orange blossom fig cake

orange blossom fig upside down cake

Fig season is a little confusing—there’s always a big rush in June, but then they tend to disappear for a few weeks, only to come back in full swing for the rest of the summer and early fall. Apparently this is because they have two back-to-back fruiting seasons. But I’ve been noticing them popping up in supermarkets this week, so I guess fig season is here, at least for now! The next time you spot them at the market, be sure to grab one or two baskets, so you can make this fabulous fig cake, and have plenty to snack on while you wait for it to bake.

orange blossom fig upside down cake
orange blossom fig upside down cake

While I’m usually a big fan of buttermilk in cakes like this one, I decided to go with plain yogurt here, because I wanted to make this a little easier to throw together using ingredients you probably have around the house on a day that you just happen to find some really delicious figs. Like buttermilk, yogurt gives this cake moisture and a little tang, but unlike buttermilk, it’s probably actually in your fridge right now. I mean, that’s what was in my fridge the day that I brought these beauties home from the fruit market and decided to make this wonderfully syrupy orange blossom fig upside down cake. If you happen to have buttermilk, you can instead use 1/2 cup buttermilk in this recipe (instead of 3/4 cup yogurt).

The only ingredient that’s a little hard to find is orange blossom water, but you can get it at a supermarket with a good international food aisle, just about any Middle Eastern market, and of course online. It’s good to have around for Middle Eastern baking, and I strongly recommend keeping a bottle handy (once you do, you’ll start putting it in everything). If you can’t find orange blossom water, this cake is also wonderful with a few drops of rosewater, which is a little easier to find—in addition to Middle Eastern markets, you can also find rosewater in South Asian markets. If you go with rosewater, be sure to use restraint, as it has a tendency to overpower. Or feel free to omit flower-waters altogether, and let the figs speak for themselves.

orange blossom fig upside down cake
orange blossom fig upside down cake
orange blossom fig upside down cake
orange blossom fig upside down cake

orange blossom fig cake

active time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour
download a PDF to print

fig and brown sugar bottom

  • Butter for greasing the pan

  • 57g melted butter (half a stick/4 tablespoons)

  • 100g light brown sugar (1/2 cup)

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 300g small fresh figs (about 10-11 oz)*

  1. Butter one 8-inch round cake pan. Cover the bottom with a parchment round.

  2. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt, and pour it over the parchment-covered cake pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the brown sugar out evenly over the bottom until it's completely covered.

  3. Slice the figs in half. Arrange the figs cut-side-down over the buttery brown sugar.

orange blossom yogurt cake

  • 200g flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 5g baking powder (1 1/4 teaspoon)

  • 1.5g baking soda (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 3g salt (1/2 teaspoon)

  • 2 large room temperature eggs (110g)

  • 55g melted and cooled butter (half a stick/4 tablespoons)

  • 150g granulated sugar (3/4 cup)

  • 170g plain yogurt (3/4 cup)**

  • 15g orange blossom water (1 tablespoon)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F convection (177° C).

  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

  3. Beat the eggs and butter together until they are very well incorporated. Then add the sugar, yogurt, and orange blossom water, and beat to combine well.

  4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture, and stir together just until everything is combined. It won't be completely smooth, and there might be some tiny lumps; this is completely fine. Don’t over-mix!

  5. Carefully pour the batter over the figs, smooth out the top a little bit with a spatula, and bake for about 30 minutes. It's done once you can insert a toothpick into the center and batter doesn't stick to it.

  6. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the cake pan. Then trace around the edge with a butter knife to make sure it's loosened from the pan. Place a plate or cake-stand upside-down over the cake. Put on your grippiest oven mitts, and hold the plate and cake together so that your thumbs are underneath the cake pan. Carefully and quickly rotate it away from yourself and give it a quick up-and-down shake to release the cake from the pan. Remove the pan, slice, and serve.

* If you can’t find small figs, you can use larger ones. Just make sure you cut them into about 1/2-inch slices instead of cutting them in half. To get the same look as these photos, slice the figs along their equators instead of stem to end.

