Ocracoke Island Fig Cake - Carolina Country

Ocracoke Island Fig Cake The recipe that made this local favorite a legend

3.7/5 rating (117 votes)
Ocracoke Island Fig Cake

No matter who you talk with on Ocracoke Island, everyone credits Margaret Garrish as the person who created the now-famous Fig Cake sometime in the early '60s. The story goes that she was mixing up a cake one day when she discovered she was out of dates, a key ingredient. She decided to substitute fig preserves. Until then, fig preserves had been used as a topping between layers of plain cake. Garrish’s addition of the fig preserves to the batter kicked it up a notch when it came to the cake’s flavor and moistness. Try your hand at making this legend, which locals say tastes similar to a spice cake.


  • 1 cup salad oil
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in a little hot water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup preserved figs, chopped (chopped dates may be substituted for figs)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


  1. Beat 3 eggs; add sugar and oil.

  2. After sifting dry ingredients, add to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk.

  3. Add vanilla and fold in figs and nuts.

  4. Pour into greased oblong pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or in a well-greased tube or bundt pan at 350 degrees just a little longer.


For the love of figs

Learn more about the history of this famous cake, the origins of figs in Ocracoke and the beauties of this North Carolina island where "time seems to stand still." Read our story, Ocracoke ♥ Figs.

Recipe courtesy of

Ocracoke Cook Book (“the yellow cookbook’), published by The United Methodist Women of Ocracoke Island, N.C.

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Comments (5)

  • Can this cake be made with fresh figs?

    Winnie Gleason |
    November 02, 2020 |

    • Hi Winnie,
      We’re not 100 percent certain how this cake will turn out if you use fresh figs, due to their higher moisture content. We feel confident that you could substitute pitted prunes or dried dates easily, but if you decide to go the fresh fig route, try cutting back on some of the moisture. Maybe decrease the oil to 3/4 cup? Let us know how the cake turns out!

      Carolina Country |
      November 02, 2020 |

  • I ave made this with Bonne Maman fig preserves. I cannot fine the reserves and so I will try it with dried figs. Or maybe with dried cranberries.

    Dani Feierstein |
    May 29, 2022 |

  • Does "preserved figs," mean dried figs or fig jam?

    Carolyn Caywood |
    August 03, 2022 |

    • Technically, preserved figs are whole figs canned in a heavy syrup. That's what you're looking for. But you can't go wrong with a fig jam either, such as Bonne Maman Fig Preserves...

      Carolina Country |
      August 30, 2022 |

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