In the nearly ninety years since Irma S. Rombauer self-published the first three thousand copies of Joy of Cooking in 1931, it has become the kitchen bible, with more than 20 million copies in print. The 2019 edition of Joy, available now from Simon & Schuster, has been thoroughly revised and expanded by Irma’s great-grandson John Becker and his wife, Megan Scott.
Get a taste of Joy with this recipe for Fig and Brown Butter Spice Cake, a delicious addition to any holiday spread.
FIG AND BROWN BUTTER SPICE CAKE
One 9-inch Bundt cake; 12 to 16 servings
This rich, golden cake is deeply flavored and irresistibly moist. It makes a stunning holiday dessert.
Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F. Coat a 9-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray.
Combine in a medium saucepan:
- 1 cup dried figs, chopped
- ½ cup Cognac or brandy
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover, take off the heat, and let sit for 30 minutes. Melt in a medium skillet:
- 1 ½ sticks (6 oz or 170g) unsalted butter
Cook over medium heat until the butter crackles and foams and the milk solids turn golden brown (keep a close eye on it, as it can burn quickly). Immediately transfer the brown butter to a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, using a spatula to scrape the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet into the bowl. Beat on medium-low speed until cooled. Sift together into a medium bowl:
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Add to the cooled browned butter and beat until smooth:
- 1 cup packed (230g) brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat in one at a time:
- 2 large eggs
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 parts, alternating with:
- 1 cup buttermilk (245g) or plain yogurt (240g)
Beat until just combined. Fold in the figs along with any unabsorbed Cognac. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto the rack to cool completely.
- Whipped cream, flavored with Cognac or brandy
Irma Rombauer self-published the first Joy of Cooking in 1931. In 1936, the first commercial edition was published by Bobbs-Merrill. Marion Rombauer Becker, Irma’s daughter, helped revise and update each subsequent edition until 1951. The 1963 edition was the first after Irma’s death and was completely Marion’s. Her son, Ethan Becker, helped Marion revise the 1975 edition, and then oversaw the 1997 and 75th Anniversary editions. Ethan’s son, John Becker and his wife, Megan Scott are the first of the family to be solely responsible for testing, revising, and updating the book since 1975, ensuring the latest edition is given the same love and attention to detail that made this culinary resource an American classic.
John Becker, great-grandson of Irma Rombauer, grew up surrounded by the natural splendor of the Pacific Northwest. Spending his childhood between Portland, Oregon and the Becker family home in Cincinnati, John learned to appreciate a range of approaches to cooking. Influenced by his father Ethan’s improvisational style, and his mother’s love of international foods and spices, John has an insatiable curiosity when it comes to food and cooking. After earning an English degree, he helped publish seventeen collections of literary essays before dedicating himself to the family business and updating Joy for a new generation. John currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Megan.
Megan Scott started work for the Joy of Cooking in 2010, when she and John Becker met and immediately bonded over a shared love of blue cheese. Megan’s culinary education began in North Carolina, where she learned to cook from a long line of matriarchs. She grew up in a farming family, shucking corn and snapping green beans as far back as she can remember. She has been a cheesemaker’s apprentice, a baker, and an assistant pastry chef, and in addition to her work for Joy she is the culinary director for a marketing agency that specializes in food. Megan lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband John and their two cats, Loki and Kishu.
Excerpted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker & Megan Scott. Copyright © 2019 by Simon & Schuster, Inc., The Joy of Cooking Trust, and the MRB Revocable Trust. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.