Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fig & Anise Cake

While I'm partial to filling and frosting and finishing - nothing triggers do-it-yourselfery for me like an unadorned cake - sometimes, it's best to leave well alone. Just reading the recipe from Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker, all figgy and aniseedy goodness, was enough to instill the conviction that practising a little restraint would be in order - a cake of such savours wants for nothing. Unadorned it stands, and gloriously so.

OK...I did cheat a little by varnishing with a simple glaze of strained preserves. But in my lily gilder's defense, the preserves were fig preserves, which surely serve to heighten figginess, thus serving a function other than purely ornamental.

Below, an adaptation of the recipe - I tossed in a handful of pine nuts, added a splash of Armagnac, and omitted the anise extract as I didn't have any handy. Also, I baked the batter in a 8 x 3-inch round cake pan, so the baking time took longer than the 55 minutes to 1 hour specified for a 9 x 4-inch Bundt pan. For the original recipe and intructions, do look up the lovely book - there's plenty here to inspire and inform.

Simple in look, spectacular in flavour, it's equally good at breakfast with coffee or with afternoon tea. And, unsurprisingly, a post-prandial nip of Armagnac.

Fig & Anise Cake
Adapted from Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker
Makes one 8-inch round cake

290 gm cake flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
1 Tbsp double action baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
3 Tbsp anise seeds
75 gm pine nuts
100 gm dried figs (I used sun-dried Black Mission ones), coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp Armagnac
250 gm unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
340 gm caster sugar
5 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven. Preheat oven to

Grease a 8 x 3-inch round cake pan with a little softened unsalted butter. Dust pan with a little cake flour, shaking out any excess. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add the anise seeds and pine nuts, tossing together well. Set the bowl of dry ingredients aside.

In a small bowl, toss the chopped dried figs and Armagnac together. Set aside.

Place the softened unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the caster sugar in a gradual stream, creaming together well, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula.

Add the eggs one at a time to the butter-and-sugar mixture, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Beat until smooth. Add the vanilla bean paste and blend well.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the chopped figs (together with their soaking liquid), dividing the flour mixture into 3 parts and the figs into 2 parts, and starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake pan. Use the silicone spatula to smooth and even the top. Bake for 1 hour and 15 to 25 minutes; after the first 45 minutes, cover the cake with a piece of aluminum foil if the top is browning too rapidly. The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center emerges clean.

Remove pan from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and leave for a few moments so the cake drops out of the pan. Remove the pan and let cake cool completely.

If desired, finish with a dusting of icing sugar, or brush on a glaze simply made by heating some sieved preserves (fig or apricot would work).


Blogger Parisbreakfasts said...

It's nice to be able to post tomorrow today..
I love the inside cut of this cake Joycelyn (sounds like "I love the cut of your jib")
That too..

4:26 am, May 31, 2007  
Blogger Pille said...

It's nice to have a recipe for one of your beautiful creations! The cake combines ingredients I've never combined in a cake before, so this is going to be very intersting..

1:15 pm, May 31, 2007  
Blogger monica said...

This cake looks absolutely beautiful! Figs are my most favorite food, and I'm delighted to see it in a glorious cake. Thank You!

1:47 pm, May 31, 2007  
Blogger Anitha said...

Oh. My. Gawd.

I just recently tried my first ever dried fig and it was love at first bite. Will most certainly try this recipe out!

3:15 pm, May 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some days ago I bought some anise seeds and was wondering how to employ them.. here we have, a super recipe. Thanks!

4:19 pm, May 31, 2007  
Blogger Pink of Perfection said...

I love that beautiful etched wine glass!

11:28 pm, May 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gorgeous as usual.I agree, some cakes taste best when left alone. Actually those are the one I choose because of my non-existent frosting abilities...

By they way, I tagged you for the thinking blogger meme...not sure if you've been tagged yet but ...

Thinking blogger

2:51 am, June 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your delicious Fig & Anise Cake recipe, could we publish it on our
Daily Recipe Blog?

We have every day a new recipe for: General recipes, Breakfast, Low Carb, Low Fat, Desert...
It would be so great to add yours!

3:50 am, June 01, 2007  
Blogger Sylvia said...

You cake is super, I love the two ingredients,anis and figs.Cassully, yesterday, I made a salad whith fresh figs.Very elegant you blog ,whith amazing photos.

11:06 pm, June 01, 2007  
Blogger Amrita said...

Lovely! I love how the cake looks frosted in the first picture, when in actual fact, it isn't! Simplicity is best!

10:29 am, June 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!
Can I ask you a question? I am always amazed as how your cakes leave the pans without loosing one crumble? do you grease and flour them? or is there a special secret you would share with us ;-)?
Vienna, Austria

5:26 pm, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Jen said...

I absolutely adore anything with figs, and to pair it with aniseed sound simply delicious.
And I also love all your beautiful styling and props, I must build up a collection like yours!

8:41 pm, June 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi! i was wondering where you get such beautiful cake stands? i can't seem to find any in singapore! =(

5:58 pm, June 10, 2007  
Blogger *kel said...

Hey, Curious to know where you normally shop for food? I wonder if one can get all these ingredients in Singapore. I'm now in Amsterdam but will probable live in Singapore end of the year for about a year...


10:49 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Shaun said...

Jocelyn - This is an impressive cake marrying so many of my favorite things (anise seeds, figs, and armagnac). I'm surprised I didn't try to make a recipe myself integrating these fine ingredients, but I suppose I don't have to now that you have provided a perfect one to follow. The cake looks both dense and moist. Thanks for pointing the finger towards Carole Bloom's book.

12:48 am, August 11, 2007  

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