When compared with other fruit, the juicy and filling fig holds a special place in Dalmatian cuisine. During summer there is no sweeter taste than a freshly picked fig full of sweet juice which serves as a refreshment from the heat, the sea and the sun. Apart from eating them fresh, lots of picked figs are dried every year in order to preserve them during winter, when they are eaten on their own or in numerous tasty cakes. One of these is the fig cake, which used to be an everyday snack for field workers because it provides plenty of energy. Nowadays it is prepared for holidays or celebrations and is served as an aperitif before meals.
The traditional fig cake is considered to have originated on Croatian islands which abound in fig trees. This sweet dessert requires only a couple of ingredients, but it is very filling and delicious, and stays fresh for a long time which is why it has often been prepared as a travel snack. As its name indicates, fig cake or hib is prepared from dried figs, mixed with almonds, brandy or maraschino, powdered sugar and bay leaf for more flavour. The figs are first cut into small pieces or ground, and then combined with roasted and crushed almonds. Brandy is added to the mixture slowly and carefully so that all the ingredients blend well. The packed mixture of almonds and figs is formed into loaves and sprinkled with fresh bay leaves, or other Mediterranean plants such as rosemary or sage.
The basic recipe for fig cake can be altered according to taste, preferences and circumstances, so that instead of brandy the juice of any citrus fruit can be added, such as orange juice and its zest, or fennel seeds, different spices, as well as walnuts and raisins. Fig cake can be eaten immediately, but in order to be able to cut it, the moulded fig cakes need to be dried for some time. Nowadays this is done in the oven on low temperatures for up to an hour, so that the fig cake becomes a little harder. Individual fig cakes are wrapped in paper to prevent them from drying and for easier storage and transportation. These days, fig cakes are a popular souvenir among tourists in Croatia.