Figs are showy fruit.
They can’t help themselves. Even the plainest, drabbest fig will reveal a scarlet belly, flecked with shimmering seeds, once you take a bite. Whether they’re sliced or halved, arranged in a tart shell, on a crostini or just on a plate, there are few visions more enticing. This is why most fig recipes put the fruit front and center, so you can admire its fleshy beauty before you gobble it up.
It follows that chopping fresh figs and folding them into cake batter is not something you usually see, but that’s exactly what happens in this recipe for fig cake. It turns out to be an excellent idea.
Most fig cakes rely on fig jam or dried figs for flavor. What you don’t get is the lusciousness of fresh fruit.
Not here. In this recipe, the fresh figs melt into the batter as the cake bakes, sweetening it and adding moisture, while imparting a deeply rich, fruity taste. There’s still fig jam to accentuate the sweetness, while spices — cinnamon, ginger and cardamom — give the cake an autumnal, almost carrot-cake-like appeal that’s underscored by the cream-cheese frosting swirled on top.
I fiddled with his recipe just a bit, changing the spices and adding honey to the cream cheese frosting. The honey gives the frosting more depth than usual. If you can’t get fresh figs, you could substitute chopped apple in the batter. The cake won’t be as deeply figgy, but it will still be just as sweet.