I set out on a sojourn to a land of buttery delight and despite carefully preparing, found myself veered away from the course. You see, failure found me in my last few miles and insisted on chaperoning me the rest of the way. I grappled, determined to lose him especially with my destination in clear sight. I then met disappointment and worry and was held back with force, not allowing me to take any steps further. I’m surprised that a failed cake recipe would yield such emotions but this was being made for my family Eid gathering. Truth is, what was left of it tasted wonderful. So I sought after redemption and it has never been sweeter. Don’t these pouffy loaves say so?
When I made this cake for Eid and baked it in a Bundt pan, everything was progressing smoothly till I tried to remove it from the pan. It refused to budge. Tapping lightly on the counter quickly elevated to loud bangs. Gently prodding the sides to detach escalated to violently shoving shoving a plastic knife down to the very bottom. Nothing. Nada. I heard my heart clanking into the bundt pan fissures. Wincing, I began to pluck whatever I could and was faced with a massive mound of cake crumbs. Albeit, delicious cake crumbs. There was nothing I could do. The only reason I could think of was I should have stuck to greasing the bundt pan with old-fashioned butter and not the swanky silver supposedly all-butter spray can. I did take it home for Eid. Once the formal tier of guests had left after lunch, it was placed alongside tea. I had resolved not to try this recipe again. What changed my mind was watching them cousins come back to the table, scooping spoonfuls of cake crumbles into their bowls while holding their conversations. Next time around, I will stick to plain butter. Now I know what Betty was talking about.
You must have guessed that Orange is the star ingredient of this recipe. Grated zest is added directly to the batter. Freshly squeezed juice is used to make a scalding syrup poured over to penetrate and sweeten the cake crumb. And lastly, the dried figs added to this recipe are softened in more freshly squeezed orange juice. It may seem that this cake would have a deep citrusy flavour with all those layers but it is balanced perfectly with the addition of rich spices.
Baking without Cinnamon, in my kitchen, is impossible. I just have to add a pinch into whatever it is that is being made right before it goes in to the oven. The chill in the air made me yield a far more generous hand as I added Nutmeg and Cinnamon. I even added All-Spice which has more Nutmeg, Cassia (Cinnamon's sister), not-so-subtle Caraway, the heat of ginger, dried orange peels and a Jamaican pepper named Pimento which is what give All-Spice its name. Try slicing these loaves while warm and the aroma will teleport you through the alleys of a Spice Souk.
I first read about Maceration when Arva from I Live in A Frying Pan was experimenting with ice cream flavours this summer and she soaked fresh Rutab dates in orange juice. Ever since I read this, I wanted to try this process and decided to macerate dry Figs for this recipe. When I went to pick them up, surprisingly I couldn’t find them in the supermarkets. The ones I did buy weren’t the teeny variety I like snacking on. They were significantly large and when I opened them at home discovered they were rock hard and would have probably warranted a visit to the dentist if I even attempted to chew them. I was a bit worried whether the maceration would even soften this fruit but decided to freshly squeeze the Valencia oranges I had bought anyway. The next day, the figs were tender to touch and you could even wring the juice from the flesh. I took a few and tore it into pieces with my fingers to add to the batter.
I love how easy this recipe is. As expected from any basic pound cake recipe, there’s no whipping butter and sugar to baby yellow fluffiness. Just melt the butter and sugar. That is it. So yes, less bowls to wash up and more time for chores (read: Instagram) while you wait for it to bake. No wait, you have to prepare the orange syrup. The key is to finish preparing it to coincide with the ticking timer on your oven. It should have had a minute or two to cool down before you pour it right over the cake. The cake should soak up the syrup completely, so ensure you pour it evenly all over the surface. There you have it. Richly spiced orange infused slices of velvety pound cake studded with crunchy figs. Now how about that cup of tea?
Spiced Orange and Fig Pound Cake
Recipe adapted from Melanger Baking
This recipe can be made in a 9 inch round tin, 8 x 4 inch loaf tin or a mini loaf tin that yields 6 cakes. Recipe can be doubled if using a bundt tin.
- 125 grams butter / 1 stick, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups flour
- ¾ cup full-fat milk
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
- 1 tablespoon all-spice powder
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup / 250 ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
- Dried figs - handful
- Place the dried figs in a clean glass jar and pour the orange juice over it.
- Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Grease a round tin or a loaf tin with butter.
- Beat the milk and eggs together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate small bowl.
- Take the macerated figs and gently squeeze the figs to remove the excess juice from each of them.
- Chop the figs roughly.
- In a large saucepan, combine the butter and sugar on a low heat until melted.
- Whisk in half of the milk and egg mixture until loosely blended.
- Whisk in half of the flour mixture. Repeat in the same order with the remaining mixtures, finishing with the flour.
- Gently stir in the orange zest, chopped figs and spices.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.
- Transfer to a wire cooler, and immediately prepare the syrup.
- Bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Using a skewer, poke a few holes around the cake.
- Pour the hot syrup over the cake.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then gently remove.
- If desired, garnish with fresh orange zest.
Have a good food day.