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.

Bench notes:
- 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
2 eggs
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.


Kaylie Rose said...

I recently made your lemon semolina jam cake and it was AWESOME! now I can not wait to try this one. Its a little hot out to turn on the oven, but perhaps next week. thank you!

pastry studio said...

Kaylie Rose, I'm so glad you enjoyed that cake! I think it's a terrific example of how good a simple cake can be.

test it comm said...

Filling a chocolate cake with figs sounds so good!

Lucie said...

I love how you assembled the figs in the cake! The combination with chocolate sounds great. I'm on a fig kick as well--frangipane fig tart for tonight!

Pauline said...

Mmm, this sounds so deliciously spicy and warming and tasty. I love the moist look and brown color of spice cakes, and yours is augmented by the cocoa. The addition of fresh figs is a nice touch. I've had one gingerbread that I believe had fig ground up and interspersed in the batter, which I think unifies the whole cake better than chunks of figs, if you every want to try that. Great treat, thanks for posting!

Ben David said...

Wow - I am just now harvesting figs for the first time from my garden - a real experience for a transplanted New Englander!

I will definitely try this - it looks like a perfect way to use the smaller fruits.

I have another chocolate spice cake recipe that uses date paste. Similar synergy of fruity/spicy, and it stays moist.

Anonymous said...

I adore figs, can't wait to get my hands on some. The spicing of this cake seems perfect. I also love how it's a "dressed down" cake, as you say. The outer beauty of the chocolate with the cute little stems poking through the surface are all this cake needs.

~Kurious Kitteh

Kathleen said...

Must make this cake!! Have cocoa, need figs and buttermilk.


anna said...

I love how simple and gorgeous this cake is! I haven't put figs and chocolate together before but I may just have to try it when I can get some figs...usually I just eat them raw within a day or two.

foodintandem said...

Wow, first of all, I love your blog :)
And, I really like figs so I think this cake would be great for me.
It's funny because my aunt always makes chocolate cakes with different fruits so I'm going to tell her to add figs next time :)
What occasions do you recommend to make it for?
oh and, do you suggest any other fruits instead of figs?


pastry studio said...

Thank you, foodintandem!

This is a pretty simple cake, so it would do for an informal dessert, brunch treat or afternoon snack cake. I think any berry or cherries would also be good or plain with no fruit at all or maybe a nut topping. In any case, I hope you enjoy.

Unknown said...

I just served this cake at a work picnic potluck and it was delicious! It was also very easy to make. I didn't have allspice, so I took your nod and increased the nutmeg, added a little ground clove, and some fresh ground black pepper. I dusted my cake with powdered sugar and served with a scoop of vanilla icecream! Yum!

pastry studio said...

Thanks for your wonderful feedback, Cameron! So glad you and your co-workers enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

I just used this recipe on my food blog too! It's delicious.

pastry studio said...

Thank you said she, said he. Glad you enjoyed it. It's one of my favorite cakes!