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Author Notes: This is one of those beautiful things that could be either breakfast or dessert. I developed it with breakfast in mind, maybe something to be shared when family was in town over several pots of coffee. But when I first made it, my kids named it corn-candy cake and called for it after supper. I obliged and put some whipped cream on top. Whenever you choose to eat it, feel good about baking it a day ahead. It keeps beautifully and is just as satisfying at room temperature as it is warm.
Excerpted from Deep Run Roots, Copyright © 2016 by Vivian Howard. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved. Follow Vivian Howard on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. —Vivian Howard
For the Walnut Streusel:
- 2/3 cup sliced walnuts (or any nut you like, really)
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients but the butter, taking care that everything is evenly distributed. Add the butter and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a wet crumb.
For the Cornbread Cake:
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons room-temperature butter, divided
- 3 cups figs, divided
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 375°F and grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with 2 teaspoons butter. Remove the stems from all the figs and cut 1 cup of them into eighths. Cut the remaining 2 cups in half lengthwise. Set aside.
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together ½ cup butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the second. From this point forward, make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically with a spatula. Add the cornmeal, roughly a half a cup at a time, until it’s just incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another smaller bowl, whisk the buttermilk, cider, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the sifted flour and buttermilk alternately in three batches, ending with the flour. Using your spatula, fold in the sour cream and the cup of figs cut into eighths.
- Assemble and bake: Spoon half the corn-cake mixture into the bottom of the skillet and spread it out with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top and finish with the remaining corn-cake batter. Spread the halved figs over the top, pink-flesh-side up.
- Bake uncovered, in the middle of your oven, for 40 to 45 minutes. Try to let it cool a little before people go to town on it. I like this even more the next day.