The process of making Yossi Arefi’s soft chocolate and fig cake is highly reminiscent of the recipe for Alice Medrich’s flourless chocolate cake, which I’m a big fan of. You simply mix together butter and sugar, add a few eggs and some vanilla, beat the mixture until light and airy, then fold in a flour-cocoa mix (and in this case, bittersweet chocolate chunks). Top the cake with your sliced fruit, and 30-35 minutes later your dessert will be ready, as long as you don’t mind spooning it from the cake pan. That’s under an hour from start to finish, which is pretty much the shortest amount of time for any dessert that’s made from scratch. For the more patient baker, this soft chocolate and fig cake is even better when allowed to fully cool and chilled in the refrigerator until the next day.
It’s not actually fig season, so I’m feeling a little guilty about posting this recipe for soft chocolate and fig cake now. Where are you going to obtain the figs you need for this cake? Well, you have a few options. You could slice and then rehydrate dried figs in boiling water (or whiskey) for at least 15 minutes. Or you could find frozen semi-dried figs, defrost them, slice them and use them. Or you could replace the sliced figs with chopped toasted nuts or omit them all together.As easy as this recipe is, there are a few pitfalls to steer clear of. Try your figs first, because if you don’t like eating them alone, they shouldn’t go on your cake. The green figs are less sweet than black figs, and (obviously) this will impact the final level of sweetness in your dessert. Be sure to slice the figs thinly, as irregularly thick pieces will not cook evenly and may distort the texture of the cake. I especially urge caution if you decide to use frozen fresh figs (like the green Kadota figs (which aren’t as sweet as Black Mission figs)). You’ll want to ensure they’ve had sufficient time to defrost before using them, and then they’ll be a challenging mess to slice, because defrosted fruit tends to be rather slippery and more mushy than fresh fruit. They’re certainly an option, but they wouldn’t be my first choice (and trust me, I’ve tried this cake with them).
The texture and loft of this cake is derived from the volume you building whipping the egg-sugar-butter mixture and the volume you’re able to preserve while folding in the flour, so don’t rush the process. Since this cake is intended to be soft, it’s critical that you don’t overbake it, otherwise you’ll have a dry cake that doesn’t have any of the jammy fruit and dense chocolate texture it ought to have.
I quite liked the soft chocolate and fig cake from Sweeter Off the Vine. It’s very rich, fudgy, and not very sweet, which is exactly the way I prefer my chocolate dessert. The addition of figs is a fun twist on flourless chocolate cake (a lot of flourless chocolate cakes have a little flour in them), and it’s easy to imagine adding your own twist on this recipe, using another fruit on top like blueberries or sliced, rehydrated dried tart cherries. Like Alice Medrich’s cake, this is a dessert that looks and tastes like a dessert that requires a ton of time and effort, but their secret to a unctuous and rich chocolate cake is simply to whip the eggs and fold in a little flour.
Original source: Sweeter Off the Vine
Soft Chocolate and Fig Cake
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled to room temperature
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chopped
- 12 ounces fresh figs* sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- Unsweetened whipped cream (optional)
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar to serve
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8-inch round cake or springform pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the bottom and sides with flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and Kosher salt to aerate and "sift" everything.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar and butter. Using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, beat briefly to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat on medium-low speed until incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium high and beat until lightened in color, about 2 minutes.
Fold in the whisked dry ingredients, then fold in the chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with an off-set spatula. Arrange the sliced figs in a concentric circle or decorative pattern of your choice on top. Bake until just set along the edges but still slightly wiggly in the middle, about 30-35 minutes. If you prefer firmer centers, bake another 5-10 minutes.
If planning to serve with whipped cream, just before serving whisk the heavy cream in a clean metal bowl until soft peaks are formed.
Serve immediately by spooning into bowls or let the cake cool and then slice into wedges (it firms up a little as it cools, but will remain soft in the center). Dust each portion with confectioner's sugar and top with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
*12 ounces should be able 9 fresh figs, although I was not able to fit all 12 ounces on top of my cake.