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Even More Fanfare | Chocolate Fig Cake

Chocolate Fig Cake | Delightful CrumbThis week, the market was overflowing with figs. It was an abundance I can’t recall seeing before—big crates packed with fat figs at multiple stalls, ripe and bursting, water balloon skins no longer able to hold in the jammy centers. My favorite fig purveyor let me assemble my own boxes, a pretty simple offer that put me over the moon. I walked away with Green Ischia figs so ripe they’re about to split and plump Brown Turkey figs, too, plus a separate box of little, uniform Black Mission figs for baking.

When figs are at their ripest and freshest, you can’t do better than eating them out of hand. I love them best with goat cheese and honey, perhaps with good bread alongside. A more elevated version of the same thing is to top toast with ricotta and sliced figs, drizzled with honey and/or olive oil; an easier one is to split the fig in half with your fingers and add a spoonful of Greek yogurt, which is what I did when I got home from the market yesterday. The figs right now literally taste like jam, and I know I’m a broken record, but I am just as excited about them as ever.

One thing I love about figs is their dual harvest. They come around long enough for me to get excited, then slip away. When they’re back, it’s with even more fanfare. The second season is longer and, quite literally, more fruitful. It’s basically opposite of the experience we have with ramps and sour cherries, which are painfully fleeting. And for the rare tangible moment of abundance in a world where I’m so often tempted to linger on scarcity instead, I am grateful.

While I will continue insisting that figs are best fresh, I’m still compelled by each pretty picture of a fig cake I encounter. I haven’t yet found my ideal everyday fig cake, so please let me know if you have one up your sleeve (criteria here). I made Melissa Clark’s Figgy Demerara Snacking Cake last weekend, which was fantastic but calls for two dozen figs and bakes up into huge 18×13-inch rectangle. I loved having cake to share with my neighbors but can’t always afford two dozen figs, notwithstanding all of this talk of abundance. But if you have an over-productive tree, pick up Cook This Now—and/or call me.

So this weekend, I moved along to another recipe I’ve had bookmarked for years, which requires just half that quantity of fruit. This is basically a decadent brownie topped with sliced figs, which break down in the heat of the oven, forming jammy pockets and getting sticky syrupy goodness all over the top of the cake. I served it with brandy-spiked whipped cream, a show-stopping finale to a delightful dinner with friends.

Chocolate Fig Cake | Delightful Crumb

Chocolate Fig Cake

Adapted very slightly from Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine

This cake is basically a brownie topped with jammy pockets of baked figgy goodness, and it’s a delight. It’s also quite rich, so the whipped cream is a worthwhile accompaniment. Sweeten the cream only lightly, if at all, and flavor with brandy, bourbon or almond extract if you want to add some extra pizzazz. I baked this closer to 45 minutes, as I wanted the cake to be more or less cooked through. You could remove it much earlier if you want a more gooey dessert.

Makes one 8-inch cake, enough for 8 very reasonable servings

3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup (50 g) cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (250 g) cane sugar

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus more for the pan

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (85 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate

10-12 ounces (280-340 g) fresh figs, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, to serve (optional)

Whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and the sides of an 8-inch springform or cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter that as well. Dust the pan and paper with flour.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter at medium-low speed, then add the eggs and vanilla. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat the mixture until it lightens in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the pan, using an offset spatula to smooth the top. Arrange the sliced figs on top, covering the surface of the cake. It’s okay if they overlap a bit. Bake the cake until it is set but still slightly wiggly in the center, 35 to 45 minutes. You can remove the cake when it is less done if you want a gooey consistency, or bake until all but the very center is set.

Cool the cake and slice it into wedges, or spoon the warm cake into bowls. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and a dollop of whipped cream, if you like, just before serving.

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