Baking with Chickens
Honey Earl Grey Fig Cake
Here in Southern California, late summer is fig season! The giant fig trees dotted all over the city are full of juicy, ripe figs. My friend Camille offered all the figs I could carry from the giant fig tree in her backyard -- she’s the same friend who gave me the honey and honeycomb from her backyard beehive for the Salty Honey Pie. So in honor of the beautiful ingredients she gave me to make this, I call this gorgeous cake creation -- The Camille.
Did you know that figs are not fruit but actually inverted flowers? True story! The juicy part of the fig is the flower, the crunchy bits are the “fruit,” and fig wasps pollinate the flowers in order to turn them into the delicious food that we enjoy.
About this Recipe
I have an obsession with earl grey anything. I went to great lengths to recreate the London Fog Cake from Cadeaux Bakery, and I LOVE earl grey ice cream and macarons. This is an adaptation of Little Epicurean’s Honey Earl Grey Fig Cake, when I saw this recipe with the earl grey cake while thinking about what to make with fresh figs it stopped me in my tracks.
My biggest complaint about most earl grey recipes is that it doesn’t taste strong enough of earl grey, so I doubled the amount of earl grey tea leaves and it was the perfect amount to get the flavor and scent of bergamot without overpowering the honey and figs.
Since I’m still in “practice makes perfect” mode on layer cakes, I often feel that there is too much cake and I want more of the filling to balance the textures. So this time I sliced my cake layers in half to get thinner cake layers and filled them with honey cream cheese, fig vanilla jam, and slices of fresh figs in the center layer. This is a tall, jammy, and very full layer cake -- it’s perfect!
Plus, recipe for how to make Fig Vanilla Jam below!
Photo Shoot Inspiration
To photograph “The Camille” and provide color contrast to the white cake on a white background I was inspired by the wild peacocks that live in my neighborhood. I arranged fig leaves to look like a peacock’s tail feathers fanned out behind the cake.
We have a growing family of peacocks that roam free and crap all over everyone’s yard, cars, driveways, roofs, and porches. It brings me great joy to see them strutting through the neighborhood and the baby peachicks.
Here is the neighborhood Peacock Daddy in all his magnificent glory.
Cooking With Fig Leaves
Did you know that fig leaves smell like earthy toasted coconut when cooked? They’re wonderful as a wrapper for grilled lamb meatballs, wrapped with baked or steamed fish, as ice cream, and even smoked -- check out this smoked fig leaf cookie recipe from Splendid Table!
I hit up my IG friends Isa + Luis of @watchuscook to do a savory recipe collab using fig leaves. I gave them fig leaves from my tree and a jar of fig vanilla jam to have fun with and get creative. Here’s what they came up with: fig leaf coconut rice w the fig leaf sauce, fig leaf roasted satay, and a fig leaf ice cream with pear jam and honey almonds.
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Get the Recipe
Honey Earl Grey Fig Cake
Layers of earl grey cake layered with fig vanilla jam, fresh figs, and honey cream cheese frosting. Topped with honeycomb and salted pistachios. Adaptation of Little Epicurean’s Honey Earl Grey Fig Cake
Time to Prepare: 4-4.5 hours
Makes three (3) 4-inch cake pans or two (2) 6-inch cake pans
Earl Grey Cake:
1/2 cup whole milk
4 earl grey tea bags (about 5 teaspoons loose tea)
1 1/2 cups cake flour*
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or paste from 1 vanilla bean (save the pod to use in jam)*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
*Cake flour substitute: Use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, remove three tablespoons of the flour, and add three tablespoons of cornstarch
Fig Vanilla Jam:
2 cups sliced figs, stems removed and cut into ½ inch pieces
3/4 cups granulated sugar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean pod*
1/8 cup of water
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
6-8 fresh figs, sliced in half
honey / honeycomb
Make Earl Grey Cake
1. In a small saucepan, warm ½ cup milk until hot. Steep 3 tea bags for 20 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid from tea bags. Remove tea bags. Stir in 3 large egg whites and vanilla. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line your cake pans with cut rounds of parchment paper, and lightly grease the sides (two 6-inch cake pans, or three 4-inch cake pans).
3. Sift together 1½ cup flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and the loose leaves from one teabag. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together softened butter and sugar. Add 1/3 of dry flour mixture. Mix on low speed. Add 1/2 of liquid mixture. Continue to mix on low speed and add another 1/3 of dry flour mixture. Add remaining liquid mixture. Mix on low and add remaining 1/3 of dry flour mixture. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. Batter should be smooth.
5. Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating 2/3 through baking. Do not open the oven too early to prevent cake belly buttons!
6. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before unmolding and place wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make Fig Vanilla Jam
1. Put cut figs, sugar, water, pinch of salt, vanilla bean pod, lemon zest, and lemon juice into a large pot.
2. Boil on medium, switch to low/med simmer for about an hour until the liquid starts to have a thick jammy consistency. Stir consistently with a heat-proof spatula to prevent burning.
3. Use the cold plate test method to see if jam consistency is right. Place a small plate in the freezer, drop a small amount of jam onto the cold plate, wait 30 seconds, and push the jam to see if it wrinkles slightly to check the consistency. Should be thick and gooey, and like molten lava, not thin and runny. If you’d like to use a thermometer, setting point for jam is 220 degrees F.
4. Pour jam into clean, sterilized mason jars. Can using a water bath method if you’d like to store the excess jam, or just spoon into a container without canning and eat it all before it goes bad.
5. Set aside 1 half-pint jar of fig vanilla jam to use for cake filling.
Make Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together 8 oz. cream cheese and 4 tablespoons butter until smooth. Scrape down bowl as needed.
2. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix until frosting is smooth and thoroughly combined.
3. Spoon 1/3 of the frosting into a piping bag with a round tip. Keep the rest in the bowl. Set aside.
Assemble the Cake
1. Level cooled cake as needed to make a flat top. Slice each cake layer in half lengthwise. Eat a few bites of cake scraps and save the rest to make mason jar layer cakes (instructions at the end).
2. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or cake plate. Spread a thin layer of honey cream cheese frosting on an even layer on top of the cake. Pipe a ring around the edge to act as a wall to hold in the jam. Spread fig vanilla jam in the middle of the cake inside the frosting wall.
3. Place a second cake layer on top. Top with frosting and jam, and repeat with remaining layers. In the center layer, place sliced fresh figs on top of the frosting instead of jam. Fill in the gaps between the fruit by squeezing frosting in with your piping bag. Top with your remaining cake layers, frosting, and jam.
4. Chill your cake in the fridge for at least 1 hour for the frosting and jam to set, which will make it easier to frost the outside of your cake.
5. Frost the outside of your cake with a crumb coat. Apply more frosting on top of the crumb coat on the sides and top of the cake. If your cake is getting wobbly and gooey, pop it into the fridge to chill and set.
6. Decorate the top of your cake with slice figs, pistachios, honeycomb, and a drizzle of honey as desired. Store cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Let cake sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
7. Mason Jar Layer Cakes: Use your cake scraps and leftover frosting, jam, and fruit to make mason jar layer cakes. Fill a mason jar with alternating layers of cake, jam, frosting, and figs.
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