LUCY BURDETTE: The good news last week was that when our flight was cancelled by the storm, we were in Rome. The bad news is that if you're worried about your home and your pets and your friends and family, it doesn't matter how great the place is. Once we learned that our house was still standing, we tried to make the best of enjoying the city. Romans do amazing things with desserts--look at these cakes that we found in the window of a little bakery.
When I met with my writers group this summer, the host served cappuccino and fresh figs--he and his wife have a strong Italian heritage. Oh my, they were delicious--simply cut in half and eaten alone. The only figs we ate growing up were in Fig Newtons--one of my dad's favorite cookies but not mine! When I lived in Gainesville, FL, for four years in a former life, my ex and I had an enormous fig tree in our back yard. The criminal fact is: I don't remember eating them or cooking with them. I would kill for that tree now!
So when I saw a small box of fresh figs in our local store, Bishop's Orchards, I could not resist trying to create something the Romans might make. I surfed around looking for the right recipe and found one I liked in Yummly. I tweaked away, cutting some sugar, and changing full fat milk to 1%, and adding white whole wheat flour. (Let's not kid ourselves, it still has a lot of butter in it. But for a special treat, delicious!)
Ingredients for Upside Down Fig Cake
12-14 or so fresh figs (mine came in a half-pint container)
12 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup 1% milk
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch cake pan, bottom and sides. (I used some of the butter above, figuring there's plenty in the recipe already!) Cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of the pan, put it in the bottom and butter that too.
Wash the figs. Cut off the stems and cut them in half lengthwise.
Melt 4 oz of butter in a small pan. Add the honey and brown sugar and heat until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and then place the figs into the pan, cut side down. You can make whatever design you choose, circles seems to be traditional. And I cut some of the figs into quarters at the end to fit them all in.
Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in one bowl and measure milk into a glass measuring cup. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar and vanilla with a mixer until they are light in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. On low speed, add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk until everything is mixed nicely.
Pour the batter over the figs and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let the cake rest on a rack for an hour. Then place your serving plate over the top and gently invert the cake onto the platter. Mine slid out beautifully, leaving the parchment paper in the pan.
Serve warm, maybe with ice cream or whipped cream, if you really need to gild the lily:). We found that it was utterly delicious on its own.
And here's hoping that everyone who was left cold, dark, or even homeless by Sandy will soon be back in their homes, eating cake!
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, most recently DEATH IN FOUR COURSES. You can read more about the books at her website, or follow her on twitter, or like her on facebook!