Fig upside-down cake

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We have this thing in our house. Whenever the kids are giving us a hard time about food — you know, won’t choose a snack, can’t decide what they want — we offer them figs. Figs figs figs. Sometimes we throw in some Spam. Figs and Spam Spam and figs. For some reason lost to time, they find the idea of figs hilarious and kind of disgusting. Figs figs figs.

So, figs are a joke in our house, the thing you would never want to eat. Like Spam (sorry, Hawaii), they’re just kind of gross and weird. For most of the year, this affects us not at all. Figs as punchline works just fine. But then once or twice a year, right about now, figs show up in our house. Usually, the come by way of the CSA box, one little pint of fresh figs, destined to be mocked and derided and used as a threat. Poor figs.

They sit in the fridge (are you supposed to store figs in the fridge? I have no idea) for a week or two, until my guilt at the thought of throwing them out forces me into action. Last week I talked my husband into a fig and balsamic sauce over pork chops. It was delicious, and the kids refused to try even a little bit. Ugh, figs. That sauce used up all of two figs, and the rest of them stayed in their little green plastic basket, mocking me. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think figs mock, they’re too humble, too homely. Maybe it was their sadness at the rejection they feel in our house that I was feeling. But I wasn’t inspired until I came upon a recipe for plum upside-down cake. Figs are kind of like plums, right? They’re small(ish) and purple(ish) and, um, round. Yes, this could work! And maybe the kids would give figs a chance in cake, although they didn’t last year when I made a fig pudding cake (also delicious).

This recipe is originally from the Times-Picayune. I guess they have a lot of figs in New Orleans.

Fig Upside-Down Cake


    • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 10 fresh figs, stems removed, cut in half
    • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and honey until smooth. Pour the sauce into the prepared cake pan. Arrange the figs, cut sides down, in concentric circles over the sauce. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with sugar and vanilla until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating until well combined after each. Beating on low speed just until combined after each addition, add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk in 2 parts. Spoon the batter evenly over the figs.
  4. Bake the cake until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 50 minutes.


  1. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen. Place a serving platter on top of the pan and invert the cake. Gently lift off the pan and remove the parchment paper. Spoon over the cake any of the sauce that has run off, and serve warm.