Fresh fig and cardamom cake

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If I told you I don’t think about food much, would you believe me? No? I didn’t think you would. So this will come as no surprise that when I eventually fell into bed few seconds after Mr A last night and laid there listening to him fall asleep, my head filled with food related thoughts. As my mind wondered off, I remembered the fresh figs that were sitting in the kitchen, all ripe, juicy and sweet. I thought I was going to have them as part of laid back breakfast but then cardamom sprung up in my thoughts and there was no going back. Fresh figs and cardamom cake was firmly in my head, soft and tangy with buttermilk, crisp and crunchy with toasted almonds and pearl sugar. So guess what I did this morning…

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With both children asleep, rain pounding on the roof, comfy pjs still on and nowhere to be, my last day of holiday felt very luxurious indeed. I wanted an easy, throw together cake that was as laid back as I was feeling this morning So this soft, best eaten whilst still warm cake reflects that state of mind. It is a “don’t take me too seriously” bake and perfectly happy in a hot oven for an hour meaning you get to snuggle up with a cup of coffee, flick through a magazine and enjoy a moment of rare solitude. To further discard the formality of a cake and get rid of having to line a tin, this one is baked in a pie dish instead. Who’s with me?

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The cake begins with figs halves scattered on the top but as it bakes and rises, the dough envelops them meaning they remain baked and soft without burning. You could of course dice the figs more finely so that they will remain on the surface but I prefer them sunk thus protected from burning. The dough is soft and moist with a distinctive buttermilk tang cutting through the sweetness of the fruit. Freshly ground cardamom makes it fragrant with its warm and spicy aromatics. I always use cardamom pods and grind them myself in a pestle and mortar – so you get to have a little work out too, bonus! Toasted flaked almonds and pearl sugar add texture and crunch. You could serve it with some cream but I love it simply covered in a cloud of icing sugar and honey sweetened mint tea alongside it. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 170 grams of caster sugar
  • 170 grams of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground cardamom, see note below
  • 190 grams of plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 120 ml of buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp of almond essence
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 6 fresh figs
  • 3 tbsp of flaked almonds
  • pearl or coarse sugar
  • icing sugar to serve with

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Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a deep pie dish and place aside.

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar (retaining one tbsp behind for cardamom) until pale and fluffy. Add to it the egg and 1 tbsp of flour – this will help to stop the mixture from curdling. Whisk it all together until the egg has been incorporated.

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Place seeds from 8 cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar. Add the left over 1 tbsp of sugar and grind both ingredients until fine powder. Inevitably you will have some larger flecks but that is fine. Add all of it to the main mixture and beat it until combined.

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Now add the flour, baking powder, buttermilk and the essences and give it a mix until combined. You want the flour to be incorporated without any lumps remaining – once you achieve this, stop mixing. This cake definitely benefits from minimum handling.

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The dough will be soft and fluffy and smelling amazing. Transfer it into the prepared pie dish and spread evenly. Cut off the storks from the figs and cut the fruit into halves. Lay the halves on top of the dough, gently pressing them in. No need for any pattern but if it’s difficult for you to let go, be my guest. I totally get it.

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Scatter the surface with the flaked almonds and add generous handfuls of pearl / coarse sugar. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.

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Check by inserting a skewer to see if it comes out clean. The cake might need further 15 minutes or so and if you notice the edges are beginning to turn dark, cover it with some foil. Check again and if the skewer comes out clean, the cake is baked. Remove it from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

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Whilst the cake is still warm, cover it in a generous cloud of icing sugar and serve by cutting portions with a large spoon. Don’t bother with a knife as it will not slice easily without crumbling and collapsing. Perfect. Enjoy x

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