Some nights you just need cake or pudding - something nice to look forward to once the kids have gone to bed. And tonight is one of those nights. Outside its sunny but cold and windy, not al fresco eating weather, so something sweet to comfort and warm as I snuggle on the sofa, thankful Friday is here at last.
Alas, the cupboards and fridge are both fairly bare so I had to wing it a bit. My first thoughts turned to creme brulee, or even a proper rice pudding. Both of these need double cream - I had none. I found a pack of dried figs lurking in the back of the cupboard. A quick snout in the fridge revealed two thirds of a block butter, just about enough to make a cake and, most pleasingly, an unopened bottle of my favourite oloroso sherry.
So cake it was. A sort of fig and oloroso syrup upside down cake. And, of course, a small glass of sherry for the cook. It is Friday after all.
Fig & Oloroso upside down cake
5tbsp demerara sugar
50g unsalted butter
4tbsp dry Oloroso sherry (I like Sainsbury's Taste the Difference dry oloroso)
250g soft dried figs, sliced in half
zest of 1 lemon
170g caster sugar
170g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
170g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
23-25cm spring form cake tin, greased & based lined with baking parchment
what to do:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Add the demerara sugar to a heavy bottomed frying pan and warm over a low heat. After a few minutes the sugar will begin to melt - resist the temptation to stir but give the pan a little shake from time to time to release and mix the granules. As soon as they have melted add the butter and sherry, taking care as it will spit and sizzle. The sugar may clump up and harden again, but stir gently over a very low heat until the butter melts and the syrup comes together. Add the figs and lemon, stir thoroughly to mix then pour into the cake tin. Set aside whilst you make the cake batter.
In a food mixer, or with an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. Sift over the flour and baking powder and pour in the vanilla extract. Fold gently with a large metal spoon, adding just enough milk to make it soft enough to fall off the spoon with ease.
Spoon the batter into the tin over the figs and level with a knife. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Carefully turn out the cake onto a large plate and peel off the baking paper.
Like many cakes, this one is at its best when eaten warm, fresh from the oven, perhaps with a dollop of rich Greek yogurt or creme fraiche. Indeed the day after baking a cake, not being remotely snobbish about these things, I often give my cakes, piece by piece, a 10 or 20 second zap in the microwave. It'll revive them no end. I hold my hand up high and admit to using a microwave, not often, but sometimes they are exceedingly useful. And warming cake is a case in point.