Fresh figs are months away here in New Jersey , but this cake makes use of dried figs, readily available any time of year. My dad’s wife made this cake years ago and gave me the recipe, one she got from her local newspaper, but it’s attributed to chef Al Paris, of Philadelphia’s (now closed) Heirloom and Paris Bistro restaurants. With almond paste as one of its ingredients, the fragrance alone is inviting. The flavor is every bit as delicious as the smell that will permeate your kitchen while in the oven, and the texture is dense and moist. The recipe calls for dried figs, but once fresh fig season arrives, this would be delicious with those as well.
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Judging by the frequency of the dessert recipes I’ve been posting lately, you’d think that all I eat are sweets. (Well, actually you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.) But I just had to bake this cake, which I also ate at the annual picnic of my Italian chit-chat group, “Le Matte.” My friend Maria, a member of the group, brought this stellar dessert but unfortunately, I never got a photo of it last week. I’ve been bugging her for this recipe for more than a year, so when she sent it to me following the picnic, I had no choice but to bake it in order to photograph it for you. Truth be told, it tastes so divine, I was compelled by forces greater than nature to make this. Who am I to resist with those kinds of powers? Maria warned that the cake may sink a little in the middle and mine was no exception. I’m not sure how to remedy this, so if you have any ideas, send ‘em my way. In any case, the rich almond flavor and moist texture makes this a delicious dessert all on its own, but if you want to gild the lily, serve it with berries or a scoop of ice cream. Addendum: Following a reader’s suggestion, I baked the cake again, altering the preparation, and lowering the oven temperature as well. It worked out PERFECTLY with nary a dip or valley in the cake. Rather than beat with a mixer for a long time, as the original recipe called for, I used a stick blender to mash the almond paste and butter together. It kept too much air from being incorporated into the batter, which was my goal, but I think a food processor would work equally well. This method not only produces a level cake, but it’s so much faster and easier too. So follow this if you want the same results. The picture on top and at the bottom of this post were of the first cake, and you can tell the cake has a slight dip in the middle. It was delicious nonetheless. But here’s a shot of the cake I made with the altered preparation instructions, cooking temperature and time. Here’s what it looked like out of the oven, with nary a dip or valley in sight: