chocolate fig cake

i’m a big fan of fruit cakes and love the fact that they keep so well. this chocolate and dried fig cake from dan lepard is very different to the traditional fruit cake that might have been made at the end of last year as part of the christmas stockpiling but it is no less delicious.

dried figs are softened in a warmed mix of honey and marsala but i think you can vary the alcohol to take into account whatever you have an excess of – i actually used the dregs of a bottle of welsh elderport which has wonderful berry flavours which, i think, go really well with chocolate.

decoration is also a matter of taste – i smothered mine with melted dark chocolate (as pictured above) and then allowed my inner barbie free reign with the edible glitter; the original recipe has a more elegant approach witrh fresh figs and chocolate ivy leaves.

whatever you use will be wonderful and actually this is all about the eating – a gently spiced chocolate and dried fruit delight. i took one into the office and had to provide the recipe to several colleagues one of whom has declared it will usurp the traditional christmas cake and christmas pudding options that she usually falls back. as for me, i’m happy eating it whatever the time of year.

dan lepard’s chocolate fig cake (serves 10-12)

200ml marsala wine (i used elderport)

300g clear honey

500g ready-to-eat dried figs, quartered

40g dried apricots, chopped

100g unsalted butter, chopped

1 teaspoon orange extract (i used the zest of an orange)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

100g blanched almonds

100g blanched hazelnuts

125g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

100g dark chocolate (50% cocoa solids), chopped

to decorate:

100g dark chocolate (50% cocoa solids) plus extra if you want to make decorative chocolate leaves

3 fresh figs, quartered

2 teaspoons icing sugar

in a large pan, bring the marsala wine and honey to the boil. remove from the heat and stir in the dried fruit. set aside for 10 minutes.

line the base and sides of a 7cm-deep 11 x 21cm loaf tin with baking paper so that the paper stands 3-4cm proud of the top (i suggest you double line it as the edges of my cake burned a little). preheat the oven to 180°c.

add the butter to the pan with the warm dried fruit. once melted, stir in the orange extract (or zest), spices and cocoa powder. stir in the eggs, nuts and then the flour and baking powder.

spoon a third of the mixture into the prepared tin; sprinkle over half the chopped chocolate. spoon over another third of the mixture and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate. cover with the remaining mixture and smooth the top. bake for 2 hours or until cooked, covering with foil for the final hour. when ready, a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean. leave the cake to cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool the cake completely.

to decorate, melt the chocolate, cool for 15 minutes, then drizzle over the cake. top with the figs. if you're adding chocolate holly leaves, once they are in place, chill the cake for 20 minutes, then dust with the icing sugar.