This cake is fluffy from egg whites and nutty, rich and aromatic from toasted almonds. It’s topped with fresh figs that are baked until they are glazed, syrupy and plump. The fresh mint is hard to place but it balances the sweetness of the cake and figs. I brought it to our friend Eric’s birthday picnic and everyone agreed that it tasted like a really fancy and delicious fig newton cake. It happens to be very easy to make and is a good cake to feed folks with certain kinds of dietary restrictions since it has no milk, butter, oil, gluten or egg yolks and uses fresh fruit instead of icing. PLUS it is a good way to use up frozen egg whites if you are the sort of person (like me) who makes chocolate pudding, lemon curd and the occasional batch of super rich yolk only homemade mayonnaise.
I know that I have posted a lot of fig recipes lately. Figs are in season… really at this point they won’t be around much longer. The good news is that even if you have missed the perfect, peak of season figs… even if you can only find the straggling under or overripe figs… they will work in this cake. Baking the figs ripens them and concentrates their flavour the same way that slow roasting under-ripe tomatoes does. Baking figs makes them extra fancy and luxurious, the same way that half drying plums in the oven does. I am a big fan of this technique. I do tomatoes and plums slowly at a low temperature, but figs work well if roasted quickly at a high temp.
MARZIPAN CAKE WITH BAKED FIGS AND MINT
loosely based on a hazelnut cake recipe from How To Eat by Nigella Lawson (great cookbook!)
- 2 cups of almond meal ( you can buy it ready-made or grind up blanched almonds yourself)
- 1/2 pint of fresh figs (or make extra!)
- A tiny splash of mild oil
- a sprinkle of granulated sugar (optional)
- 1 and 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 8 egg whites (preferably at room temperature)
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup flour (I used Jeanne’s gluten-free flour mix, but this is such a tiny amount of flour that I suspect equal parts rice flour and some sort of starch such as tapioca, arrowroot, corn or even potato would work as well)
- about a half cup of chopped fresh mint or more to taste
- Toast the almond meal over very low heat in a dry skillet, turning frequently… OR spread the almond meal out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at a very low heat, turning frequently. Allow the toasted meal to cool while you bake the figs.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse and stem the figs. Slice the figs in half lengthwise and lay them cut side up on a baking sheet. Splash a bit of mild oil in the palm of your hands and use your fingers to touch each of the figs with a tiny bit of oil. If your figs are a bit under-ripe you may want to sprinkle some granulated sugar on them.
- Bake the figs for about 15 minutes or until they are glazed and have released syrupy liquid. Allow them to cool while you bake the cake.
- Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Use butter or shortening to grease an 8 or 9 inch spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
- Combine the toasted almond meal with the confectioners sugar and lemon zest in a bowl.
- In a separate, large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. An electric mixer is useful if you have one.
- Carefully fold the nut mixture into the egg whites to just combine them.
- Sift the flour into the batter while folding to incorporate. It is okay if this cake is a bit flat. it does not need to be lofty like angel food cake.
- Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and bake for an hour. Let the cake cool down a bit before un-molding it.
- Toss the Figs and all their glazed juices with the fresh mint. Just before serving, arrange the figs in an attractive manner on top of the cake.