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Simple Fig and Mascarpone Cake

If we’re paying attention to the small milestones (and good grief- WE ARE), it’s been just over two years that I’ve had a backyard.  It’s an anniversary of sorts (but really not at all).

The backyard is still partly graveled, with hopes of future raised beds.  I still battle the weeds – but there are moments of such sweetness.  Earlier this spring the gardenias made me think of my grandmother ever morning.  Earlier this spring the orange blossoms had me and the bees drunk in love.  My magnolia tree offered four glorious blooms.  These days my fig tree is truly an unruly bush with little baby figs doing their best.  The figs are neither big enough nor ripe enough to take off their bush and into the kitchen but they’re present enough to inspire some deep affection for the figs I’ve found at the grocery.  

The sweetest thing about my backyard as of late is the big brown dog named Maggie that I get to play with in that space.  Gosh, leave it to a dog to make a backyard really feel like a backyard.  And, in what is no surprise to me, her favorite place to rest, and chill, and hide her ball from me is under the fig bush.  Well done sweet girl, Imma go make a cake. 

This cake is in a class of what I like to call Everyday Cakes.  

They’re simple buttermilk cakes, single layer, baked thick and golden. They can be dolled up and stripped bare.  Let it be about what you have in the pantry and in the fruit bowl.  

In particular this cake shines with buttermilk, fig jam, mascarpone (totally optional but a sweet addition), and fresh figs.  

We’ll start by whisking together the wet ingredients + granulated sugar.

Eggs and sugar whipped to glossy.  

We’ll add melted butter and vanilla extract and whisk to smooth.  

All of the liquids will help the sugars dissolve and disperse through the cake so it’s best to add the sugar here instead of with the dry ingredients. It’s very loose cake science. 

Buttermilk is my preferred dairy for this cake.  

I love the tartness.  I love that the slight bit of acid helps boost the baking soda’s good work.  

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, feel free to mix a few good spoonfuls of yogurt or sour cream mixed with whole milk.  (There’s also this list of stellar buttermilk substitutions here!) 

We’ll add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt directly to the top of the wet ingredients.  

And let the whisk do the good working of bringing the batter together.  

Whisk until smooth – get your elbow into it! 

The batter will be thick and smooth.  Almost pourable.  Mostly spoonable. 

The key to an Everyday Cake is its thickness.  I think an 8-inch round with 3-inch tall sides works really well for this endeavor.  I suggest you take my advice but then again I’m totally biased.

On top of the cake we’ll dollop fig jam, and honey-sweetened mascarpone.  

We fancy, but also… let it be as fancy as your pantry is at the moment.  Let cake be cake. 

Use a knife to lightly swirl the jam and mascarpone topping into the cake batter, leaving lots of visible bits on top.  

And lightly press fresh figs into the top of the batter.  

The buttermilk batter is sturdy enough to support most of the weight of the figs and jam, leaving them visible on top of the cake as it bakes to golden brown.  Give it a long bake – at least 45 minutes in that 8-inch pan.  Sit tight.  Brew some coffee – a suggestion. 

This cake is sturdy.  This cake happens to be exactly what you need it to be. Tender, lightly sweet, moist, thick, fruited, and jammed.  It doesn’t need frosting, barely needs powdered sugar, always needs whipped cream and it’s just the kind of cake you want under a cake done every day of the week. 

I love you.  More soon.  

Simple Fig and Mascarpone Cake


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fig jam
  • 4 fresh figs, halved


  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch wide and 3-inch tall cake pan and lightly dust with flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Whisk in the vanilla or almond extract.
  4. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined and no lumps remain. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  5. In a small bowl stir together the honey and mascarpone. Dollop the mixture atop the cake batter. Dollop jam on top of the cake batter as well and use a butterknife to lightly swirl the two into the cake. Dot with fresh figs, gently pressing not the cake batter.
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve. Serve plain or with sweetened whipped cream.
  7. Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.


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