Steeped in Spirit: Now's the time to bake Fig Jam-Pecan Cake with Bourbon

For optimal enjoyment, don’t be tempted to shortchange your Fig Jam-Pecan Cake the time it needs for aging, as your patience will be rewarded with one of the most delicious luxuries of the season. Rich with pecans, dates and figs, Fig Jam-Pecan Cake is also flavored with a wealth of spices, such as ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, in addition to bourbon. The bourbon isn’t baked into the cake, but rather instilled into it, by means of the bourbon-soaked cheesecloth in which the cake will remain wrapped from now until Christmastime. Something like fruitcake (but not as heavy) and based on a recipe found in a Leisure Arts Spirit of Christmas book from more than 20 years ago, this cake could easily become a holiday tradition, along with your favorite recipe for homemade eggnog. (If you don’t have a recipe for homemade eggnog, you’ll find a good one here, which is made with a cooked egg-custard base, infused with cinnamon and mace.) I’ve had my Fig Jam-Pecan Cake aging since September when I put up a few jars of fresh fig jars. There’s cake enough for Thanksgiving, but for Christmas, I’m glad there’s still plenty of time to bake another.


Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

Fig Jam-Pecan Cake with Bourbon

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

½ cup full-fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup fig jam, homemade or store-bought

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup chopped dried figs

1 cup bourbon

Cheesecloth for wrapping cake

Fresh Fig Jam

3 pounds fresh firm-ripe figs, washed, peeled, ends trimmed and chopped into small pieces to make 4 cups

4 large lemons, juiced, to make ½ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup water

7 cups granulated sugar, measured into a separate bowl

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon butter (to help reduce foaming during cooking)

1 (3-ounce) pouch CERTO liquid fruit pectin


Prepare for water-bath canning: bring water-bath canner, which has been filled half way with water, to a simmer. Wash 8 (half-pint) jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water, then drain well. Pour boiling water over flat lids in a saucepan off the heat; let stand in hot water until ready to use. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into a 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice and water; stir until well blended. Stir sugar into prepared fruit in the saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil, and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle mixture immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in the canner, then lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes as timed with a kitchen timer. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Makes 8 (half-pint) jars.

Old-Fashioned Eggnog

6 large egg yolks

¾ cup sugar

2 cups milk

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

¾ cup bourbon

½ cup dark rum

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided

2 cups heavy cream, slightly whipped to soft peaks


In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended; set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine milk with cinnamon stick and mace. Over low heat, cook for 5 minutes, then increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick and gradually add hot milk to egg yolks/sugar mixture, whisking constantly to keep eggs from curdling. Return mixture to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (Do not let mixture boil.) Remove from heat and strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl; cool to room temperature. Stir in bourbon, rum, vanilla and ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Cover bowl and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Just before serving, fold in whipped cream; dust top with remaining nutmeg, adding more to taste. Serves 8.


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