Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs and Walnut Streusel

August 22, 2016
2 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 8
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • 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
  1. For the Walnut Streusel:
  2. 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.
  1. For the Cornbread Cake:
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Pamela Clark
    Pamela Clark
  • Two Trays Kitchen
    Two Trays Kitchen
  • Laurie in Petaluma
    Laurie in Petaluma
  • frecklywench
  • Claire Geiger
    Claire Geiger

11 Reviews

Libby August 21, 2018
I was happy to use fresh figs from my yard and cornmeal from the farmers market. The coffee cake baked up nicely and the figs looked really pretty. The cornmeal added a certain roughness to the texture. I liked it but I brought this to a breakfast meeting and the blueberry coffee cake someone else brought went a lot faster! It was a white flour, fluffy cake, and I think people were more drawn to it. Oh well!
Laurie I. September 9, 2020
We have a fig tree in our backyard too. It seems like people either love figs or hate them. I brought this recipe to a socially distanced family picnic but when I went to cut into it, it was undercooked. I brought it home and cooked it for another 15 minutes and my husband and I finished it off in 3 days. It was delicious. It's always interesting to me to watch what people eat at work functions. They seem to be more comfortable with store bought items or things that are familiar to them.
Erin G. August 30, 2017
Love love loved it! Vivian is always on point!
Pamela C. February 6, 2017
Came out pèrfect! Blueberries stood in for the figs and pumpkin seeds in place of walnuts. Realized that we had run out of sour cream so I added 2-3T. addtl buttermilk & scant extra T. salted butter to the batter. Even better when served warm with spiked whipped cream. Mmmmmm, thx Chef Vivian!
cary W. December 10, 2016
oh my, getting ready to make this and can't decide whether to use my number 12 cast-iron skillet or my number 10. My number 12 measures 13 inches across at the rim and my number 10 measures 12 inches across at the rim.
Arizona C. October 7, 2016
I rarely have access to fresh figs. Any ideas regarding substitutions?
frecklywench October 9, 2016
I'm wondering about this too! I love both blueberries and peaches with cornmeal, so maybe I'll try one of those...
Arizona C. October 9, 2016
I like both those suggestions
Claire G. October 18, 2016
I used blackberries and it was wonderful.
Arizona C. October 18, 2016
sounds good
Two T. October 5, 2016
what grind cornmeal do you recommend?