When I was a little girl my mom and I traveled to Texas every two years to visit My Uncle John and his wife Aunt Ida. Uncle John was mom’s brother, and Aunt Ida was one of the best cooks that ever lived. Aunt Ida would always load us up with fig preserves and pecans to take back home. My uncle and aunt had a pecan tree in their yard and with each step you were likely to step on pecans. What I wouldn’t give to have them now!
At the time I also didn’t appreciate the goodness of those fig preserves. These days I’ve come to love and appreciate figs and often add them to my granola. Last week on a whim I bought a jar of fig reserves and at first bite I was reminded of my Aunt Ida. At second bite the wheels starting turning on how to use them in a cake.
The yellow cake recipe is one I found on the box of Swans Down Cake flour. The cream cheese frosting is from allrecipes.com, and the caramelized hazelnuts from Nestle’s. What a line up! What a cake! My original idea was to only bake one layer, top it with cream cheese frosting, fig preserves and the caramelized hazelnuts. When you have all that sugar, fat and flour, what’s one more layer!
The frosting and the caramelized hazelnuts pack a powerful sweet punch and I’m very happy that I did add the extra layer, and that I didn’t frost the sides. One layer frosted and all that sugar might have been too much. That being said I loved all the texture. Soft moist cake, creamy smooth frosting, and the crunch of the caramelized hazelnuts are a great combo and a small slice is more than enough to get you where you’re going.
1-2-3-4 Cake – adapted from Swans Down Cake Flour
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour, see note
4 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
3 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
Fig Preserves, approximately 2/3 cup
Note: sift the cake flour and then measure. It’s a royal pain but you gotta do it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 8 inch pans for baking. I used the pan grease/grease and flour method and then lined the bottoms with parchment paper. This makes for a sure fire release. In a grease free bow beat the four egg whites until stiff peaks form and set aside. After sifting the cake flour lightly spoon it measuring cups to yield 3 cups. Sift the already sifted cake flour ( ai -yi-yi!!) with the baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cream butter and gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla, taking care not to over beat. Using a large spatula, fold in the beaten egg whites a third at a time just until they disappear. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they test done.
Place one layer on a cake plate and pipe a generous ring of frosting approximately right on the edge of the cake. This time you not only want to create a dam to keep the filling in but allow it to fill out the space between the layers. This is purely for aesthetics since the sides won’t be frosted. Spread ½ cup of cream cheese frosting inside the frosting ring then top with 1/3 cup of fig preserves. On top of the preserves sprinkle approximately a third of a cup of the caramelized hazelnuts. Make sure the pieces aren’t too big. Top with the other layer and repeat the steps and amounts for the cream cheese frosting, fig preserves and caramelized hazelnut pieces. Place in refrigerator until serving time and refrigerate any leftovers.
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 cups Powdered Sugar
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
¼ butter, softened
Cream cream cheese and butter until smooth and add powdered sugar one cup at a time until firm enough to spread.
Caramelized Hazelnuts – Adapted from Nestle
2 TBS butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups chopped hazelnuts
Place sugar and butter in a small non-stick sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until sugar becomes golden brown in color then add the chopped hazelnuts, then remove from heat and stir.. After that, pour and spread it over cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.. Let cool to room temperature. Place in zippered bag and break into small pieces with a mallet or rolling pin. Allow part of the caramelized to be very fine or crumb like.