Ocracoke Preservation Society

Once upon a time, Margaret Garrish, an Ocracoke housewife, wanted to bake a date cake. But here she was, stuck on an island, with no dates in her pantry, so she substituted with something she had on hand: fig preserves. Thus, the Ocracoke fig cake (as we know it today) was born.


Before Margaret had her necessity-as-the-mother-of-invention moment with the date cake, the Ocracoke Fig Cake was made with much simpler recipe.  According to the vintage “green” cookbook, Ocracoke cooks used a “regular butter cake recipe” baked in thin layers, then spread a quart of fig preserves between the layers. (Fun fact: an “Ocracoke Chocolate Cake” is a yellow cake baked in thin layers with chocolate fudge frosting in between.)


Margaret was born on Ocracoke in 1936, grew up in Norfolk, VA, and returned to Ocracoke in 1956 when she married Danny Garrish. She and Danny raised four children on Ocracoke (three still live here) before he passed away in 1991. Margaret was active in the United Methodist Church and served on the Hyde County Board of Education for eleven years. She died in 2002, leaving behind her four children, nine grandchildren, two sisters, and the legacy of the Ocracoke Fig Cake that the island considers the Traditional Recipe.


By the time the United Methodist Women published their “yellow” cookbook in ‘70’s, four women submitted the same basic recipe, but Margaret’s was listed first.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. salad (vegetable) oil
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 Tbsp. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. fig preserves
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts

Beat 3 eggs; add sugar and oil. After sifting dry ingredients, add to egg mixture alternatively with buttermilk. Add vanilla and fold in figs and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or in a greased and floured bundt pan at 350 degrees just a little longer. You can also add a second cup of fig preserves and bake a little longer, approximately one hour.

Getting’ Figgy Photo Contest


We love our photogenic island Fig Trees and Figs! We are looking for photos of fig trees, figs on trees, fig leaves, figs in bowls – anything that shows the beautiful bounty of the island’s fig harvest.


Grand Prize: $100 & other gifts from the Fig Festival

OPS will use the winning photo for a Fig Festival postcard and promotional posters.

Runner-up prizes: Gifts from the Fig Festival& gift certificates to Ocracoke businesses

OPS will choose up to 5 runner-up photos to use to promote the Fig Festival


Photo Contest Rules:

  1. All photos must be of Ocracoke fig trees or fresh figs (on or off the tree)
  2. Submit as many high-resolution photos as you’d like
  3. Submission deadline is July 31, 2020
  4. Submit photos to info@ocracokepreservation.org with your name and address
  5. All OPS Fig Festival decisions are final.
  6. Winners will be announced on August 3, 2020.




Greetings from Ocracoke Island and OPS

Ocracoke Island is open to all now but unfortunately, like so many other businesses here, OPS is not open yet. North Carolina is currently in Phase 2 of the Covid-19 crisis which means we fall under the restrictions that include museums. As much as we would like to be open, we will continue to abide by the current guidelines for opening. Therefore, we do not have a concrete projected opening date. We hope that visitors to the island will understand our stance on this important issue and that those that do choose to come to the island will be respectful and considerate of our situation here as it is quite unique. Many are still recovering from Hurricane Dorian which devastated our precious island and now are in the midst of the virus crisis.

Meanwhile, take an opportunity to see what is new in the OPS Gift Shop this season and revisit our merchandise we feature each year. You can make your purchases online and we will ship them out to you!  It is easy to keep supporting OPS with your purchases and donations. This will ensure that we are here and ready for your return!

Thank you so much for your concern, best wishes and continued support…We can’t begin to express our appreciation at this difficult time for all of us!



The new quilt of our annual raffle is complete and it is beautiful! Thank you to the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club for again making an heirloom quality traditional quilt for OPS.

Get your raffle tickets today!




Looking for an update on the Island Inn?

Look here!

Our Odd Fellows Lodge Project is ongoing with many different phases of work coming up.

Keep looking out for our fundraising efforts in 2019 and beyond.



You can support OPS by donating, purchasing items from our gift shop, becoming a member of the Ocracoke Preservation Society, or all of the above! Give us a call at 252-928-7375 or e-mail us at info@ocracokepreservation.org, we’d love to hear from you!

Ocracoke Preservation Society
49 Water Plant Rd.
PO Box 1240
Ocracoke, NC 27960

Click here to easily donate to OPS. Thank you for your support!





The Ocracoke Preservation Society (OPS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Ocracoke Island’s rich historical and cultural heritage.

Our museum houses a collection of Ocracoke historical items, a research library, special exhibits that change each year, and a gift shop. The museum is open from mid-March through mid-December.

OPS organizes events throughout the year, including summer porch talks, children’s events, festivals, art auctions, a Wassail party, a winter historical house tour and more!