Upside-Down Fig Cake (and Home)

Japan–>California–> Paris–>Atlanta–> Colorado–>Philadelphia–> Chicago–> Austin–> Madison–> New York–> Iceland–> D.C. –> Home.


Since last January, I have not spent more than 6 weeks (in New York) anywhere. Before that, there were three months last fall when I commuted to Boston every week.  When I got off the plane from Iceland, it was the first time in 17 months that I didn’t have another flight scheduled.

I’m not complaining (at least not that much). It has been a pretty cool year. I have some amazing photos as well as an unfortunate number of photos of old documents. I have eaten octopus pancakes, shrimp tacos, macaroons, soup (during the unfortunate mono + Atlanta leg), piergoies, breakfast tacos, cheese curds, ice cream, dried cod, pots of langoustine, hakarl (not so bad), lemongrass chicken bun (D.C., sometimes I do miss you), and more broccoli florets than I want to count.


As a kid, I wanted to write an ice cream tour book of the world so the other night I  made a list of all the ice creams I’ve eaten this past year. It went: green tea, yuba, California date shake, marron glace, raspberry sorbet (again, during the unfortunate mono incident, when my relationship with ice cream morphed into something purely medicinal). When I got to Madison, the list took an unfortunate turn into the territory of “too numerous to name” since I’m pretty sure I went for ice cream every night for two weeks. I was in America’s dairyland after all.

But, now I’m home. I’m in New Haven, and I’m going to be here for a while. The thing about having a crazy travel schedule that commences immediately after you move somewhere new is that you never really set up a routine. It’s hard to make friends. Yesterday, someone asked me what I do here, and I had to admit, I have no idea, yet.

But, people, I have a lot of baked goods to share. I need people to eat some of these sweets and come over for dinner. So, calling all recipe tasters. Save me from myself, and save Noah too. I seriously baked through an entire carton of eggs in the last 2 1/2 days. We need help.

Are you in New Haven? No? Do you want to come visit? You are here now? Come on over! I’ve got half a fig cake to share. 


Upside-Down Fig and Rosemary Cake

This recipe is a combination of two recipes. One is this birthday cake from 101 cookbooks, which is an excellent cake in and of itself. I made it for Mother’s Day last year, and it was my mom who actually had the genius idea of using it for an upside-down cake. The choice of fig and rosemary was inspired by this recipe from Food 52, but I couldn’t bring myself to use the amount of butter called for and, our subletters ran off with the brown sugar so things had to be adjusted. Fortunately, I hid the maple sugar before they left so I think the adjustments just made everything better. 

– 12 figs

– 1 stick (8 tablespoons of butter)

– 1 tsp dried rosemary

– 1/2 cup maple sugar (I’m sure brown sugar would be just fine too.

– 14 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)

– 5 large eggs, whisked

– 1/4 cup cornstarch

– Pinch of sea salt

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

* Slice the figs in half and take off the ends.

* Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a 9 inch, spring-form cake pan.

* Sprinkle about 2/3s of the maple sugar evenly over the melted butter. Arrange the figs flesh side down on the pan. Sprinkle figs with remaining sugar and rosemary. Set aside.

* Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and allow to cool.

* Crumble the almond paste into a food processor until pebbly in size.

* Add eggs to almond paste and process until smooth. (I think the secret to getting a light cake with this batter is to really whip those eggs until the egg-almond mixture is a pale yellow and almost foamy.)

* Sprinkle cornstarch and salt into batter and pulse.

* Add cooled butter and pulse until smooth.

* Pour batter over figs into cake pan.

* Bake until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.

* Let cool in pan, loosen with knife, and invert onto serving dish so figs are right side up.

I bet this would be great with whipped cream. Alternatively, you could eat it for breakfast as I did this morning.


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