Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake

Hello! How are you?! It’s been a while. Since I last wrote something here, I had my final wedding dress fitting, Kevin and I moved into our new condo, we traveled for wedding appointments, and started condo renovations. To kick it all off, we tore down a wall and painted our bedroom. We also bought 4 new toilets (even though we only have one bathroom…), finally successfully installed one of those toilets that actually fits in our microscopically small bathroom, we installed two closet systems, and a shelving pantry area behind our new kitchen, plus picked paint colors for the entire place, painted the pantry, started painting and priming the in-transition living room and made about 1,000 trips to Home Depot. It’s starting to feel more like Home Depot is my home than our condo!

If you saw the master condo to-do list, the myriad of things I just recited would seem like nothing – but we’ve been BUSY! Busy and tired, because when you only have the evenings to do renovations (weekends are devoted to wedding planning travel), those few after-work hours stretch into many after work hours, and all of a sudden it’s approaching midnight and that 5am wake-up call is coming as us fast.

Fig Rosemary Walnut Cake

So… there’s that. And there’s also this cake. This cake, which I somehow managed to craft and photograph in our new house, with the living room floors missing, and dust and junk everywhere. The dark, grainy photos say it all – where I took these photos was the only clean, usable surface I could find in the whole place! To be honest though, baking this cake was a peaceful break in the chaos, to buckle down and measure and mix, and I’m was especially grateful this month for my Secret Recipe Club commitment to get me in the kitchen.

Fig Rosemary Walnut Cake

This month, I was assigned Eat, Laugh Love written by Denise. After perusing her site for quite a while, I found myself deciding between many recipes, as I so often do. It’s  a creative and delicious bunch, the Secret Recipe Club! I sent Kevin an email with several recipes from Denise’s blog, expressing serious indecision and asking for his help. I expected for sure that he’d pick these Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, because he’s fan of all of those ingredients. But instead, he came back asking for these Spiced Carrots Bars, or this Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake. Because the cake seemed so vastly different than anything I’d ever made, I decided to give it a go. I’ve baked with herbs before, but never made an herb-y cake, and definitely not with something as powerfully flavored as rosemary. I was apprehensive that it’d be too strong of a flavor, but wanted to give it a try anyway.

Fig Rosemary Walnut Cake

The cake turned out beautifully! I reduced the butter and sugar in the caramel part, because I felt a bit too indulgent with the given recipe (gotta fit into a wedding dress soon!), but otherwise kept it about the same. The rosemary was surprisingly subtle, and worked really nicely. Though I was excited about this recipe, I am admittedly not a huge fan of fresh figs, but they worked really nicely here. The butter-less cake had me a bit leery at first, but that was lovely too, with a nice, bright lemon flavor. Loved it!

Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake

Yield: 8 servings


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • About 12 fresh, ripe figs of your choice (you may need a couple more or less, depending on their size)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided
  • 2-3 tablespoons walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put butter into a 9-inch-round baking pan, and place inside of a warm oven until melted. Remove from oven, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the butter. Add figs, flesh side down (or flesh side up, depending on the aesthetic you prefer), and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the rosemary. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over top.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine sifted white and wheat flours, baking powder and salt, and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. In a medium metal or glass bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until nice and fluffy, and soft peaks are just starting to form. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with granulated sugar on medium speed until thick and creamy. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary, and mix until completely incorporated. Add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg yolk mixture, and mix again until well combined. Fold in the egg whites gently with a rubber spatula. Pour cake mixture evenly over the fruit, and smooth with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake, and invert onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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