sticky fig cake
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The problem with those upside down cakes is that you just never know what you’re going to get. It’s like a box of chocolates. It’s the opposite to what you see is what you get. It’s a surprise, surprise! for people who hate surprises.
The advantage is solving the soggy bottom problem – the bottom is the top. Ditto the sinkage-to-the-bottom issue. Plus the fruit gets cooked jammy and nice; hence the original upsider was Tatin, with apples – notoriously hard and raw when baked atop a cake.
The drawbacks – where to begin? The fruit may not cook enough because you don’t know what’s happening down there. Or to the contrary – it may be desperately burning there and you’ll never know, but for the smell. The sticky business – when the cake will cling to the bottom of the tin by the whole might of the fruit – may be resolved by springform and parchment. But there’s no fun of looking into the oven during the baking process and no control over the baking cake which for a control freak like me is seriously frustrating.
The moment of truth when inverting the cake is not very often the ‘ahhh…’, but rather the ‘arghhh!’. The fruit looks melted, and not in a good way. Nothing got caramelised against all hope and the common first impression is about how it should have been baked upside up after all. Plus a crack appears after a short while because the fruit topping expands having landed on top.
Truth be told though, this is an exceedingly nice cake, all in all. The figs get sticky and melt into the almond layer; and if they don’t look quite as appealing as I was hoping – well, the proof of the pudding and all that.
- For the cake:
- 100ml (2/3 cup) milk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g (1½ cup) light soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 230g (3 cups) plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 130g (1¾ stick) butter, melted
- For the topping:
- 25g (2 tbsp.) butter, melted
- 3 tbsp. Demerara sugar
- 3 tbsp. almond flakes
- 8 - 12 ripe figs, depending on size
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Butter and line with parchment a round 23cm (9in) tin – if it’s loose-bottomed, line the whole tin with foil, then with parchment, so the fruit juice doesn’t leak. Melt the butter for the cake and the topping. Leave to cool.
Toast the almond flakes until golden. Mix all the topping ingredients in a bowl, then spread at the bottom of the prepared tin.
Mix the milk with the vanilla extract. In a bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder. Place the sugar and eggs in another, large bowl or a standing mixer bowl and beat until fluffy, a little paler and increased in volume. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Add a third of the flour and mix in on low speed, then add a third of the milk, mixing continuously. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk are used up. Mix in the melted butter, adding it in a slow stream.
Wash, stem and vertically halve the figs; and place them cut side down on the topping in the tin. Pour over the cake mix and shake the tin gently to get rid of the air bubbles.
Bake for about 1 - 1 ¼ hour until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, and the surface springs back when pressed.
Cool in the tin for 30 minutes. Turn over onto a wire rack, remove the parchment and serve warm or cooled completely. The surface may crack when the cake is turned over but it won’t affect the taste in the slightest.