Side Dish: Cakes for beginners and experts

“Southern Living The Southern Cake Book” edited by Allison E. Cox

Oxmoor House, $22.95

254-page paperback

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I don’t know if our extra cold winter had anything to do with it, but my fig trees and those of my neighbors have yielded bumper crops of fruit. That, of course, leads to looking for recipes to use the figs. I ran across a yummy recipe for Fig Cake in a new Southern Living cookbook that celebrates the best of Southern cakes.

“Southern Living, The Southern Cake Book” also includes recipes for Buttermilk-Glazed Mini Fig Cakes and Fig Upside-Down Cake among its more than 150 recipes.

The book opens with insider tips for becoming a better cake baker and info on frosting with flair and serving with style.

The five recipe chapters begin with “A Bit of Cake,” which offers ideas for fun minicakes; cupcakes; “Swoon Pies,” which are marshmallow-filled pastry; and petits fours.

Among the book’s suggestions for party cakes are Celebration Hummingbird Cake (Southern Living’s most-requested recipe of all time), Caramel Cake, Ambrosia Cake and Tiramisù Layer Cake. There are Sunday afternoon cakes like Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake, Lemon-Rosemary Coffee Cake and King Cake. There’s a chapter devoted to decadent pound cakes and another for cakes that will feed a crowd, such as the moist Peanut-Cola Cake.

Each recipe, illustrated with a full-color photograph, is clearly written and easy to follow — perfect for both the beginner and experienced baker.

“The Southern Cake Book” is a keeper for anyone who believes every celebration deserves a cake for dessert.

Book signing

The West Baton Rouge Museum will host a lunchtime lecture and book signing on “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” with guest speaker and author Sam Irwin at noon Thursday, July 24.

The museum is located at 845 North Jefferson Ave. in Port Allen.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com

Fig Cake

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Recipe is from “Southern Living, The Southern Cake Book” (Oxmoor House), which says the recipe “gets its figgy flavor from preserves. Buy them at the store or use homemade. If figs are in large pieces, coarsely chop them before adding to batter.”

33 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. table salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 cup fig preserves

1/2 cup applesauce

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Shortening

Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe)

Garnishes: dried figs, fresh mint sprigs

3

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat eggs, sugar and oil at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add buttermilk and vanilla; beat well.

2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; gradually add to buttermilk mixture, beating until blended. Fold in fig preserves, applesauce and toasted pecans. (Batter will be thin.) Pour into 2 greased (with shortening) and floured 8-inch round cake pans.

3. Bake at 350 F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

4. Spread Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with dried figs and fresh mint sprigs. Store cake in refrigerator.3

3 H3oney-Cream Cheese Frosting

3Makes 31/2 cups.

311/2 (8-oz.) pkgs. softened cream cheese

1⁄3 cup softened butter

11/2 tbls. honey

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

31. Beat cream cheese, butter and honey at medium speed with an electric mixer just until smooth.

2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended.