Ever since the first of September, I’ve been noticing beautiful figs at the market. There are many different colors and varieties sold here in Berkeley. I made fig jam back in June from the first harvest of figs which tasted delicately floral. I still have a frozen half-pint waiting to be scooped onto toast or swirled into my morning yogurt. With this second harvest, I wanted to try something different.
I’ve always loved the combination of almonds and figs. It must be something about the nutty almond flavor which pairs well with the subtle sweetness of figs.
“What’s up with all the almond flour”, you ask? I love almond flour because of its delicious flavor and obvious health benefits. It is one of my favorite nuts. You will find it as a common ingredient in many of my recipes. However, the main reason I use it in abundance is because it is the only nut that my little girl, Aleena who has a tree nut allergy, can safely eat.
This past year, she outgrew her allergy to almonds, a big victory for our family. Which meant that yes, we could eat almonds again. It also meant, that we MUST eat almonds again! You see, when your body fights a host of foods and considers them poison, the foods that were once an allergen, now tolerable, must be eaten at least three times a week. If not eaten, there is a risk of developing it as an allergen again. In addition to whole and slivered almonds, we eat almond butter and incorporate almond flour into many of our foods.
Since Aleena is allergic to all other tree nuts, we purchase our almonds from an almond only facility in an effort to minimize the risk of cross contamination. Luckily, Barney Butter is one of the few facilities that offers a wide range of almond only products. I stock up and order online at http://www.barneybutter.com. We eat our way through most of our supply and store the rest in our freezer. We feel so incredibly grateful that a facility like Barney Butter exists. Our little monkey is grateful too, happily eating her way through anything almond related.
Originally, I tried making this as a quick bread. I mixed grated apple & dates through the almond/spelt flour batter and placed fresh figs on top. It was a beautiful bread but something about the shape of the loaf pan combined with multiple moist ingredients left the bread unevenly cooked in parts. Even though I believe dates, apples and figs are a nice combination, I wanted to simplify the recipe so that you could really taste the flavors of these sensational fresh figs.
So for my second attempt, I decided to tweak a classic David Tanis recipe for Fig and Almond Cake from NYT cooking, http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014976-fig-and-almond-cake. The bread, now a cake is made in a fluted tart pan or pie pan. This cake is made with olive oil instead of butter. I simply adore olive oil cakes because they are easy to make and I love the fruity flavor imparted by olive oil.
In keeping with my quick bread theme, I changed the all-purpose flour to spelt . I love spelt paired with the ingredients here because I think that spelt flour adds to the cake’s rustic charm. Plus, it’s healthier and easier to digest than traditional white flour. I also added ground cardamom which accentuates the flavors from the fresh figs. Instead of almond extract, I used vanilla. Fresh lemon zest is crumbled into the sugar, creating a lemon sugar which really amps up the overall flavor.
The cake is lightly sweetened with a combination of organic cane sugar and honey. A sprinkle of turbinado sugar on the tops of each fig helps to caramelize them as they bake. And a light sprinkle of crushed, slivered almonds adds some texture. I used a combination of Kadota and Black Mission figs although you could solely use Black Mission. I just couldn’t resist the variety of colors at the market.
Lastly, in an effort to save time and cleanup, instead of grinding a cup of almonds, which the original recipe called for, I simply used 1 1/4 cup of almond flour. This worked perfectly. As you can see, not much remains of the original recipe but somehow this cake comes together. This is the beauty of a recipe, use it as your framework, creatively tweaking as you go until it becomes your own.
I hope you enjoy this cake. It is visually pleasing and deliciously moist with jammy pockets of fig in every bite. Most important, it is very easy to make and perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast/ brunch, dessert or as a snack with tea or coffee.
Fig Almond Cake
Vegetarian, Sesame-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free
Serving: One 9-inch cake
- 1 1/4 c almond flour
- 1/4 c spelt flour
- 1/4 c organic cane sugar
- turbinado sugar for sprinkling tops of figs
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, beaten one at a time
- 4 tbl olive oil
- 1 tbl honey (I used orange blossom honey)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp crushed slivered almonds for scattering on top
- 12-14 ripe figs, any variety
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan by greasing sides and bottom with butter or oil.
In a small bowl, add organic cane sugar. Using a microplane, zest lemon. Crumble zest and sugar together with fingers until combined, creating lemon sugar. This process helps release the natural oils from the zest, increasing flavor. Set aside.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk in lemon zest/sugar mixture. Set aside.
In a separate medium size mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, olive oil, honey and vanilla extract. Add the almond flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth. Pour and spread batter evenly into pan.
Remove stems from figs. Cut in half and arrange fig halves, closely together cut side up, on top of batter. Sprinkle each fig with turbinado sugar. Sprinkle cake with crushed slivered almonds.
Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown on outside and dry at center when a toothpick is inserted. Don’t worry, this cake is meant to be golden brown. My cake was done at 24 minutes. You may need more or less baking time, just keep an eye on it as all ovens cook at different speeds.
If using a fluted tart pan, bake on a sheet pan for easier handling. Cool for 20 minutes. If desired, dust with powdered sugar on top, whipped cream or coconut cream on the side. It also tastes great with creme fraiche or a drizzle of yogurt.