Golden Vanilla-Fig Cake
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Spiced Vanilla Syrup:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 8 dried juniper berries (or 1 sprig fresh rosemary)
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup milk (any kind you like)
  • 6-8 oz fresh figs, washed, patted dry, stems removed, and halved
  • Butter, to grease the pan
  • Flour, to grease the pan
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
  • Fresh blueberries, for serving (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F; butter and flour a cake pan (I used a pan 10½ inches long by 6½ inches wide by 2½ inches deep).
  2. Make the Spiced Vanilla syrup first because the syrup should be cold and the cake hot when the syrup is poured on the cake (so the cake absorbs the syrup). To make the syrup, add the sugar, water, lemon juice, juniper berries, and peppercorns to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, giving the pan an occasional swirl to help the sugar dissolve; turn heat down slightly and boil 2 minutes. Turn heat off and stir in vanilla extract. Cool before pouring over cake (the syrup will thicken slightly as it cools).
  3. For the cake, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. Beat in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternatively with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to over-mix; the batter should be fairly thick.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and let it rest for 3 minutes (it will thicken even more). Arrange the fig halves in a single layer on top (don’t worry too much about perfection; the figs will sink), and bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  5. Right before using, remove the juniper berries and peppercorns from the Spiced Vanilla Syrup. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, slowly pour half of the cooled syrup onto the hot cake, reserving the rest of the syrup to pass around for people to drizzle on top when serving. (Alternatively, you can pour the whole amount of syrup on top if you like; the cake will absorb it if it’s hot and the syrup is cold.)
  6. Let the cake sit at room temperature 2 hours (or overnight) to absorb the syrup before serving. Serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a small handful of fresh blueberries, if desired.
Recipe inspired by Cooking Light’s recipe for Lemon-Cornmeal Pound Cake.
Recipe by An Edible Mosaic™ at