Anyone who has a fruiting fig tree will confirm that they can be overwhelmingly abundant. Not too many people mind this problem.
When the figs start ripening on our tree, it winds up being a free-for-all competition to see who will get the most between ourselves, the birds, and these ginormous insects known as figeater beetles. Though they are a rather pretty iridescent green color, they live up to their name, often leaving large chew marks in the sides of otherwise perfect fruit.
I suspect that even our resident foxes that occasionally pass through our yard get in on the action. I’ve seen droppings that have a suspiciously high quantity of seeds in them that look just like fig seeds. Bet you didn’t know that foxes are omnivores, now did you?
In the end, there is plenty to go around. Figs continue to produce as long as it is warm enough, which for us means through October. By the time the supply dwindles we will have a nice stockpile of dried and frozen fruits to enjoy till the following summer, and that’s after we’ve had our fill of fresh ones right off the tree.
Even so, one of the best ways to enjoy the summer harvest of fresh figs at any time of the year is in baked goods. In this cake, a slightly generous dose of brown sugar and butter come together to create a syrupy layer of deliciousness that dribbles down from the figs and into the cake itself. It’s moist, tender, sweet without being overwhelming, which makes it a perfect companion for your morning coffee. It has fruit. It’s healthy.
Some quick notes before you begin:
Either fresh or frozen figs may be used, but not dried (sorry). If you are starting with frozen figs, place them in the pan in the same manner as for fresh, but allow them to defrost a little before pouring the batter over them. You will also need to increase your baking time by at least five minutes, maybe more.
Be gentle when mixing in the flour and the milk. Resist the temptation to use an electric mixer to combine these ingredients. Doing so will cause the gluten in the flour to toughen, which means a tough cake. If you have holes or tunnels in your baked goods (excluding yeast breads), this is why. Don’t be proud of cakes and muffins that act like memory foam.
I almost always use salted butter for baking. Yes, I know that the quantity of salt can vary a bit from one brand to the next, but usually not enough to be noticeable in a recipe. If you use unsalted butter, be sure to add 1/4 teaspoon to balance out the sweetness in the cake.
Fig Upside Down Cake Recipe
For the fig layer:
- 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 10 – 12 figs, cut in half
For the cake:
- 1 cup all purpose flour (measure by fluffing the flour with a whisk and gently scooping it into the measuring cup)
- 3/4 cup cake flour (measure the same way as the all purpose)
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a 9 inch round cake pan, or an 8 x 8 inch square cake pan, put the melted butter and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar. Mix together and smooth the mixture evenly. Place the fig halves, cut side down, into the pan. Fit as many as you can without them overlapping. Set the pan aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and spices. Whisk them all together and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until light in color and fluffy looking. Add in the brown sugar and honey and continue to beat until well combined. Add in the eggs and beat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very fluffy. Don’t worry if it appears that liquid is separating from the butter mixture after you stop beating.
Scoop about 1/3 of the flour mixture and sprinkle it over the butter mixture. Gently fold it in with a spatula (see a video of the technique here). Add about 1/3 of the milk and gently mix in. Repeat the adding of flour and milk and gently folding two more times until all is mixed together.
Spoon the batter over the figs and smooth it to cover the surface. Try to fill in the gaps between the figs, but don’t worry about it too much. It will settle in as it bakes. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake is pulled out clean. The surface should be a slightly dark golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to rest for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin spatula if needed. Then place a platter over the pan, and carefully holding both, flip the cake over onto the platter. The cake should drop out of the pan on it’s own. If any part sticks to the bottom, just carefully scoop it off and stick it to the surface of the cake. It will taste the same. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!