Cynthia Ferris-Bennett: The season for … figs |

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett: The season for … figs

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett
Vanilla bean fresh fig cake from Sierra Chef.

Here we go, autumn! We are just a few weeks away from that magical time of year, my absolute favorite. The evenings become crisp and cool, the leaves begin to change, it’s only 104 days until Christmas (yes, I start planning now) and harvests are happening everywhere. Palates turn to those comfort foods we wait all year long for … soups, stews, chowders, chicken and dumplings, hearty lasagnas and, of course, anything pumpkin.

I know autumn is truly here when I start to see fresh figs that are typically available through mid-December. If your only experience with a fig is a little dry cookie that your mom tried to feed when you were little, then now is the time to open your culinary horizons and try a fresh fig.

The six varieties of figs that we see in our area are:

Black Mission figs have an earthy flavor with purple and black skin.

Kadota figs have a light flavor with an amber skin.

Calimyrna figs have a buttery, nutty flavor with pale yellow skin.

Sierra figs are sweet with a light multi-colored skin.

Tiger figs are fruity and citrusy with red, green and purple stripes.

Brown turkey figs have a pronounced sweet flavor with black skins.

At Sierra Chef, we use fresh figs everywhere … antipasti platters, baked in cakes and pastries, seasonal sauces, chutneys and so much more. The fresh fig cake with brown sugar bourbon is one of our most popular autumn cakes. The cake is sweet, the figs are earthy and the brown sugar bourbon glaze is sassy. You could also add a bit of fresh rosemary to the cake batter if you would like to add a savory flavor. The variety of fig is completely your choice, but we find that the black mission figs tend to hold up a bit better when baked and the tiger figs add a beautiful color when sliced and used on the top after baking. As always … mangia!


1 stick of unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled

1 ½ cups pastry flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 ½ cups ricotta cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons honey crystals

2 cups fresh figs cut in half (fresh black mission figs)

4 figs sliced (fresh tiger figs)


2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons brown sugar bourbon

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9-inch round spring form cake pan.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.

In another bowl whisks together eggs, ricotta, vanilla extract, lemon zest, rosemary (optional) and melted butter.

Add wet mixture to the dry flour mixture and stir until smooth. The batter will be thick.

Pour batter half of the batter into the spring form pan.

Place the half cut figs in a circular pattern on the batter, skin side down.

Pour the remaining batter over the top of the figs in the spring form pan, smooth out the top and hit the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Sprinkle honey crystals over the top of the cake.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean … let cool completely and remove from the spring form pan to a serving platter.

Whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla extract and Brown Sugar Bourbon.

Place sliced figs in a decorative pattern on top of the baked cake and drizzle with the brown sugar bourbon glaze … enjoy!

If you are looking for a lovely Autumn experience please join Sierra Chef on Oct. 14 for our “Andiamo Vino Avventura” to the El Dorado County Wine Country. Guests will board (2) 32-passenger luxury buses at 8 a.m. from Sierra Chef with continental breakfast in hand and begin their day trip adventure of Food & Wine while enjoying the beautiful fall colors. Our first stop will be Mastroserio Winery in Somerset where we have complete tasting of Mastroserio’s Italian varietals, accompanied by Sierra Chef Antipasti (yes, there will be figs) as well as a lunch from the wood fire pizza oven. Mediterranean Vineyards is our next destination where guests will enjoy a tasting of varietals from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. This tasting also includes Charcuterie and Cheese pairings with the wines and enjoy the Bocce Ball courts. Contact Sierra Chef to register for this Culinary Day trip.