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Italian Fig and Nut Cake: Not Your Ordinary Fruitcake

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Fig and Nut Cake2While one can put candied citrus peel into this delicious fruitcake, I substitute orange and lemon zest. Also, the cake is best made a day or so ahead of the time you want to slice and serve it.  With coffee, for breakfast it’s sublime.  But it also will be a star on your holiday cookies and cakes plate.

Italian Fig and Nut Cake

3/4 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup slivered, blanched almonds
3/4 cup whole, dried figs
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (optional, I use about one orange’s worth of zest)
1/3 cup diced, candied lemon peel (optional, I use about one lemon’s worth of zest)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Fig and Nut Cake1Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts in small baking pan. Bake until toasted, about 12 -15 minutes. Let cool somewhat; then pick up and rub a few hazelnuts between your hands to remove as much of the skins as possible.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Coarsely chop the hazelnuts, almonds, figs and candied orange and lemon peel, if using, or add zest.  Chop chocolate a little more finely than you do the nuts. Combine nuts, figs, peels or zest and chocolate in medium bowl. Mix well.

Combine eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until mixture is very pale yellow and thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add nut mixture to egg mixture and gently fold in. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a sieve. Sift half the flour mixture over egg mixture and gently fold in; repeat with remaining flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread top evenly. Bake until top of loaf is deep golden brown and center is firm to the touch, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Then remove loaf from pan and cool completely on wire rack, at least 4 hours before cutting. To serve, cut into slices.

Makes 12-16 servings.

From “The Italian Cooking Class Cookbook” by the editors of Consumer’s Guide

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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