** If you have Greek yogurt, you can substitute it here, but make sure you water it down slightly before measuring (using either a little milk or water). It needs to be the approximate consistency of plain, unstrained yogurt (Greek yogurt doesn’t have as much moisture).

orange blossom fig upside down cake
orange blossom fig upside down cake

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strawberry sumac pie

strawberry sumac pie

A few weeks ago, I shared my recipe for halva cardamom banana cream pie, and declared this my summer of pies. But as it turns out, this isn’t so much the summer of pies as it is the summer of strawberry rhubarb alternatives. First, there was the late-spring combination of strawberry and jarareng, and now I’m posting this strawberry sumac one, inspired in large part by Majed Ali’s cherry sumac date molasses pie and Jerrelle Guy’s strawberry sumac granola tart. As it turns out, sumac is a great way to add some bright berry-like acidity to strawberries, which tend to get that very dull *McDonalds strawberry syrup flavor* when cooked for a long time.

While rhubarb is the more typical antidote to the cooked strawberry dulness, I just never seem to find it. Or, more accurately, I never seem to stumble upon it. In Hong Kong, it’s usually only available through restaurant suppliers or ridiculously fancy supermarkets, and when I’m visiting Chicago, I spend most of my shopping time loitering in the Ziyad aisle of local supermarkets and making quick runs to Trader Joe’s and Target.

Sumac, on the other hand, is available year round, it pretty much never goes bad, it’s something you should have in your kitchen at all times, and it works beautifully in desserts. Sprinkle it on mango slices, make a mountain of fattoush with every meal, and bake this pie for those times when you just don’t feel like making a special trip for a bundle of rhubarb.

strawberry sumac pie
strawberry sumac pie
strawberry sumac pie
strawberry sumac pie

strawberry sumac pie

serves 8
active time: 1 hour
total time: 3 hours 45 minutes
download a
PDF to print

crust

  • 400g all purpose flour (about 3 cups)

  • 7g salt (1 teaspoon)

  • 230g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (2 sticks)

  • 120g cold plain yogurt (1/2 cup)

  • 30g cold water (2 tablespoons)

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times, until the butter blends into the flour, and there aren’t any big lumps. Add the yogurt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. Evenly drizzle on the water. Pulse a few times until it can be squeezed together into a pliable and smooth dough (don’t over-process). If the dough won’t come together, add a few more drops of water at a time.

  2. Shape the dough into 2 equal balls, flatten the balls into discs, cover each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for just 30 minutes. Work on the filling while you wait.

filling

  • 850g hulled and quartered strawberries (7 cups sliced, from about 900g/2lb whole)

  • 150g light brown sugar (3/4 cup)

  • 20g sumac (3 tablespoons)

  • 1.5g teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 60g quick cooking minute tapioca (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)

  • Egg wash: 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoon cream or water

  1. While the dough chills, combine the berries, brown sugar, sumac, salt, and tapioca, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) .

  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll a round of chilled dough out to between 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick; it should be quite a bit wider than the pie pan (the dough should be about 13-13.5 inches across).

  4. Once it’s rolled out, gently wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Unroll it onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently press the dough into place so it’s in contact with the entire pan.

  5. Fill the pie shell with the strawberry filling, and spread out into an even layer.

  6. Roll out the other disc of dough into a rounded-off rectangle that’s about 11x13 inches (1/8- to 1/4-inch thick). Cut it into 6 2-inch-wide strips.

  7. Assemble the lattice top: First, place 3 strips going in one direction, with narrow gaps in between them (use shorter strips for the 2 sides). Then fold back every other strip and place another strip perpendicular to them near the edge of the pie. Drape the lifted strips back over the perpendicular strip. Repeat, alternating which of the parallel strips are lifted, adding the next perpendicular strip each time, until the whole pie is covered.

  8. Dab a bit of egg wash under each strip of lattice, to make sure it stays connected to the crust. Use scissors to trim away the excess crust (crimp it if you’d like, or don’t if you prefer this look), and place the pie in the freezer for about 10 minutes (or the refrigerator for about 30).

  9. Once the dough is firm to the touch, brush with the egg wash, and bake for 15 minutes at 400°F (205°C).

  10. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another hour. If the edges of the crust start to brown too quickly, use a crown of tin foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

  11. Place the pie on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours, until it comes to room temperature.

strawberry sumac pie

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