almond-fig-cake-2Oh cake. There’s just nothing like it. Okay, cupcakes are kind of like cake, but I still prefer a proper cake. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of “eh” cakes out there, but I think that there are very few things better than a really excellent cake.

As you can see, cake has been on my mind lately. And what a cake – I’ve been dreaming of an almond scented cake with layers of gorgeous brandied fig. This idea was bouncing around in my head for about two weeks before I really started to plan it out. At first I was thinking about incorporating cinnamon and maybe Frangelico…but then I took a big breath and reigned myself in. I thought about how many times Tom Colicchio tells Top Chef contestants to edit their work and decided to simplify. So I ended up with an almond cake with brandied fig jam layered in with vanilla buttercream. And just because I couldn’t help myself, I decided to top it all off with a white chocolate ganache.

As it turns out, my Dad had a party this past weekend, which provided me with an excuse to actually make this cake I’d mapped out in my head. Usually, when I make a big cake, I do something silly like put it all off to the last minute and then have to do it all in one day. This time I was determined to make this cake in a reasonable and methodical manner. So I made the cake layers about 4 days before the party. The next day I prepared the brandied fig jam. The next day I made the frosting and assembled the cake. On the morning of the party I made the white chocolate ganache and finished off the cake. Go me for being all organized!

So how did the cake turn out? Well, it was a hit. I mean, we all had had tummies full of delicious delicious barbeque, but we still managed to go through about 3/4 of the cake and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I’m happy with how it turned out – the cake was moist and the almond nicely balanced with the fig, the frosting was silky and sweet without being straight up sugary and the drippy ganache added this element of elegance that I really like.

Speaking of frosting, my frosting is adapted from the Swiss Meringue Buttercream on Sweetapolita. She has a really terrific tutorial.  I also found another really great tutorial on buttercreams here. I think the best thing I learned during my research is that meringue buttercreams are really emulsions and that different parts of the butter (water vs fat) are emulsified into the egg whites at different rates. This completely explains all the weird chunky, watery, icky cottage cheese-esque stages that the frosting goes through on its way to becoming lovely. And knowing is half the battle.

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Cake:

3 C Sugar
1 C Butter (2 sticks), room temperature and cut into pieces
1/2 C Shortening
Zest of 1 Lemon
3 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 C Buttermilk
3 Eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Almond Extract
3 Egg Whites, room temperature
Pinch Cream of Tartar

 

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Brandied Fig Jam Filling:

1 Jar Fig Jam
1 Jar Fig Spread
1/4 C Brandy

Note: both the fig jam and the fig spread are available at Whole Foods. The fig spread is at the cheese counter.

 

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Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

10 Egg Whites (boxed egg whites are pictured, but from fresh eggs are better)
2 1/2 C Sugar
3 1/2 C Butter (5 sticks), room temperature and cut into pieces.
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
A few drops of Almond Extract
2 Vanilla Beans

 

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White Chocolate Ganache:

8 oz White Chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 C Cream

 

To Make the Cake Layers:

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Preheat the oven to 350º F and prep 3 9″ cake pans.

Cream together the butter, shortening, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.

 

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Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

 

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Whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract.

 

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Add the egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar to a bowl and whip them into stiff peaks.

 

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Alternate mixing the flour and buttermilk mixtures into the butter & sugar bowl, starting and finishing with the flour.

 

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 Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter and divide the batter equally among the three prepared pans. Place in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

 

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When the the middle has set and a toothpick or cake tester comes out of the middle clean, remove the pans from the oven. Let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out onto cooking racks.

If you are making the layers ahead of time, once they’ve completely cooked, wrap them in plastic and store them in the freezer until you want to assemble the cake.

 

To Make the Brandied Fig Jam Filling:

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Combine the fig jam and spread in a sauce pan and heat. Once it’s become liquidy, add the brandy and bring to a simmer for a minute. Let the mixture cool and then put through a strainer to remove the seeds. Pour the jam into a jar and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

 

To make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

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Combine the egg whites and sugar in a pot and heat it, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved and it hits 160º F.

Then quickly pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached. Begin to whip the egg whites on med-low, increasing the speed until you get to med-high. Whip the egg whites until the bowl is cool and stiff peaks form. Most references I found says this takes about 10 minutes. It took me more like 25, so don’t lose heart if it is taking a while.

 

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Once you have a cool, stiff, egg white mixture, switch to the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low and begin slowly adding the room temperature butter. Continue to mix on low until the frosting comes together.  Warning: This may take a while. And while it’s taking it’s sweet time, it’s going to go through some weird phases. It’s going to get all watery and chunky, kind of like weird cottage cheese.  It’ll get wetter and sloppier before getting better. Just leave the mixer alone and go do other things, checking in periodically. Trust me, staring at the mixer in despair won’t make it go faster.

 

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However, with a little patience,  it will eventually all come together into lovely, silky frosting. At this point, mix in the vanilla, salt and almond extract. Scrape the seeds out of the two vanilla beans and add them to the mix.

If the frosting is too soft to work with, you can chill it in the fridge for a while before assembling the cake.

 

Assembling the Cake:

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Cut the dome off the cake layers so that they have flat surfaces. Put the first layer on the serving platter, with parchment or wax paper under the edges.

 

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Spread a thin layer of frosting over the cake, followed by a layer of the brandied fig jam. You don’t need to spread the jam all the way out to the edges; the weight of the next layers will do that.

