Spiced Persimmon Cake

Season: Fall | Active Time: 45 minutes | Total Time: 2 hours, plus time to cool | Difficulty: 2 (Easy) | Dairy-Free

My first introduction to orb-like persimmons was James Beard’s persimmon bread, which I made several years ago after reading about the recipe on pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz’s website. I was intrigued by the persimmons themselves, which Lebovitz explained had to be left out on the counter until squishy and swollen like a water balloon before using (this is true for the more elongated, slightly tapered Hachiya persimmon; the rounder Fuyu persimmons stay firm when ripe). Beard’s recipe sold me on using the jelly-like flesh to add moisture and natural sweetness to a quick bread, as I do here.

Makes 1 standard loaf

Special Equipment: Standard or handheld blender; 4½ × 8½-inch loaf pan, measured from the top

Neutral oil and demerara sugar for the pan

1 cup walnut halves or pecans (4 oz / 115g)

2 large ripe Hachiya persimmons

1 teaspoon baking soda (0.21 oz / 6g)

1¾ cups all-purpose flour (8 oz / 228g) ②

2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.11 oz / 3g)

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz / 200g)

½ cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (4 oz / 113g)

2 large eggs (3.5 oz / 100g)

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

¼ cup fresh orange juice (2 oz / 57g)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ripe medium Fuyu persimmon (optional), cut into about 8 very thin rounds

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling the top

Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with oil. Line the bottom and two longer sides with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang of an inch or two on each side. Oil the parchment paper, then sprinkle demerara sugar inside the pan, shaking it to coat the bottom and sides, and set the pan aside.

Toast the nuts: Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, shaking halfway through, until the nuts are deeply browned and very fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Once they are cool, coarsely chop and set aside.

Make the persimmon puree: Cut the Hachiya persimmons in half through the stem and slice out the whitish core. Scoop out the translucent orange interior with a spoon (see photograph on this page). Transfer it to a blender (or use a handheld blender) and puree until completely smooth. Measure out 1 cup of puree (9 oz / 256g) and transfer to a medium bowl. Thoroughly whisk the baking soda into the persimmon, then set aside for several minutes while you prepare the batter (as it sits, the baking soda will aerate and then “set” the puree into a solid).

Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 5-spice powder, salt, and baking powder to combine. Set aside.

Mix the wet ingredients: Once the persimmon mixture has solidified, whisk in the granulated sugar, oil, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla until thoroughly combined (there will be bits of persimmon floating around, which is okay; it’ll all smooth out in the oven).

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry: Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then add the persimmon mixture to the dry ingredients. Whisking from the center of the bowl outward, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet just until you have an evenly mixed batter with no dry spots. Add the walnuts and fold the batter several times with a flexible spatula to incorporate.

Fill the pan and bake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the slices of Fuyu persimmon (if using) over the top of the batter, then sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake until the cake has risen, the top is firm to the touch, and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then use a paring knife or small offset spatula to cut in between the cake and pan along the shorter sides to loosen and use the parchment to lift out the cake. Place on a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

DO AHEAD
The cake, well wrapped and stored at room temperature, will keep up to 4 days.

① Unripe Hachiya persimmons are unpleasantly astringent, so pick ones that are shiny and heavy for their size, and let them sit on your counter until they feel very soft and jelly-filled and look slightly translucent, which can take up to 1 week.

② Swap ¾ cup (3.7 oz / 105g) whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose for a slightly more wholesome loaf. Increase the bake time 10 to 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

③ If you can’t find Chinese 5-spice powder, you can substitute the following blend of warm spices instead: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.

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