I’m not a planner. I am a little more of a dreamer. For me, planning consists of randomly thinking about something until it does or does not happen. The seeds for today’s recipe were sown weeks ago when I tasted the most amazing plum upside down cake I could have ever imagined. The cake was soft and moist, the fruit was delicious and fresh tasting and it came with a subtly sweet fluff of whipped cream. It was the kind of thing that makes music in your mouth. A couple of weeks ago, I made a sourdough coffee cake. The cake came out tender and moist and reminded me of the upside down cake I had previously. I started to think about how that sourdough cake could be changed into an upside down cake. I kept bumping into upside down cake as I traveled through the internet and as I studied the recipes, I was beginning to get an understanding for a dessert I’ve never made before. Fall arrived and with it the citrus and figs. I’ve been eating figs like crazy and adding them to everything from yogurt to pizza. Why not cake?
Today I made that imaginary upside down cake. It was a triumph! Although the caramel was dark brown and the figs were almost black, making the cake rather bland looking and annoyingly un-photogenic, the flavor was wonderful. Tender cake topped by a chewy rich caramel that fell somewhere in consistency between a sauce and candy. The fruit became candied. As you eat this marvelous cake, bites of chewy fig eventually give way to a surprise edging of candied orange.
As I handed a slice to someone I love, I said “this is like the best Fig Newton you’ll ever eat”. He took a bite and exclaimed, “I’ve had a Fig Newton and this is no Fig Newton!” with a big happy grin on his face. Make this cake for someone you love today.
To see more adventures in baking please go to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast.
Fig and orange upside down cake
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup honey
½ cup sourdough starter (mine was fed the night before)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
10 figs, sliced into ¼” slices
½ of an orange, sliced thinly in rounds and then cut into thirds, rectangular middle pieces discarded
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.
In a large bowl, Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse crumbs. In another bowl, mix the honey, egg, starter, vanilla and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Butter a 9” spring form pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a 10” round. Place parchment into the buttered pan, pressing down and making sure paper overhang sticks to the sides of the pan.
Over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Melt butter, stirring. After the butter is melted, continue to cook the caramel mixture for another minute or two. The sugar will not look entirely melted or caramelized. Pour the caramel into the spring form pan making sure to spread it evenly over the parchment paper. Arrange orange slices decoratively in one layer around the edge of the pan. Arrange the figs in circular layers to fill the rest of the surface of the caramel. Be aware that the cut sides of the figs should face down. If you are working with an end slice make sure the skin side is up. Pour the batter over the fruit. The batter is very thick, be careful not to disturb the fruit design you so carefully constructed when you spread the batter out. Make sure the batter covers all of the fruit and reaches to the edges of the pan.
Bake the cake for 35 – 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Loosen the spring form and put a plate over the pan. Invert the cake onto the plate. Remove the pan and parchment paper. If any of the fruit dislodged itself during this process, use it to patch the cake back up.