Friday, August 13, 2010
Chocolate Spice Cake with Figs
I got my first basket of fresh figs of the season and I immediately had this urge to try them with some rich chocolate cake. Maybe it was something about their beautiful dark purple hue that seemed to call out to the world of dark chocolate. So I found myself wanting to combine the bright fruity flavor of fresh figs along with the earthy depth and acidity of cocoa. To make a good union even better, I invited some spices to liven up the pairing. The result is a deliciously moist and satisfying dark chocolate cake. I think anyone who loves these ingredients on their own will undoubtedly enjoy this particular synchronicity.
I originally intended to finish the cake with a gooey chocolate glaze but at the last minute decided to keep the cake simple and unadorned. I wanted the gorgeous fruit and the complexity of the spices to take center stage, so this is a very dressed down cake but a beauty nonetheless.
I’m excited to finally see beautiful fresh figs in the market. It seems like their arrival is very late this year but I’m really looking forward to having them on my table for a good long while.
- I used undutched cocoa powder and extra virgin olive oil for the cake. Canola oil can certainly be used instead.
- Contrary to popular belief, allspice isn’t a blend of lots of different spices. It’s actually the sun dried unripened berry of the Pimenta dioica plant. It likely got its name because it seems to suggest the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and cloves.
- I sliced off the bottoms of the fresh figs because I wanted them to stand up in the cake and then I cut them in half so the centers baked into the cake. Some of them decided to recline.
- This recipe will make 9 large or 12 modest servings. I was going for pure simplicity so didn’t think it needed any sort of garnish or partner.
- This is the season for great fig pastries and desserts! If you enjoy figs, you may also want to try Olive Oil Cake with Fig and Orange Honey Compote, Fig & Goat Cheese Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Blue Cheese Cookies with Fresh Fig Jam, Provençal Sundae, Saffron Ice Cream with Figs and Orange Gastrique, or a simple but sublime Fresh Fig Raspberry Galette.
Chocolate Spice Cake with Figs
9 to 12 servings
1 1/2 C cake flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t allspice
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 C + 1 T cocoa powder
1/2 C + 1 T hot water
1/4 C + 2 T oil
3/4 C dark brown sugar
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C + 2 T buttermilk
1 1/2 t vanilla
8 fresh figs
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9” square cake pan with oil and parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides to make removing the baked cake a bit easier.
Slice off the bottoms of the figs and then slice them in half. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Whisk the cocoa and hot water together until thoroughly blended and smooth.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla.
Whisk together the oil and the sugars. Add the eggs and blend well. Whisk in the cocoa mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan and gently tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface to remove any air bubbles. Submerge the fig halves into the cake.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick tests with a few moist crumbs adhering. Cool 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and gently lift out the cake. Cool completely.