Fig Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Fig cake wrapped in glorious cream-cheese icing.

“The best way to work through a post-Thanksgiving food coma involves a cup of black coffee and fig layer cake.”

This was my original opening line, as I attempted to post/write this on Thanksgiving day.

“Yes, I have already had a slice. Yes, my stomach feels so full that I can not move. But, this cake- y’all- my family and I had a moment.”

That was my second line. And then- the tryptohan from the turkey kicked in, I actually did fall into a food coma, and slept for a day.

Fig cake in a dream sequence.

But now, here we are, four days later- and my mind has cleared (a bit).

The nutty, slightly salty richness of pistachios layered between sweet figs and topped off with a light layer of cream cheese frosting is remarkable. This has won top honors as my next go-to, impress-your-neighbor cake. And it should be yours too. It was easy to make, involves three simple recipes (or two, if you are like me, bribed your co-worker, and used fig preserves instead of making your own fig compote) and turns out beautifully.

My incredible photographer-brother took this for me. It was way more beautiful than mine, so it fits here.

Fig Layer Cake (This recipe was taken from one of my favorite websites, DesignSponge)

For the Fig Compote:

Sweet talk your incredibly generous co-worker into a can of fig preserves in exchange for brown butter banana bread.

If you don’t have an incredibly generous co-worker who does his own canning, you can make your own.

What You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups whole dried figs
1 1/2 cups water
the juice of one orange (about 1/3 cup)
a couple dashes of salt
2 tablespoons honey

What You Will Do:

Chop figs into small chunks, about the size of peanuts.  Cook in a saucepan with water, juice, and salt until figs are soft and water is evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Add honey and cook for a minute more.  Let cool.

For the Pistachio Olive Oil Cake:

What You Will Need:

1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp lemon juice

What You Will Do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 8×8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place pistachios in a food processor.  Pulse them until they are the texture of small gravel (about the size of a half-pea); remove about half of the gravel-sized pieces.  Pulse the rest of the nuts until they are the texture of coarse sand.

In a bowl, combine finely ground pistachios, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Stir until well combined.  Pour mixture into an electric mixer, then add oil and milk.  Beat with an electric mixer until blended.  Add eggs and lemon juice and beat until mixed.  Stir in the coarsely ground pistachios.

Pour batter into greased pan.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown, and inserted knife comes out clean.  Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:

What You Will Need:

1/2 stick butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups confectioners sugar

What You Will Do:

1/2 stick butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups confectioners sugar

Mash ingredients together until roughly combined.  Beat with an electric mixer on high until creamy and well-combined. This method is my new favorite and guarantees really fluffy icing. I may or may not have tasted it multiple times, just to be sure.

To assemble the cake:

Make the fig compote filling first. Let it cool.

Make the pistachio-olive oil cake. Let it cool.

Make the icing. Try not to eat it.

Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half horizontally with a serated knife. Spoon your fig preserves over the bottom cake layer, smashing the figs evenly into the cake. If you made the fig compote, you can spread that evenly too. Then, put your other cake layer on top of the fig layer, and ice the whole thing generously with the cream cheese frosting. Top with sliced dried figs and extra pistachios.

Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Beautiful, flaky, layered biscuits.

Finally, finally, biscuit success has been achieved.

I don’t know what it is about the relentless desire I have had to make these work. Maybe it’s the fact that I am the oldest of three and become a different person when competition is involved (I once kicked my sister off of my doubles team because I thought she was making us lose); maybe it’s the stigma of growing up in the South and somehow feeling I didn’t quite measure up as a cook if biscuits weren’t in my repertoire. 

Oh, and it could be the flashbacks of what happened the last time I tried to make sweet potato biscuits; you can check that post out here.

But these-this recipe-is pretty foolproof. Just make sure your butter is chilled, you have a gentle hand when stirring the buttermilk/honey mixture into the flour, and you thoroughly flour your kneading surface. As in, pile the flour up and then shake some more out just in case. I like to keep a small bowl of flour by my cutting board to dip into. And it keeps my gummy hands out of the flour bag.

I was also so intent on making these work that I literally measured out the “rectangle” shape the dough should fit into with white icing. OCD, maybe- but I was determined.

Obsessive? Maybe- I like to think of it as mise en place.

So for all you who are also biscuit-challenged, you can do it. Take heart- and proudly pull these babies out of the oven. They smell amazing. And, success is sweet.

Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

This recipe is adapted from Allrecipes.com Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

What You Will Need:

  • 2 cups  all-purpose flour (This is the best flour to make biscuits with)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces (this butter tastes the best, trust me)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I like the full-fat version)
  • 3 tablespoons honey (this is my favorite)

What You Will Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal, or it is about in pea-sized pieces. Cover and chill 10 minutes in your fridge.
  3. Combine buttermilk and honey with a whisk, stirring until well-blended. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist. Key word: gently stir. If you are one of those people who take out your aggression on your kitchen utensils/and/or recipes, please go stir something else at this point. Then come back to your dough once your issue is resolved.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface (it is better to over-flour here).  Knead lightly 4 times. Roll dough into a 1/2-inch-thick, 9 x 5–inch rectangle; dust top of dough with flour.
  5. Fold dough crosswise into thirds as if folding a piece of paper to fit into an envelope. You are going to fold the dough towards you like you would if a sheet of paper is in front of you and you are folding it into thirds to put into an envelope. 
  6. Re-roll dough into a (1/2-inch-thick) 9 x 5–inch rectangle; dust top of dough with flour. Fold dough crosswise into thirds; gently roll or pat to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut and lift dough with a 1 3/4-inch biscuit cutter (don’t twist your cutter as you cut these- that makes the edges rough) to form 14 dough rounds.
  7. Place dough rounds, 1 inch apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool 2 minutes on wire racks. Serve warm.

