How’s this for a way to ring in teh holiday season? Figs baked into a rich, spicy cake, drenched in espresso, and served with a brandied fruit and hard sauce.
For that matter, who knew that ‘hard sauce’ was butter whipped with a bit of honey?
That same, mis-filed, lost, and then found BH&G holiday cookery magazine that gave us Cranberry Peanut Bars last week, featured this tasty little bit of tradition as part of a ‘festive dinners’ feature, and I thought it just the thing to add to our Thanksgiving sweets assortment – the fact that it’ll keep up to a week, tightly wrapped in Saran, didn’t hurt from a timing standpoint, and I thought it might be nice to have a sweet that wasn’t too, ermmm, sweet.
Of course, it ALSO gave me the chance to use the wicked cool Fleur de Lis cake mold I got for my birthday – so how could I NOT take it out for a test spin?
•1 lb dried figs, stems removed
(about three cups)
•1-3/4 cup water
•1 spice cake mix
•1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
•1/2 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
•1/4 cup honey
•1 cup butter, softened
•3-1/2 cups water
•1/2 cup sugar
•2 cinnamon sticks
•2 medium apples, cored and quartered
•2 medium pears, cored and quartered
•2 cups dried apricot halves
(I used dates – 10, quartered and pitted)
•1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
•1/2 cup brandy
•1/3 cup honey
•2 tsp finely shredded lemon zest
First, the cake:
Heat oven to 350º and prepare your pan: instead of using a spray, or just butter and flour; I like to paint the pan with a thin paste made by combining equal parts flour, cooking oil, and shortening (think Crisco, tho’ softened butter would probably work).Works a treat, and saves me from saying naughty things when cakes come out of their fancy pans in pieces.
Place the stemmed figs and the water in a small sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside – still covered – for ten minutes. Pour into your food processor – fitted with the metal blade – and pulse to chop well; OR – run through your blender in two batches.
Make the cake mix as directed on the package, EXCEPT, use the chopped fig and water mixture in place of any water called for.
Stir in the nuts and pour the batter into your prepared cake pan – if you don’t have a cool fleur di lis pan, a bundt will work just fine.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center (or thickest part of the cake) comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove the cake from the pan.
Set the cake on a rack over a rimmed pan and prick all over with a long-tined fork (here’s another use for that meat carving fork in the back of the drawer).
Spoon the espresso over the cake and allow to cool to room temperature, then wrap tightly in Saran. You’re good for a week at room temp.
When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar over the top and cut with a serrated knife.
Lovely with whipped cream or mebbe a bit of vanilla ice cream, but the tradional accompaniments are a snap to put together, and pretty darned tasty, too.
To make the hard sauce, whip the butter with the honey (not too, too hard, huh?).
The brandied fruit is a bit more involved, but still pretty basic.
Combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot or skillet and stir together as you bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
Add the apples, return to boiling, and cook for three minutes.
Add the pears and cook for another four to five minutes, just until the pears are tender.
Remove from and save the liquid.
Divide the apples and pears, cherries and other fruit between two quart jars.
Combine the cooking liquid with the brandy, honey, and lemon peel and pour over the fruit. Add a cinnamon stick to each jar, cover, and stash in the fridge for up to two weeks.
And THAT, is, apparently, how you make a figgy pudding cake – so next time someone starts singing that song, you have no excuse not to be prepared.
Happy Merry, all!