Honesty Time

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Summer Figs are Taking Over

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Nothing says summer in an Italian household to me quite like fresh figs.

I don’t know if all Italians are into figs, but I assume they are just because my family has always been. It’s a “thing” in my family, at least, so I say it is.

And yes, I live in New Jersey and we grow fresh figs in our backyard. Is that also a thing? I don’t know, I just know that our family has been doing it for generations.

Our figs are sentimental. I’m not trying to use personification here. Our figs don’t share memories with each other and wipe away little sentimental tears. But our trees have meaning to us. When I was little, I remember my dad’s father had figs in his yard. When my dad was little, he remembers his grandpa growing figs.

So we all grow figs. The really special part of this all, is that all of our figs trees are descendants of our family’s first fig tree. Before my grandparents moved, their sons, or at the very least my father, took cuttings from the fig tree, so that they could grow their own and keep it all in the family.

My dad was so excited when his new-old fig tree started to grow in our yard. But we never had any figs. So he took another cutting and put that new piece in a different part of the yard. Maybe it just needed different soil, or sunlight. Something.

Still no figs.

And another cutting.

Still no figs. Until last year, when we finally received a few figs from one of the trees.

And then this year happened.

Lots of figs. Lots of big, juicy figs.

Now, I love figs. We cut them up and eat them fresh from the branches. Delicious, juicy, a little crunchy from the seeds inside, and total perfection.

But then I started getting sick of eating them plain. So I ran to Google and started trying to find some ideas. I Pinned quite a few ideas, but I singled out one recipe to try right away. A fig upside-down cake. Sounds pretty perfect to me.

Of course none of the recipes I found were gluten free. So what’s a gluten free gal to do? Change it.

I love my King Arthur gluten free baking mix. I’ve been pretty successful using it in recipes which call for regular flour. I know I shouldn’t be so lucky, but I’ve had good results using it cup-for-cup and just adding a pinch of xanthan gum. So that’s what I did with this recipe. And I had success.

The only problem: the cake was too moist. Gasp, shock, and awe. But yes, it’s actually fell apart because it was just too moist. That almost never happens with gluten free baked goods.

This is either because I used fresh figs OR because somehow….

I turned into Paula Deen.

No, I didn’t insult my cake with racism. I added too much butter. I went Paula Deen on my cake. The recipe called for 6 tablespoons of butter and I somehow added 8 tablespoons, or a whole stick.

Honestly, it was *bleepin’* delicious. This recipe is worth a try, and can definitely be used with lots of other fruits. I plan to try it with plums perhaps this week. And yes, I will try to only use 6 tablespoons of butter this time. Maybe.

The plain cake is also yummy enough that I may want to experiment with making this my new go-to from-scratch cake recipe for cupcakes, layer cakes, any cake. It was so yummy.

So now I know what to do the next time that our kitchen is over-run with figs.


Gluten Free Fig Upside-Down Cake

Recipe adapted from CaliforniaFreshFigs.com and from T & D Wiley Farms


For Fig Top:

  • 3 tablespoons butters
  • ¾ pack brown sugar
  • 1 pound fresh figs (except I only used three very fat figs, could have used more)

For the cake:

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ butter milk (I used Lactaid milk and lemon juice. Lazy)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (I used however much vanilla bean paste I felt was right)
  • 1 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free multi-purpose flour
  • Scant ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons (or er, the whole stick) softened butter


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • I used two little cast iron pans instead of one large one. Portion control? Heat the pan (or pans) on the stove on a medium low heat and melt the 3 tbls butter. Once it’s melted, swirl it around the pan to ensure even coverage. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Cut the figs, either in halves or quarters, and place the figs with the cut side facing down on the brown sugar. Things will get bubbly and yummy. You can turn the heat down to low if you’re worried about the sugar burning while you mix the rest of the cake.
  • Beat the eggs, two tablespoons of the buttermilk, and the vanilla together until incorporated.
  • In a separated large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Then, add the softened butter and the rest of the buttermilk and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Then, kick up the speed of your mixer until you have a well-mixed, thick batter.
  • Start to add the egg mixture. The recipe suggests that you do this 1/3 of the mixture at a time, beating the batter after each addition. This probably matters more for a regular cake than it does a gluten-free cake, so that the glutens don’t get too overworked. Whatever, I’m gluten free. Mix that batter!
  • Pour the batter over the figs, making sure everything is even and covered. Pop the pan right into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool for at least 3-4 minutes so things can kind of gel. Then turn it upside down and eat. You can eat it warm or cool. Just eat it. It’s wonderful. I even ate what little was leftover for breakfast the next morning.
Here the cakes are in the oven. I honestly didn't take any process pictures because I had no idea it would actually turn out. When they started to rise, I got pumped and took pictures. On my phone. through the oven door. Quality.

Here the cakes are in the oven. I honestly didn’t take any process pictures because I had no idea it would actually turn out. When they started to rise, I got pumped and took pictures. On my phone. Through the oven door. Quality.

All done. The sugar isn't burned, I just used dark brown sugar and it turned into a kind of Fig Newton filling on top. But better and fresher. Score.

All done. The sugar isn’t burned, I just used dark brown sugar and it turned into a kind of Fig Newton filling on top. But better and fresher. Score.



Author: Allyssa Ellen

A costumer, a makeup artist, an educator, and a librarian, all rolled up into one convenient, fun-sized package.

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