Spiced fig, coffee & hazelnut cake
- Preparation and cooking time
- plus cooling and chilling
- More effort
- Serves 16
This sophisticated cake is gently spiced and full of treacly flavours from dried figs and muscovado sugar, finished with a cream cheese icing
For the sponge
For the icing
- STEP 1
First, make the sponge. Put the dried figs in a bowl and pour over the coffee. Leave to soak for 30 mins. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Tip the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-8 mins until golden brown and aromatic. Tip 75g of the nuts into a food processor (set aside the rest for later) and leave to cool for 10 mins. Meanwhile grease the base and sides of a 20 x 30cm rectangular cake tin with butter and line with baking parchment.
- STEP 2
Whizz the cooled nuts until finely chopped. Add the soaked figs and any remaining coffee, and whizz again to a paste. Add the remaining sponge ingredients to the processor with a good pinch of salt. Blend until well combined, scraping down the sides once or twice and blending again. Scrape into your cake tin, level the surface and bake for 25 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then flip onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment and leave to cool.
- STEP 3
While the cake cools, make the icing. Put the butter, vanilla and half the sugar in a large bowl. Roughly mash together with a spatula, then blend with an electric hand whisk until smooth. Add the cream cheese and the remaining icing sugar, mash, then blend again until smooth. Split the icing into 2 batches, one for layering and a crumb coat, and one for a final coat. You can chill the icing while the cake cools, but remove it from the fridge 15 mins before using to bring back to room temperature.
- STEP 4
Now assemble the cake. Transfer the cooled cake to a chopping board. Score the sponge at 10cm intervals along the length of the cake, marking out 3 sections, 20 x 10cm each. Cut through, then stack the cakes on top of each other to check they are the same size. Trim any uneven edges, then unstack.
- STEP 5
Put 1 sponge on a cake board or plate. Spread with a little icing and 3 tbsp fig jam, keeping the jam about 1cm from the edges. Top with another sponge, more icing and jam, then sandwich with the final sponge. Use a palette knife to cover the entire cake with the remaining first batch of icing (the crumb coat) – don’t worry if it’s a little messy. Make sure you fill any gaps between the layers with icing. Once covered, chill for at least 30 mins to firm up the icing. Chill the remaining icing too, but bring it out of the fridge 10-15 mins before the cake so it is ready for spreading.
- STEP 6
Decorate the cake. Remove it from the fridge and cover with the remaining icing. Use a palette knife to create smooth edges, or leave it fairly rough, if you like. Top the cake with the figs, pointy ends up. Put the caramel in a small piping bag, snip off the corner and drizzle over the top of the cake, encouraging it down the sides (or just drizzle it over with a spoon). Roughly chop the remaining toasted nuts and scatter over the top. Serve in slices with extra figs on the side, if you like. Keep leftovers in the fridge for 3 days, but bring to room temperature before eating.
This cake is even better made a day or two in advance – the texture of the sponge will improve. Wrap the cooled sponge in cling film and store in an airtight container, then ice and decorate on the day you want to eat it.
KEEP THE SURFACES FLAT
This sponge should have a flat surface, so the layers sit nicely on top of each other. If your sponge has risen more in the centre, trim this off and use it in a trifle (keeps in the freezer for 2 months).
SEPARATE THE ICING
Make sure you keep the batch of icing used for the layering and crumb coat separate from the icing you use for the final coat. Any crumbs transferred to the second batch will show up in the icing.
WATCH THE CONSISTENCY
Consistency is key with any icing – it should be spreadable but not runny. If it is too soft, chill the icing to firm it up, stirring every 10 mins or so. If it’s too firm, leave it at room temperature until pliable.
USE SKEWERS FOR STABILITY
To hold the layers in place when you’re icing the assembled cake, push 2-3 wooden skewers, cut to the same length as the depth of the cake, into the sponge. The skewers will be hidden when the cake is iced, but will stop the layers from sliding as you cover the cake in the icing. Just remember to remove them as you cut the cake.
A FLAWLESS FINISH
Once you’ve covered the cake with its final coat of icing, use a small offset spatula to gently drag through the icing from bottom to top, all the way around the cake, for a nice texture and finish.
For the perfect drizzle, squeeze a blob of caramel on the top of the cake, close to the edge, until it starts to drizzle down the side. The drizzles will eventually run to the bottom of the cake, so do this no more than an hour before serving.
COVER MESSY ICING
If the icing looks a little messy around the base of the cake, cover it with chopped hazelnuts, gently pushed into the icing.
My tip for a good-sized piece is to cut a slice, then halve it down the centre. Serve with strong chai lattes for a tea break to remember.