Walnut yogurt cake

I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.  I think they always taste rancid and they make my hands itch if I play in them too long (I’m full of issues, I know).  This cake, however, is delicious— mostly, I think, from the syrup that is brushed over it upon rescue from the oven.

Walnut Yogurt Cake with Honey-Poached Figs

The recipe comes from an entertaining and travel issue of Australian Vogue.  It was an issue full of great recipes and beautiful food photography and styling.  It’s fun to see recipes from other parts of world and discover that in Australia they use quills of cinnamon rather than our inelegant American sticks, as if to say they are no better than very expensive kindling.

In the magazine, they serve the cake with plain figs and pomegranate seeds.  It is however very difficult to find tasty figs in my part of the country/world.  Even with it being fig season, they just don’t seem to be very flavorful.  And I'm always hearing people talk about the huge, milky figs they've eaten.  They clearly didn't have them in Seattle.  We only get the little dark ones and while you might have thought you bought some really good figs, you never know, until you actually have it in your mouth, if you just wasted a bunch of money on some little sacks of mush.  Lightly poaching the buggers in some tasty syrup will ensure even mediocre figs are enjoyable.

This cake has a very interesting mixing method that yields a dense and interestingly textured finished product.  The semolina mixed with the flour gives it an ever so slight corny crunch.  It’s delicious!

Walnut Yogurt Cake
makes one 10” round cake or 15(!) individual half-cup cakes
150 g flour
160 g fine semolina
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
150 g walnuts, toasted and finely ground
4 eggs
220 g sugar
125 g butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
300 g Greek yogurt

For the syrup...
220 g sugar
3/4 cup water
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
3” quill (!) of cinnamon (true cinnamon if you can get it)
6-8 pods of cardamom

Sift the flour, semolina, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts.  Whip eggs and sugar until full, thick and pale.  Combine the melted butter, oil and vanilla and pour over the flour mixture.  Add yogurt and one-third of the whipped eggs and stir together.  Evenly fold in the remaining whipped eggs.

If you are making a 10” cake, grease and line the bottom of the pan with parchment and line the sides of the pan with parchment that extends the height of the pan a couple inches.  For individual cakes, simply grease muffin tins or ramekins.  Pour in the batter and bake at 350º until golden.

While cake is baking, in a small saucepan combine the sugar, water, lemon zest and juice.  Pound the cinnamon and cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle until fragrant (or crush with the side of a knife), and add to the pan.  Bring the syrup to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

When cake is done, remove it from the oven and poke holes the top with a toothpick.  Strain the syrup and brush it over the hot cake (use all the syrup).  Allow the cake to cool and then unmold.

Honey-Poached Figs
6 oz sugar
1/3 cup quality honey
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (worth having in your pantry)
1/2 cup water
1 - 1-1/2 lbs figs, halved
1-2 tbsp champagne vinegar

Combine the sugar, honey, pomegranate molasses and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  At this point you can either lower the heat to a simmer, add the figs and cook until the figs are soft, if that’s how you like them.  Or what I do is remove the pan from the heat, dump in the figs and vinegar, stir to coat and then let them cool.  I like the figs to still have some tooth to them, and they will naturally soften as they sit in the syrup anyway.

To finish the cake, top with the figs and sprinkle on some pomegranate seeds.  For the plate, you can swipe a dab of Greek yogurt to add a creamy texture to the dessert.