Where I live the persimmon trees have already dropped their leaves. I love how stark they look. Gray tangles silhouetted against a gray sky with just a few crimson orbs dangling from their branches. I’ve lived in Los Angeles so long that I’ve come to consider the persimmon tree the real true Christmas Tree. The first harbinger of the season. The first hint that the holidays are coming. You can almost smell the sweet spice of them. I try to stop and savor this moment every year, because we all know that the stress of the holidays will soon follow. The weight of them will soon be felt.
But right now– they seem so enchanting, so full of possibility and promise.
Take fruit cake. Every year about this time I think to myself, “I should make fruitcake”. The idea of fruitcake seems so romantic, ripe with holiday spirit and good intentions. So full of possibility– so promising. But then the calender clicks off a few more days. The big day looms more near. My to-do list grows. Suddenly I remember all the hassle involved tracking down all those gummy neon colored fruits. Besides, nobody really likes fruitcake. They (like me) have romanticized that little confection all out of proportion.
So before I get to that point. Before the possibility and the promise fizzle out like the last candle on the 8th night. I plan to make fruitcake.
But this fruitcake holds all of the promise and none of the burden. Because you will love this fruitcake. I made it with persimmon. Hachiya persimmon. Its pudding-like pulp will add just the right note of sweetness to this very dense, very moist “fruit” cake.
I hope you’ll consider this Persimmon Pudding Cake. My gift to you. Because I realize many people aren’t sure what to do with persimmons. Some people even claim to dislike them. But I don’t really believe them. Though its true persimmons can be confusing.
You see there are 2 types. Fuyu persimmons are squat like a bright orange tomato and are eaten while crunchy. They are great simply sliced and eaten out of hand. But they also shine in winter salads. I really defy anyone to say they don’t like fuyu persimmons. It’s like saying, “I don’t like apples”.
It’s the other type of persimmon, Hachiya, that has convinced folks that they don’t, can’t or won’t eat persimmons. Hachiya are more acorn shaped, more red than orange– and are abruptly tannic when under-ripe. Grimace your face and run from the room tannic. Hachiya persimmons must be squishy soft before eaten. At that point their flesh is like jelly. You can cut one in half and spoon its soft sweetness into your mouth. You can freeze them and do the same thing– enjoying them like the sweetest most exotic sorbet imaginable.
But there are other ways to enjoy them also. Their sweet pulp, when pureed, is as smooth as pudding. Making it a terrific ingredient for baking. It’s the star of this dense and moist– perfect for the holidays– cake. It’s a luxurious cake. Packed full of raisins and walnuts. At first bite it might seem not quite sweet enough. But keep eating. Just like the promise of Christmas, this cake’s unexpected pleasures are not as obvious as they seem, and they don’t last forever. GREG
- 1/4 c brandy
- 1 c raisins or dried currants
- 6 very ripe hachiya persimmons
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 c whole milk
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 6 T melted butter, slightly cooled
- 2 T honey
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1 1/4 cg all-purpose flour
- 1/2 t kosher salt
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t baking powder
- 1 1/2 c coursely chopped toasted walnuts
- 2 c whipped cream (optional)
Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Place a round of parchment on the bottom.
Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the brandy over. Let soften about 20 minutes.
Cut the persimmons in half, then scoop the pulp from the skins and place the pulp in a large bowl. Discard skins. Mash the pulp with a fork until until smooth. Add the lightly beaten eggs, milk, vanilla, honey, melted butter and sugar. Stir to combine.
In a separate large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in 3 additions. Stirring to combine between each addition. Fold in the raisins and any remaining brandy along with the walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It should come to about 1‑inch from the top. Don’t overfill. Place the filled pan a a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the heated oven.
Bake until the cake has risen, is firm to the touch and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool run a small knife along the edge to loosen the cake from the pan, then remove ring. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream, if using.
Source: Adapted from CIA Greystone