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A tasty way to celebrate fig season

Recipe: Fig almond cake is a rustic treat

This rustic fig cake is good anytime. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

This rustic fig cake is good anytime. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Debbie Arrington

Figs are a late-summer treasure. In Northern California, they reach their peak of ripeness in August and September.

How do you tell when a fig is truly ripe? Color is a clue; black mission figs live up to their name with deep black-purple skins. But green and yellow varieties keep their light color.

On the tree, tap the fruit lightly with your finger. If it gives, it's ready to pick. If it's rigidly firm, wait awhile.

At the farmers market, look for figs that are soft (but not mushy) and yielding to the touch. A ripe fig looks like it's beginning to crack a little or developing wrinkles.

As for what to do with a dozen (or so) ripe figs? This rustic cake is a delicious showcase, great with coffee or tea in the morning or topped with whipped cream or ice cream for dessert.

This version was adapted from a recipe in the New York Times, inspired by a bountiful Sonoma fig tree.
Another reminder: Good things grow in California.

Cake batter and figs before baking
Arrange figs cut side up over almond batter.

Fig almond cake
Adapted from the New York Times
Makes 6 servings

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 to 14 fresh figs, de-stemmed and halved
2 tablespoons Demerara or plain sugar
Butter to grease the pan


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10-inch pie or tart pan; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter and vanilla or almond extract.

In another bowl, sift together almond flour, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry mixture to egg mixture and stir until batter is mixed, about 1 minute.

Baked cake in pan
This cake bakes to golden brown in about 30 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Arrange fig halves in batter with cut side up. Sprinkle sugar over the top.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted near the center comes out dry.

Let cool before serving.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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