And yes – I am calling it festive because of the red and green jimmies. When last I made this neat little take on tradition, I followed the recipe pretty closely – from starting with a boxed spice cake mix to serving the finished cake with brandied fruit and hard sauce – and it was a fine addition to our Thanksgiving dessert table.
Then I found a recipe for making cake mixes from scratch on Allrecipes.com, and thought I’d try it again.
For Thanksgiving, I will confess that there was more batter than my chosen cake mold could hold, so I chucked the extra. This time; I counted on the fact that this rich, dense, espresso-soaked cake has a long shelf-life (a week on the counter, wrapped in plastic) and made two cakes – one in my Fleur di Lis mold, the second in a tart pan – for Christmas in Indiana and our New Year’s Day Open House. I stashed the tightly wrapped tart-pan cake in the freezer, just in case, and am happy to report that it came out still moist and rich and more than tasty.
•1 lb dried figs, stems removed
(about three cups)
•1-3/4 cup water
•2-1/3 cups flour
•1 tbsp baking powder
•3/4 tsp salt
•1-1/2 cup sugar
•1 tsp cinnamon
•1/4 tsp ground cloves
•1/4 tsp ground ginger
•1/2 cup shortening
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
•1/2 cup brewed espresso
•1/4 cup honey
•1 cup butter, softened
Add the water to the figs in a pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and chop well – or – add half the boiled figs to a blender and chop, then do the same to the second half.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and spices – I cheated and ran them all through the food processor before I chopped the figs, worked a treat.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine – you will still have a kind of dry and crumbly batter.
Add the chopped figs and the toasted walnuts and stir to combine – NOW we’re talkin’ batter!
Butter and flour your cake mold(s) or pans – I like to ‘paint’ mine with a mixture of equal parts cooking oil, flour, and solid shortening using a basting brush; the cakes will come out cleanly from just about any pan, and you don’t normally get those splotchy white spots from clumps of flour.
Turn the batter into your prepared pans and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Set the cake(s) on a rack over a rimmed pan and poke holes all over with a long-tined fork.
Spoon the espresso over the cake(s) and allow to cool to room temperature – you will end up with a lovely, dark cake.
You can serve the cake as is – dusted with a bit of confectioners’ sugar just before serving and with a bit of hard sauce (the butter whipped with the honey) on the side, which is what we had for Christmas.
OR – you can choose to frost it, as I did for New Year. I used my everyday vanilla icing: beat 1 cup of Crisco until light and fluffy – about 10 minutes – then stir in 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1-1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/8 tsp salt and beat for another 5 minutes. This is surprisingly good, and will keep indefinitely.
Once properly frosted, I topped my cake with red and green jimmies in honor of the day and set it out for folk to enjoy – which they did. If you have any left over, just cover carefully with plastic wrap and you’re good for at least another couple of days.
The hard sauce was good – but I believe frosting (and, of course, those festive jimmies) may be the way to go in the future.