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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pumpkin Fig Cake



Ah, the power of the "use by" or "pull date." While these codes can be helpful in making sure that the products we purchase have not gone stale, they also can lead the overly cautious to waste food unnecessarily. While a "fresh" package of scallops past its pull date would be a very iffy purchase, rejecting a package of dried fruit just because it has a "best if purchased by" date only a few days away would be unnecessary. Nonetheless, because so many shoppers uniformly reject any products with a close (or expired) pull date, stores routinely mark down the price on these items.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I found some dried figs at a quarter of their regular price because of a pending pull date. Though I haven't purchased these in the past, I knew my family liked both Fig Newtons and the dried figs themselves, so I stocked up. 

My first use was the easiest:  a tray of dried figs, dried apricots (another expiring pull date find), dates, and almonds arranged on a brass, vaguely Mediterranean looking tray as a dessert option. That was a smashing success, with many choosing this array over some of the other more traditional desserts at this buffet dinner.

Then came the day when I pulled what I thought was a package of cinnamon apple chunks from the freezer (I must start doing a better job of labeling!), only to discover that I had thawed some unpureed pumpkin chunks from one of the last jack-o-lanterns last year. While this is hardly the season for pumpkin desserts, I started to wonder if I could use this mistake to develop a new fig recipe. Taking a pumpkin date pudding recipe (posted earlier at http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2009/02/ten-healthful-foods-starting-with.html ), I made some modifications and came up with a lushly rich cake that disappeared quickly as soon as it was served. 

One note to keep in mind:  Because this is so very moist, any leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Fig Cake with Caramel Icing

1 1/3 c cooked pumpkin
1/3 c water (see NOTE)
1 c coarsely chopped figs
1 2/3 c flour
1 1/3 c sugar
1/4 t baking powder
1 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1 t ginger
1/2 c butter, softened 
1 egg
3/4 c chopped walnuts (plus more for the topping)

1.If using pumpkin that has not been pureed, combine the pumpkin and figs in a processor fitted with the steel cutting blade. Pulse until the pumpkin is pureed and the figs are finely blended. If you are using canned or already pureed pumpkin, just chop the figs until fine in the processor.
2. Fit the plastic mixing blade into the processor and add all the ingredients except the walnuts to the bowl. Mix, using the pulsing action and stirring the mixture down the sides often, until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
NOTE:  If the batter is thick because your pumpkin is quite dry, you may want to add a little more water. Pumpkin prepared at home may be more or less dense than the canned pumpkin you can buy, so you may find adjustments will be needed in the liquid for some recipes.

3.  Add the nuts to the processor and pulse just until the walnuts are incorporated fully into the batter.
4.  Pour the batter into a well-greased 10 inch round or 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees (325 if using glass or ceramic) for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
5.  When the cake is well cooled, poke a few holes in the top with a fork. Spread about half the still very warm caramel icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to soak in for a few minutes. Finish spreading the rest of the frosting over the top, allowing it to slowly drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle walnuts liberally over the top of the cake.

Alternate serving:  Serve the cake warm from the oven, with whipped cream or ice cream. Sprinkle walnuts over the top of the cream or ice cream.

Caramel Frosting

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 T butter
  • 3 T milk
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and mix in the milk and brown sugar. Boil vigorously for 1 minute.
  2. Remove from heat, and cool slightly. Beat in the vanilla and then gradually add the powdered sugar, beating after each addition. If necessary, add a few drops of milk or water for best spreading consistency.

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