Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Fig and Walnut Topping

A tender cake of lemon, sour cream and poppy seed is topped off with a glaze made from fresh figs and walnuts.
A tender cake of lemon, sour cream and poppy seed is topped off with a glaze made from fresh figs and walnuts.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Fig and Walnut Topping

Growing up we always lived in a subdivision neighborhood. Things were pretty tight-knit in the old neighborhood, and everybody knew each other back in those days. We were constantly outside, playing and running around - nothing like today where many of us don't really know most of our neighbors and you barely even see children out and about.

My parents backyard butted up against a wooded area that lay between our house and the house on the street behind us with just a semblance of a fence separating the two that was no trouble to climb over. We had a lot of make-believe fun in those woods, building forts, swinging on rope swings and just generally hanging around in the cool shade. Parents didn't spend any time worrying over what was going on or what might happen in the woods back then either. Times have sure changed.

Just along the fence line was a giant Bay Laurel tree - the same bay leaves that you have in your pantry. Oh, I so wish that I had that tree in my yard today. When Mama was running low on bay leaves, she just stripped them straight off of that tree, or more often, sent one of us kids to clip a branch to bring in and let dry. I seem to also remember a time or two that the branches of that tree threatened to become a switch for our backsides, though I honestly only remember very vague threats and no action on that thankfully!

Right next to the bay tree was a huge fig tree - I swear that thing had to be at least 30 feet tall. I can remember Mama picking huge bowlfuls of figs at a time, and eating them straight out of the bowl, fresh off of the tree, which is honestly the way I love figs the most.

Mama passed away in 1997, and in 2006 when I started getting into gardening, I decided that in my Mama's honor, I would plant a Celeste fig tree, so my tree is still pretty young. It doesn't produce a lot just yet, but I usually manage to get a few cups of figs off of it before the birds strip it. The bluejays are the worse because they indiscriminately peck off a little bit on every single ripe fig, but this year the biggest admirer appears to be a mockingbird and a small male house finch who is tending to his partner while she sits on eggs in a plant on my front porch. So far, they both seem to prefer to eat on a single fig at a time, so I was able to harvest a few, though I'm sure the bluejay will be along soon.

Usually I get just enough figs to boil down with a little sugar and some lemon for a simple refrigerator jam and I enjoy that through the summer. This year though, I thought I'd do something a little different. I wanted to do a cake - one that would feature, but not overpower, the figs. I settled on doing a more delicate yet simple cake, similar to a French yogurt cake. I did use the zest of a lemon in the cake and once I did that, poppy seed seemed a natural companion, since I love the two together. Instead of the traditional lemon glaze though, I intended to use figs for a finish.

I have to say that I was extremely pleased with the outcome. This cake was a perfect host for the fig topping, light and tender, with just enough citrus punch and you just can't help but smile at the poppy seeds. The topping, however, with the unexpected crunch of the walnuts, is the real star and I'm sure this fig topping would be great on any number of cakes. Now, I just need to find somebody to share this with, and maybe come up with a slightly shorter recipe name!

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Recipe: Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Fig and Walnut Topping

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 8 to 12 servings


  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of one large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
Fig Topping
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups of chopped figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray and cut a round of parchment paper to fit inside. Spray the parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds. Whisk to mix; make a well in the center. Add the oil, eggs and sour cream and stir until blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Turn out of pan and allow to fully cool before adding the glaze.

While the cake is baking, mix the water and sugar together and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Add the figs and nuts and continue cooking until mixture has reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and let cool before adding to cake.


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