As divine and simple summer desserts can be (ripe fruits, a freshly churned bowl of ice cream…), I somehow always manage to break my seasonal diet by baking a very unseasonal cake. I wouldn’t go as far as a multi-layered frosted creation in the middle of July, but there are quite a few cream less cakes that can work in the hottest months too.
Take the traditional Italian fig and chocolate cake – Frustingolo. It’s usually served during Lent though I feel it deserves to see the light more often than that. Besides the fact that I just like saying the word, it’s a not-too-sweet dessert best enjoyed at room temperature and therefore great for picnics, afternoon snacks and long summer evenings.
The dense cake is filled with soaked dried figs,…
…loads of nuts and melted chocolate, a winning trio requiring very little sugar to shine.
Let it cool off for a bit so you can invert the pan…
… to reveal the walnutty underside, the only decoration the simple dessert really need.
A little slice is enough but you’ll probably find yourself going back to it and chopping off little pieces throughout the day.
The luxurious truffle-like texture is addictive and quite filling, so think of it as a very indulgent energy snack or old-world dessert for your sophisticated friends…easy to convey with a name like Frustingolo!
- 1 cup dried Turkish figs, sliced in half
- Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
- 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts halves
- 10 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao), chopped
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 oz (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
- Place the figs in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1/2 inch, about 1 1/2 cups. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until plump, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with half of the poaching liquid. Add enough Frangelico to cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and reserve the figs and liquid separately.
- While the figs are macerating, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Place the hazelnuts on a small cookie sheet. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven until they are brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 14 minutes. Cool slightly, then gather the hazelnuts in a clean dish towel and rub to remove the husks. Transfer the hazelnuts to a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped, set aside. Repeat with the almonds, then the walnut halves. Divide the chopped walnuts, reserving 1/2 cup for dusting the pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth and incorporated.
- Remove the stems from the figs and finely chop the figs in the food processor. Transfer the figs to a large bowl with 1/4 cup soaking liquid. Add the honey, sugar, and melted chocolate, and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, hazelnuts, almonds, and 1 cup of the walnuts. Add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating the first before adding the next. Stir in the flour and olive oil.
- Grease a 10-inch round cake pan with olive oil and dust with the reserved 1/2 cup walnuts to evenly coat the pan. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the center of the cake is set. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack and cool completely.