece...