Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
Figs that fell off the branch or did not reach full ripeness during the summer need not be wasted. They can be used in cakes, tarts, and a number of other dishes, both sweet and savory.
Fig and Almond Cake
For an 8-inch cake, plus 9 cup cakes:
• 2 cups skin-on almonds • 4 eggs, separated
• 1 cup sugar • 1/4 cup light olive oil or sunflower oil
• 1 teaspoon baking powder • 1/4 cup brandy, and more to sprinkle on the topping
• 2 cups mashed fresh, or semi-cooked fig jam (recipe follows) • 1/2 cup cake or all purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3-4 fresh figs thinly sliced, for topping
Lemon syrup (optional)
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for about 8 minutes, until they start to color. Grind them coarsely. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F.
In a bowl mix the egg yolks and sugar, keeping a teaspoon for topping the cakes. Work the mixture with a hand-held mixer until it gets white and creamy. Add oil, 1/4 cup brandy, and the mashed figs and work 30 seconds more, to mix.
In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, almonds, and salt.
Clean the mixer attachments and dry them completely. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add half the flour-almond mixture to the egg yolks, stirring with a spatula to incorporate. Then add the rest. Now pour this mixture into the egg whites, folding them in with a large spatula.
Line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper and pour in 2/3 of the cake batter.
Place paper cups in a 9-cup muffin tin, and divide the rest of the batter between them. Place some fig slices on top of the cake and muffins, sprinkling them with drops of brandy and a little sugar.
Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, and the cake 10-15 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack before unmolding.
If you are using the syrup, heat the lemon juice over low heat, add the honey, and stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat. Prick the surface of the cake or muffins with a toothpick and douse with syrup while still warm.
Serve with vanilla or mastic-scented ice cream.