Figs are little juicy bundles of floral sweetness that are a special treat at this time of year. This ancient fruit was widely consumed in the Middle East and Mediterranean (remember there Garden of Eden?), then made its way to North America. Beautiful fig trees do well in temperate climates, which means they are quite seasonal right now in the Mid-Atlantic, and are abundant in my local markets!
Figs pair well with so many flavors, but some of my favorite pairings are orange, nutmeg, and Amaretto. Figs caramelize better than most fruits and are sinfully rich bathed in butter and brown sugar, making them perfect for upside-down cake. The caramel melts into the cake creates a beautiful crust. This recipe is easier to execute than it may seem! Serve warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for a special treat.
A well seasoned 10" cast iron or steel pan
15 fresh figs (about 2 pints), stemmed, and cut in half lengthwise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto liquor, divided
1 cup unbleached cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 large whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup whole buttermilk
2/3 cups sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, slightly beat the eggs and egg yolks. Beat in the cane sugar, almond extract, and orange zest. Lastly gently beat in the buttermilk until smooth- do not let it become frothy. Stir in the dry ingredients 1/4 cup at a time, until all of the flour has been incorporated and you have a smooth batter. Set aside.
4. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and brush a little of it around the inside of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar into the bottom of the pan. Using a wooden spoon, stir the butter and brown sugar together until the sugar starts to melt. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the Amaretto and continue to stir until the ‘caramel’ turns slightly darker - about 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
5. Arrange the figs cut side down in the hot pan with the caramel. You can make a spiral, star, or even a free form pattern. Just make sure the entire bottom of the pan is covered but don't pack so tightly that cake batter can't reach the bottom of the pan.
6. Pour the cake batter over the figs in the pan, making sure to cover the entire circumference.
7. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the cake bubbles in the pan and springs back to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven. With a toothpick, poke several holes into the cake and drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of Amaretto. Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, hold a plate firmly on top of the pan, then quickly flip over the pan. The cake should come right out!
8. Serve this cake warm - it is best served immediately but will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.