As a child, I loved reading Noddy and the tales of him getting into trouble woven around his food chronicles. Books written by Enid Blyton kept me hooked to the edges. At that time the only Brownies I had known was Noddy’s friend, Big Ears Goblin. Then came stories of Hanzel and Gretel that introduced to me to the Gingerbread house for the first time ever. The Famous Five & Secret Seven unleashed the simple joys of adventure travels to far beaches, winding islands, mountain biking, camping, the English cottages and beautiful Welsh countryside. Woven with adventures and picnics, the stories carried tales of how these teens fondly loved their homemade sandwiches, the ubiquitous ginger beer and lemonade, paired with loaves of crusty breads, classic cherry cakes and buns. Blyton’s caravan often painted copious spreads of raspberry pops, shortbreads, jam tarts which must have been every kid’s delight.
Its nostalgic when I come to think of it today. I relate to these now as they are in easy reach to us, but back then if I count these recollections, many of those indulgences remained unknown to me. The only cakes I probably knew were butter-cream sponges we got at our bakeries. Raspberry pops, shortbreads and scones never existed in our world. The pictures depicted in these books sprinted succulent thoughts in our petite minds painting a dainty picture of these scrumptious treats.
That explains why I remained prejudiced towards Classic English Cakes, something which associates myself with my childhood and the adventure in books I read. So again, I banked on my trusted book, The Big Book Baking to recreate the recipe for Classic Cherry Cake with figs replacing the cherries, my thoughts swiftly racing back to the fond memories of my childhood spent revelling in lovely descriptions of meals and picnics treats I had read. This is indeed a classic, one of those plain cakes that’s unpretentious, until you start slicing and eating it. A tea cake with a characteristic speckled beauty and crunch in every bite that makes a good buddy at any hour of the day.
Classic Fig Cake
200 g plain flour
200 g soft butter
200 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
250 g dry figs, quartered
85 g ground almonds
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking powder
2 level tbsp. demerara sugar
1 tbsp. warm milk
Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease a 8 inch cake tin and set aside.
Roughly chop the dry figs and soak them in hot milk for 15-20 mins till they soften and become mushy. Cream together the butter and sugar until light in color, pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating hard after each addition. Add the flours and baking powder together, and carefully fold this into the creamed mixture using a metal spoon. Toss the quartered figs in together with the ground almonds, and carefully fold these into the cake, adding one or two drops of vanilla essence. Spoon the cake mix into the prepared tin, levelling the top evenly with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle the demerara sugar.
Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour, or until the cake has shrunk away from the side of the tin and the centre is springy to touch. Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack to cool. Store in a tin.