Ok, this is your last biscuit picture. Did I mention how proud I was?

Pumpkin Hummus

I think the birds are jealous of my dip.

They call the first line of a story in journalism school the hook. I was hoping that the title of this post might be your hook.  And I know- it sounds strange. But don’t stop reading now; this dip is delicious.

Once I brought up the idea of a pumpkin appetizer (see previous post) I got so excited at the prospect that I couldn’t relent until I found one that would work. And for the five of you that read this blog, I hear you- you are tired of pumpkin posts. I sense it. But this recipe is amazing- and I promise you it works.

This is my last pumpkin photo for a while. Maybe.

Combining two of my favorite foods (pumpkin+hummus) makes me a bit giddy about what you are about scoop into. This hummus is creamy, rich, and briney with a hint of lemon and garlic. And it would make a perfect appetizer for your Thanksgiving meal. Start with pumpkin hummus, end with pumpkin pie. Which, to my family-you will be relieved to know-will not be my dessert of choice this year.

So bust out your Pilgrim hats (or Indian headdresses), whip out a can of pumpkin, and get food processing.

This recipe is taken from Cooking Light with a few of my own tweaks.

What You Need:

  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, onion flavor (or any of your choosing), each cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • a half of a lemon, squeezed and de-seeded (if you like your hummus more lemon-y, reserve the other half just in case)
  • 1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil plus more if your food processor is like mine, which means tiny and the blades get stuck
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped, which may be uneccessary because we are putting it into a food processor for goodness sake
  • cilantro for garnish

You Will

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cut your pitas in half, then cut each half into thirds with a pizza cutter. Toss the pieces lightly with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.  Bake them on a cookie sheet at 350° for 10 minutes or until toasted. (Side note: make sure and space the pieces with room to breathe on each side for the best, crispiest edges.)
  3. Put tahini and the next seven ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor, and process until smooth and a uniform color and consistency. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl; sprinkle with cilantro (or parsley or basil), if desired. Serve with toasted pita wedges.

Black Bean, Turkey, and Pumpkin Chili

Like fall in a bowl.

I think I may be a bit pumpkin-obssessed.

This comes as no surprise to those of you who read my next-to-last dessert post, but there is something about the feel of the season we are in that makes it taste even better. It’s below 60; leaves are falling; the wind is so frosty now it takes my breath away when it blows; and warm, comforting, pumpkin-y foods are the absolute best.

Since I went with a pumpkin dessert last post, I thought a pumpkin entree should be next in line. Come to think of it, now that we are working backwards, a pumpkin appetizer should be up next. And for those of you brave enough to attempt it, we could even turn this into an all- pumpkin meal. Oooh, with a pumpkin chai to drink? Yes please.

Fall’s sunniest flowers

And don’t be afraid if you aren’t quite as obssessed with pumpkin as me. This recipe is simply a black bean chili with extra cumin and a can of pumpkin swirled in. The pumpkin gives the chili a creamy, subtly sweet flavor that I am sure I will go back to again.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili (adapted from Whole Foods version)

What You Will Need:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey 
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid (I used Hunt’s spicy red pepper version)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • 1 bag frozen veggies
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (15 ounces) seasoned black beans, rinsed and drained

What You Will Do:

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it makes tiny bubbles.

2. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more.

3. Add turkey and cumin and chili powder and cook until until browned; just until it isn’t pink. Don’t cook the turkey too long or it will get rubbery.

4. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans.

6. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more.

7. Add a bag of frozen veggies of your choice (I like Italian blend) and let it just heat through.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, and/or cilantro. Then revel in eating pumpkin (again) for dinner.

Red Velvet Brownies

Red velvet- lightly-sweet, moist, and full of semi-sweet chocolate

Oh, red velvet. Of all the flavors of dessert, I feel you are the most misunderstood. And for that, I would like to formally apologize on behalf of those who do not know what they do and/or taste.

Last night I had the distinct privilege of watching Steel Magnolias (as you can see on the Info page of this blog- this movie is near and dear to my heart) with some of my best girl friends. And in honor of the armadillo cake in the movie -“Who knows what even goes into makin’ gray icin?!'” (as quoted by M’Lynn)- and the fact that my favorite football team, whose colors are also red and gray, play this evening, red velvet brownies were in order.

Red Velvet Brownies (from Southern Living)

What You Need:

  • 1 (4-oz.) bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (1-oz.) bottle red liquid food coloring (All I could find was icing coloring gel, and it worked fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

What You Will Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil. (Confession: I can never seem to figure this method out so I just sprayed a 9X13 pan with cooking spray).
  2. Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. (Ok, at this point, my arms were burning and I thought my wrists were going to give out. I suggest abandoning the whisk at this point. I think people who write baking recipes either have biceps of steel or no feeling in their appendages.) Gently stir in flour and next 4 ingredients.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.
  3. Bake at 350° for 44 to 48 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs (I only baked mine for 3o minutes, and they were perfect). Cool completely on a wire rack (about 2 hours).
  4. Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles; gently remove foil.

I iced my brownies with sparkle white icing. This also made excellent “A’s” on the bite-size mini’s for the aforementioned football team.