Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook adores fusion cuisine, and what could possibly be better than the heady blend of Southern food and Latin food? (Answer, nothing.) Better still, the recipe being reviewed involves figs, which I love, and which come from a family fig tree. Roots, new and old, are everything in cooking.
First, the cookbook from whence this recipe comes, The New Southern-Latino Table by Sandra Gutierrez is inspired and inspiring. I love the opening where she discusses her own journey down a blended path, and some of the interesting connections between the foodways of the South and her native Guatemala. And lots of very practical cooking tips are wedged in these pages, and you know I love that. Sometimes it takes someone learning a cuisine from scratch to break old dogs of bad habits.
So I spent an afternoon perfuming my house with the smells of allspice, figs, and rum. Not a bad pursuit. This recipe completes a wonderful virtual meal. Visit my fellow bloggers Tara Mataraza Desmond (Crumbs on My Keyboard) for starters with Peach Salsa, and Jill Warren Lucas (Eating My Words) for the main Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce. So brew a strong cup of coffee, and let’s finish this meal.
Roll the tape for a video review of the first bite:
Pecan Rum Cake with Figs Recipe
Though I’m notorious for meddling with recipes, to the point that the Eldest Practical Cook Junior noted what a difference it was that I was following one exactly, I pretty much stuck to the letter of the law here. Except (sorry, couldn’t help it) that I don’t own a 10-inch springform, so I baked in a 9-inch, which needed a little more time at a little lower heat to finish. Also, I toasted the pecans briefly in the microwave before chopping to heighten their flavor. Though the recipe implies stand mixer, I successfully used my trusty hand-held 3-speed electric mixer.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice (I had to grind my own due to a planning fail, effective!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Hellmann’s Light was used here)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasted lightly, my addition, as noted above)
1 1/4 cup fig preserves (see recipe below)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, allspice, and salt into a large bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients; blend until well incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the rum and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the mayonnaise and beat for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is smooth.
Stir in the pecans and preserves. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove the sides of the pan and cool completely. Invert the cake to remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment and transfer it, right side up, onto a platter; sprinkle liberally with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 1 cake (10-12 servings)
Fig Preserves Recipe
Because I only had 2 pounds of figs, I made a 2/3 batch of this recipe. Worked perfectly. Also, I used dark brown sugar here. For the record, I used my trusty Thermapen to test the temp, and my immersion blender to smooth the mixture out at the end.
3 pounds ripe figs (about 60) washed and dried
1 pound piloncillo or dark brown sugar
1 stick Mexican cinnamon (canela)
Using a small paring knife, cut a small X in the bottom of each fig; set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the piloncillo, cinnamon, and 3 cups of water; cook over medium heat, breaking up the piloncillo as the mixture heats. When the piloncillo has melted (about 8-10 minutes), add the figs.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium; cook, uncovered, for 18-20 minutes, or until the syrup registers 210 degrees F on a candy thermometer (it will be bubbly and frothy). If the bubbles are rising too quickly, reduce the heat a bit. When the syrup reaches the proper temperature, reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is thick, about 10-15 minutes; remove from the heat. When the figs are cool, remove them from the syrup, chop liberally (or process until almost smooth), and return to the syrup. Transfer the mixture to a clean container. Store well covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 4 cups.
Don’t let the fact that this includes a secondary recipe throw you. You can substitute store-bought, but if you’ve got access to figs, it would behoove you to preserve them, and the preserves are the simplest of the two recipes. Overall, I enjoyed the cake immensely. It has a strong rum flavor, so be forewarned if that’s not your thing.
Additionally, this is not a cookbook for beginners, you need to know some basics. That said, The Practical Cooks Junior had several altercations during the making of this cake, but declared truce in the end and called this cake delicious. Point being, you can start and stop the process and still bake a great cake.
On a personal note, this one goes out to Blended Familia, who defines this new fusion of cuisines and lives for me in my real life. Thank you.
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Up next, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Fig Preserves Edition.