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A tasty way to celebrate fig season

Recipe: Fig almond cake is a rustic treat

Slice of fig cake on a plate
This rustic fig almond cake is good anytime. (Photos: 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 March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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