Fig and Ginger Upside Down Cake is elegant. But it’s also a lot easier to make than it looks.
Remember my Cast Iron Orange Olive Oil Upside Down Cake? Same basic idea, but with a figgy and gingery top that is like a grown-up version of Fig Newton filling. It sits on a moist and addictive bottom that could be called a ginger sour cream pound cake.
Fresh figs are lovely. Slightly soft when ripe, they have a flavor that lingers in a good way. They can go savory, as in fig appetizers with balsamic cream. And they’re delicious in sweet desserts. Although I typically have to use dried figs in my Sephardic charoset, I’d love to add fresh ones to the mixture if I could find them at Passover-time too.
In my daydreams, I imagine how fun it would be to grow figs and pick them off my tree. But of course, that’s not happening. First of all, I’m no gardener. Any fantasies I have about harvesting fresh figs or vegetables, is just that – pure whimsy. I can barely grow herbs. Anyway, I don’t think figs grow well in the mid-Atlantic climate.
Relying on store-bought means I get them only when they’re in stores. Around here, I can find them in late summer and early fall. So when Coleen decided that figs would be the theme for our September Progressive Eats, I ran right out to get some for my fig adventure. That enthusiasm taught me a good lesson – fresh figs are delicate. They don’t last long. Word to the wise – buy fresh figs just a few days before you are going to use them. Otherwise, as you start your mise en place for this recipe, you’ll find yourself running back to the store (as I did) to buy replacements for the figs that no longer look picture perfect.
Back to this Fig and Ginger Upside Down Cake. There are numerous variations on the upside down cake theme. I decided that mine should be easy to do in a traditional (not a springform) pan, with a moist, rich cake bottom. And because I am rather obsessed by ginger, especially crystallized or candied ginger, I added that ginger to both the topping and the cake. Although it contains both orange juice and zest, you probably won’t be able to distinguish which citrus fruit is in the cake. Instead, it simply adds a bright note and complexity to the taste of this fig-centered dessert.
Although the traditional upside down cake topping is granulated sugar with lots of butter, I decided to avoid the hassle of caramelizing the sugar. Instead I used brown sugar, less butter, a bit of orange juice and added powdered ginger for a slightly spicy finish. The result is tangy, and less sticky/sweet than the traditional granulated sugar topping. My topping uses the sugar and butter proportions from Abby Dodge’s pineapple upside down cake. You’ll find that others use same proportions, but I first found them in Abby’s recipe and she’s one of my baking mentors.
For the base, I did a riff on the caramelized fig upside down cake from Broma Bakery. However, mine uses less vanilla, adds crystallized (candied) ginger and slightly increased the orange zest. Plus I didn’t use a springform pan.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Each recipe in our menu this month features figs and our host this month is Coleen who blogs at The Redhead Baker.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. Each month the host choses the theme and we share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party. You can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious summer dishes!
- Honey Fig Whiskey Sour from The Redhead Baker
- Fig, Prosciutto, Goat Cheese Pizza from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Fig Jam and Brie Crostini Appetizer from Creative Culinary
- Fig & Salami Bruschetta from The Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine
- Fig and Fennel Sourdough from Karen’s Ktichen Stories
- Fig and Cranberry Rice Pilaf from The Heritage Cook
- Fig and Ginger Upside Down Cake from Mother Would Know (you’re here!)
Fig and Ginger Upside Down Cake
This variation on upside down cake has a fresh fig and ginger topping on a moist, rich, yellow cake studded with candied ginger. A taste treat that is elegant enough for dinner parties and excellent as a breakfast cake too.
Fig and Ginger Topping
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 13-15 fresh figs, stems removed, cut in half length-wise (About 12 ounces)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 & 1/2 cups flour
- 1-2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2/3 cup crystallized (candied) ginger, finely chopped (About 3.9 ounces or 110 grams)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan with sides at least 2-inches high.
Fig and Ginger Topping
Pour the melted butter into a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar, dried ginger and orange juice. Cook, stirring, under low-medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Starting at the center of the pan, place a half of a fig, cut-side down. Place more halves around that one (also cut-side down), and a second circle. Try to place the halves close together so they won't move, but do not overlap them. Set the pan aside.
Cream the butter and sugars together for several minutes until they are light and fluffy. A stand mixer with the paddle attachment is the easiest way to cream, but you can use a hand held, or even do it without a mixer.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine. Then add the sour cream, milk and vanilla, also mixing to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, orange zest, baking powder and salt. Then add the chopped crystallized ginger and mix until combined. In 2-3 batches, add the dry mixture to the wet one, mixing just until there is no dry mixture visible. The batter will be thick.
Using a spoon or spatula, add dollops of the batter to the pan with the topping, making sure not to move the figs or mix the topping and the cake batter. Gently smooth the batter on the top so that it is even.
Bake for 60-70 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake rest on a cake rack undisturbed for 10 minutes. Then slide a sharp knife around the edge and place a platter on top of the cake. Quickly and firmly turn the cake upside down. If it does not release, or you think it hasn't, gently rap on the cake pan then pull it up and off the cake.
Let the cake cool before cutting. Serve alone or with whipped cream or ice cream.
If a few figs adhere to the bottom of the pan when you turn it upside down, do not despair.
Just use two spoons to gently pull them off the pan and put them back on the cake. See, that's easy!