Although my cold is going away pretty quickly, I still decided to take it easy with exercise today, and just went for a long (2+ hours?) walk around the city. It was raining half of the time and sunny the other half, but I had my big golf umbrella with me (which, my boyfriend remembers to point out every time, is a deadly weapon in the hands of a clumsy person like me. The other day I somehow, accidentally, knocked down a traffic sign with it - luckily when no other people were in sight! - but today I mostly walked through more remote areas and was extra careful. I just hate the small, lightweight umbrellas that turn inside out in the slightest wind and hardly offer any protection at all - I think they are only good for days when the chance of rain is under 10 %). I actually like walking in the rain - obviously when wearing the right clothing and shoes - as there are less people around and the air is fresher. I walked one of my favorite routes today, through several parks, to the harbor and back by the waterfront.
I also saw the most amazing rainbow - but as it often happens, I was not in the ideal spot for a picture (in the middle of an ugly, busy street!), and it was fading away quickly.
It soon disappeared completely, as the sun went down.
Once home, I set to to work to bake yet another cake. One of our good friends had a birthday, and when asked if he had any wishes for his big day, he promptly requested a cake. The day before, I had found some fresh figs in a local grocery store. I first tasted fresh figs only a few years ago, when I was spending the summer in Southern California. I loved the texture and the taste - which was quite different from the dried figs I had had earlier - but whenever I have had fresh figs after that, they have never tasted quite the same. I'm not sure if it is because I haven't seen the same type of figs, if the ones I have had later have been at a different stage of ripeness, or if the taste has been affected by the long transport- or storage time - but they have tasted rather bland to me. This, combined with the high price of fresh figs here, is the reason I hardly ever buy them. This time, however, I saw this small basket of figs on discount, and since they looked just like the California figs, I just had to try them. They were quite good, but still far from the fresh-from-the-tree figs of Southern California - and so I reasoned it was ok to use them for baking. ;)
I had seen several intriguing recipes on blogs lately, most notably Monet's and Cara's. While trying to decide between the different recipes, I stumbled upon a third recipe - and, since I had all the ingredients on hand, settled on that one instead. The original recipe can be found here. Below is a veganized and slightly modified version:
Fresh Fig Cake
- 65 g (a little generous 1/4 c) vegan, heart-friendly margarine
- 1 c unrefined sugar
- 1/2 ripe banana
- 2 c spelt flour (or all purpose flour)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 c rice cream (other non-dairy cream or coconut milk would work, too)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 c figs, chopped
- 1/2 c nectarines, chopped (or all figs)
- 1/4 c packed brown sugar or muscovado sugar
- 1/4 c water
- 1 c figs, chopped
- 1 c nectarines, chopped (or all figs)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
In a large bowl, cream margarine and sugar together. Add the banana and beat well.
In a separate bowl (or in a sifter), combine the dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to the margarine mixture alternately with the rice cream. Fold in vanilla and almond extracts and the 1 cup of chopped fruit.
Pour the batter into prepared cake pan. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
To make the filling:
While the cake is cooking, combine the 2 cups of fruit, brown sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes.
When the cake is cool enough to handle, cut it into two layers, and spread the filling thinly between layers of cake and on top.
As I started making the filling, I also realized I was out of both lemons and lemon juice (I had used it all in my tea in the last few days) - ooops! Since the cake was already in the oven, I couldn't run out to buy any; so I settled on orange juice instead.
A few minutes later, the fruit mixture above had turned into this, and my kitchen was filled with the most amazing scent. I wish it always smelled like that!
As the nectarines didn't get all soft and mushy, I didn't get enough filling to spread between both, the cake layers and top - so I only spread it between the layers. Cooking the fruit longer or mashing/pureeing the nectarines might have solved the problem; but on the other hand, I think the chunks of fruit were a nice addition.
The cake was a big hit: both my boyfriend and the birthday boy proclaimed it as one of the best cakes they had ever tasted - if not the best. While I can't say that it was the best cake of my entire life, I liked it very much, too: the texture was nice and moist, you could really taste the fruit, and the filling was amazing (I had to stop myself from eating it by the spoon before I filled the cake!). I would definitely make this again - probably experimenting with different fruit or berries next time, seeing as I can only afford fresh figs once a year. ;)