Ocracoke Island Fig Cake

In the early ‘60s, Margaret Garrish created the first Ocracoke Island Fig Cake. It is said that when Margaret discovered that she was out of dates for her date cake, she swapped in fig preserves, which were typically used as a topping between cake layers. She mixed the fig preserves into the batter, and the cake came out with excellent flavor and an even more tender crumb. We bring the fig flavor with this recreation of this classic spice cake. Combining Valley Fig Grower’s naturally sweet, robust dried Sun-Maid Figs, vibrant vanilla, and the earthy, warm flavors of four different spices, this masterpiece will have you wondering why you didn’t make a fig cake sooner. We complete the cake with a hefty pour of a delightfully sweet Caramel Glaze, giving this masterpiece a stunning finish. Our perfected Ocracoke Island Fig Cake recipe is fantastic for a weekend brunch, an easy snack, or served alongside your favorite meal!

Ocracoke Island Fig Cake
Makes 1 (10-inch) cake
  • 1½ cups (240 grams) Sun-Maid Figs, stemmed
  • 1½ teaspoons (6 grams) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 grams) water
  • 2⅓ cups (467 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (110 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs (200 grams), room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (150 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon (1 gram) packed lemon zest
  • 2⅔ cups (333 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons (4.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground nutmeg
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) warm water (90°F/32°C)
  • 1¼ teaspoons (6.25 grams) baking soda
  • ⅔ cup (160 grams) whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (18 grams) vanilla bean paste
  • 1½ cups (170 grams) chopped toasted pecans
  • Caramel Glaze (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: toasted pecan halves
  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine figs and vanilla extract. With processor running, add ½ cup (120 grams) water in a slow, steady stream until mixture is puréed, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugars and eggs at medium speed until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add fig purée, oil, and lemon zest; beat until thickened and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon (15 grams) warm water and baking soda; add buttermilk and vanilla bean paste, stirring until well combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Fold in chopped pecans.
  5. Spray a 10-inch tube pan with baking spray with flour. Spread batter into prepared pan. Firmly tap pan on a kitchen towel-lined counter several times to settle batter and release any air bubbles.
  6. Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour and 5 minutes, loosely covering with foil during final 5 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack, and let cool completely.
  7. Pour Caramel Glaze onto cooled cake. Garnish with pecan halves, if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Caramel Glaze
Makes about 1⅓ cups
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup (80 grams) water
  • ⅓ cup (80 grams) plus 3 tablespoons (45 grams) heavy whipping cream, room temperature and divided
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring granulated sugar and ⅓ cup (80 grams) water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, until mixture turns light amber in color and a candy thermometer registers 340°F (171°C), 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully whisk in ⅓ cup (80 grams) cream, butter, and salt. (Mixture will boil vigorously.) Let cool completely.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar to caramel mixture, whisking until smooth. Whisk in up to remaining 3 tablespoons (45 grams) cream until desired consistency is reached. Use immediately.


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