Food is food is food. Cake is not naughty. It’s not calories. It’s a glorious construction of colour waiting to be demolished by a determined fork.
Just like exercise is only exercise. It shouldn’t be punishment or redemption. If I were to go running to make up for some imaginary transgression, angry at my body, I would run slower, stop. I wouldn”t look up at the sky or count the babies in jogalong prams.
Here in the south of France, my ipod sadly broken, I run and look at sunflowers. Admire grasshoppers. Sometimes taste the ripe figs by the road. When I struggle up the Big Hill, cursing out loud, the f-word I repeat is not fat. Here I forget to wear make-up. I feel more like a person and less like a girl. My short hair looks cool and easy, chlorine-bleached, left to dry on its own.
Here the fresh market food, the sunshine and the empty country lanes make me want to run and run and run. There is pure energy in the peaches, the figs, the flour-dusted bread.
This upside-down fig cake is inspired by Eat the Damn Cake. She doesn’t know me, but I follow her blog. (Blogging is weird.) Her post on short hair prompted me to cut off all of my own, instead of waiting to be thinner. And I like her fierce defence of cake, of thin women, fat women. Of familiar insecurities and different styles.
Funnily enough, it’s not a particularly pretty cake. The overripe figs sighed and collapsed into the pillowy sponge. But the soft fruit, barely sweet, balances the light nutty base, enlivened by ground pistachios and coriander. Perfect for afternoon tea.
Upside-down fig cake
9-10 fat ripe figs
25g brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
125g caster sugar
50g ground pistachios
75g ground almonds
20g (2 tbsp) self raising flour
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a round cake tin with a circle of greaseproof paper and butter the sides.
Melt 50g butter and set aside to cool. In the same pan, melt the remaining 25g butter with the 25g brown sugar, until the sugar has melted. Drizzle evenly over the bottom of the cake tin. Halve the figs and arrange them in the cake tin in neat circles, cut side down.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add half the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating between each addition. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the rest of the caster sugar until pale yellow and thick. Mix in the ground nuts, melted butter, flour and coriander. Gently fold a spoonful of this mixture into the egg whites. Then fold it all together taking care not to lose the airy texture.
Tip into the cake tin on top of the figs then bake for about 45 minutes. The top of the cake will be just brown and the sides detached from the tin. Let it cool for 10 minutes then tip upside-down onto a large plate, rearranging any recalcitrant figs. Serve just warm.