By Libbie Summers
Photography by Cedric Smith
There was something very special about sitting around the kitchen table on my grandmother’s farm and having a slice of pie or a piece of sheet cake. Somehow the dessert just tasted better as it rested on the worn wood of her table.
For this dessert course, I’ve brought the nostalgia back to dining. After the proper dinner course, I’ve invited my guests back into the kitchen for a slice of dessert with a side of warm memories.
Think outside the dining room.
1 ½ Cup Milk
4 teaspoons vanilla paste
Zest of 2 large lemons
3 sticks of butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
3 ½ cups cake flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
10 large egg whites, room temperature
Lemon Fig Purée (recipe to follow)
Swiss Buttercream Frosting (recipe to follow)
Fresh figs and fig leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray four 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray. Line the bottoms of each pan with parchment and spray the parchment. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together the milk, vanilla paste, and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed for 10 seconds, then add the butter, zest, and milk mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 minute. Add 2 egg whites and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 3 egg whites and continue to beat for 30 seconds.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and use an offset spatula to level the top of each. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Allow layers to cool completely before assembling and decorating the cake.
To Decorate: Take your cool layer of cake and place on a cake turntable. Place a half a cup of the Lemon Fig Purée on the cake and spread with an offset spatula. Continue with the next layer of cake, then the fig purée, then another layer of cake and more fig purée, ending with the last layer of cake.
Using an offset spatula apply a “crumb coat” of frosting over the entire cake. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that “seals” the cake and its crumbs inside.
Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes, and then apply the final, decorative layer of frosting. Spread a thick coat over the entire cake. Decorate the top with sliced and whole fresh figs and fig leaves.
Lemon Fig Purée
(yields about 4 cups)
2 pounds of fresh and ripe figs, stems removed and cut in half
2 large lemons, juiced and zested
Put the figs in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the figs are tender and the juices have been released, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully pour into a blender or food processor and pulse just until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.
Swiss Meringue Frosting
(yields about 5 cups)
5 large egg whites
1 ½ cups vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
1 ½ pounds butter, cut into chunks at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Yellow food coloring
Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and place over medium-low heat. Set a medium ovenproof bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the water. Put the egg whites and the sugar in the bowl and whisk together until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Pour the hot egg white mixture into the (room temperature) bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed for ten minutes, or until the meringue has doubled in volume, holds a stiff peak, and has cooled down. (It’s important that the meringue is not warm, or it will melt the butter.)
Remove the whisk attachment and replace it with the paddle attachment. Mix the butter into the cooled meringue, ½ cup at a time. Mix in enough yellow food coloring for desired color.
For more Fig Inspiration, Follow my Pinterest Board