Fig Cake- Sikopita

Fig bundt cake. Photo by Katrin Morenz via Wikimedia Commons

Fig trees have been cultivated since ancient times and their fruit is enjoyed fresh and dried wherever the trees thrive, usually in dry, sunny climates. The recent snowier-than-usual winters in the Northeast have done a number on the fig trees that had been producing fruit almost like they do in Greece for a few years. The milder than usual winters were a boon for the fig trees and fig fans in the New York area. There were so many figs one year, I was able to make two large batches of fig jam and four fig cakes. We must have given away dozens. Unfortunately, snow and cold are not conducive to fig production. It was touch and go for many fig trees and some did not survive the harsh winters. New Yorkers had gotten out of the habit of wrapping them up to keep the frost away. Astoria used to be dotted by the towering, wrapped up fig trees owned by Greeks and Italians who had probably smuggled the plants in from the old country years before. For immigrants, something as simple as a tasty fig at the end of the summer is a connection to the homeland. The taste brings back memories of home, people, and places you might never see again. Older fig trees are more likely to survive and many did through careful pruning of dead branches, allowing new growth. Though last year we had only two or three very small figs that were ready to eat in November, this year, thanks to the hot, dry summer, we enjoyed a couple of figs in early September. They were small, but tasty, almost exactly like the ones in Greece. We might get a dozen or two more before the cold weather creeps in, perhaps not enough to make fig jam or preserves, but enough to enjoy fresh and maybe make a fig cake (sikopita). Fig cakes are not only made in Greece, they are also popular in the Southern US and in the Appalachian regions. Ocrachoke, NC hosts an annual fig festival where a fig cake contest is held every year.

Fig Cake

  • 2 cups fresh figs
  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A pinch of cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch ring mold or bundt pan. Wash the figs and remove stems. If preferred, peel the figs and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mash the figs and add the sugar, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat well. Add the fig mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chopped walnuts. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.

Fresh and dried figs. Photo via Public domain
Fresh and dried figs. Photo via Public domain