Well, I wouldn’t call it a “cake”. But the author is the one who decides. I found the recipe in Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries from the La Brea Bakery”. It sounded like a perfect accompaniment for a cheese platter and I wasn’t disappointed in the flavor. The initial presentation was quite impressive but, as I suspected, the “cake” was not easy to cut through the whole almonds in the middle of rather soft layers of figs. We ended up serving it from the bowl. Nobody complained, the flavor was still delicious. But the next time I make this thing (and I will, it’s definitely worth it) I’d use chopped or, better yet, sliced almonds instead to ensure easy and neat cuts. The cake can be made a couple of hours in advance but I would not recommend assembling it a night or so before – the almonds will lose their crunch.
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries from the La Brea Bakery”
Serves a crowd as an addition to good cheese
- 8 oz dried black mission figs, very soft, stems removed
- 6 oz dried white kadota figs, very soft, stems removed
- About ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 2 tsp anise seeds
- ½ cups whole unblanched almonds, toasted (use sliced for easier slicing)
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
Line a small loaf pan or a round mold 2 cups capacity with plastic wrap, leaving overhang to cover the cake once it’s in the mold. Set aside.
Combine the sesame seeds with anise seeds in a small sauté pan and toast them over medium-low heat until aromatic and slightly brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
Slice the figs vertically into thirds or halves, about ¼ inch thick. Keep the 2 colors separate.
Press a solid layer of the black mission fig slices on the bottom of the mold, seed side down. Sprinkle the figs with a heaped tablespoon of the seed mixture, and drizzle about 2 tsp of honey over. Sprinkle half of the rosemary over the honey. Cover with a layer of the white fig slices, sprinkle with another tablespoon of the seeds, and drizzle with 2 tsp of the honey. Press a half (1/4 cup) of almonds over the figs and drizzle another 2 tsp of the honey over the nuts. Then add another layer of black figs, tbsp of seed, some honey, the rest of the rosemary, the last layer of white figs, more seeds, honey, almonds, more honey, and finish with the third layer of black mission figs, seed side down. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap. Cut a piece of cardboard (any box will do) to fit inside the mold. Place a very heavy object on the top. Since the mold is small, it’s easier to fit something like a can of beans (or two cans, if using a loaf pan) inside the mold, and then balance the heavy object on the top of this can. Allow to stand for about 2 hours, until the cake is compressed.