Put the next layer of cake on top of the jam and repeat the frosting and jam layers.

 

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 Place the last cake layer on top of the cake and then spread a very thin layer of frosting over the tops and sides, before placing the the cake in the refrigerator. This is called a crumb layer and will make the whole cake easier to frost in about 20 minutes.

Once the crumb layer has solidified, frost the whole cake with the remaining buttercream. Return the cake to the fridge to firm up.

 

To Make the White Chocolate Ganache:

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Place the white chocolate in a bowl or measuring cup. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small pot or microwave and then pour over the white chocolate, stirring until fully combined.

 

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Let the ganache cool a bit before pouring about half of it onto the top of the cake. You can gently encourage the ganache to spread out to the edge of the cake, but don’t worry about pushing it over  the edge yet.

Let the first layer of ganache set up for a few minutes and then pour the remaining ganache over the top of the cake. This time, go ahead and gently push the ganache to the edge of the cake and let it drip down over the sides.

Let the ganache firm up before slicing and serving!

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Almond Cake with Fig, Vanilla and White Chocolate
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • Cake:
  • 3 C Sugar
  • 1 C Butter (2 sticks), room temperature and cut into pieces
  • ½ C Shortening
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 C Buttermilk
  • 3 Eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract
  • 3 Egg Whites, room temperature
  • Pinch Cream of Tartar
  • Brandied Fig Jam Filling:
  • 1 Jar Fig Jam
  • 1 Jar Fig Spread
  • ¼ C Brandy
  • Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 10 Egg Whites (boxed egg whites are pictured, but from fresh eggs are better)
  • 2½ C Sugar
  • 3½ C Butter (5 sticks), room temperature and cut into pieces.
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • A few drops of Almond Extract
  • 2 Vanilla Beans
  • White Chocolate Ganache:
  • 8 oz White Chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ C Cream
Instructions
  1. To make the cake layers:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350º F and prep 3 9" cake pans.
  3. Cream together the butter, shortening, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract.
  6. Add the egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar to a bowl and whip them into stiff peaks.
  7. Alternate mixing the flour and buttermilk mixtures into the butter & sugar bowl, starting and finishing with the flour.
  8. Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter and divide the batter equally among the three prepared pans. Place in the oven and bake for ___ minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.
  9. When the the middle has set and a toothpick or cake tester comes out of the middle clean, remove the pans from the oven. Let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out onto cooking racks.
  10. If you are making the layers ahead of time, once they've completely cooked, wrap them in plastic and store them in the freezer until you want to assemble the cake.
  11. To make the brandied fig jam filling:
  12. Combine the fig jam and spread in a sauce pan and heat. Once it's become liquidy, add the brandy and bring to a simmer for a minute. Let the mixture cool and then put through a strainer to remove the seeds. Pour the jam into a jar and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.
  13. To make the swiss meringue vanilla buttercream:
  14. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a pot and heat it, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved and it hits 160º F.
  15. Then quickly pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached. Begin to whip the egg whites on med-low, increasing the speed until you get to med-high. Whip the egg whites until the bowl is cool and stiff peaks form. Most references I found says this takes about 10 minutes. It took me more like 25, so don't lose heart if it is taking a while.
  16. Once you have a cool, stiff, egg white mixture, switch to the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low and begin slowly adding the room temperature butter. Continue to mix on low until the frosting comes together. Warning: This may take a while. And while it's taking it's sweet time, it's going to go through some weird phases. It's going to get all watery and chunky, kind of like weird cottage cheese. It'll get wetter and sloppier before getting better. Just leave the mixer alone and go do other things, checking in periodically. Trust me, staring at the mixer in despair won't make it go faster.
  17. However, with a little patience, it will eventually all come together into lovely, silky frosting. At this point, mix in the vanilla, salt and almond extract. Scrape the seeds out of the two vanilla beans and add them to the mix.
  18. If the frosting is too soft to work with, you can chill it in the fridge for a while before assembling the cake.
  19. Assembling the cake:
  20. Cut the dome off the cake layers so that they have flat surfaces. Put the first layer on the serving platter, with parchment or wax paper under the edges.
  21. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the cake, followed by a layer of the brandied fig jam. You don't need to spread the jam all the way out to the edges; the weight of the next layers will do that.
  22. Put the next layer of cake on top of the jam and repeat the frosting and jam layers.
  23. Place the last cake layer on top of the cake and then spread a very thin layer of frosting over the tops and sides, before placing the the cake in the refrigerator. This is called a crumb layer and will make the whole cake easier to frost in about 20 minutes.
  24. Once the crumb layer has solidified, frost the whole cake with the remaining buttercream. Return the cake to the fridge to firm up.
  25. To make the white chocolate ganache:
  26. Place the white chocolate in a bowl or measuring cup. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small pot or microwave and then pour over the white chocolate, stirring until fully combined.
  27. Let the ganache cool a bit before pouring about half of it onto the top of the cake. You can gently encourage the ganache to spread out to the edge of the cake, but don't worry about pushing it over the edge yet.
  28. Let the first layer of ganache set up for a few minutes and then pour the remaining ganache over the top of the cake. This time, go ahead and gently push the ganache to the edge of the cake and let it drip down over the sides.
  29. Let the ganache firm up before slicing and serving!
 

 

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