Saturday, November 20, 2010

Festive persimmon cake

Last fall, as a very small Roman and I began to visit Rome's markets, an orange-rosy hued fruit caught my eye. Not that I'm shy, but it took me several months before I decided to ask one of the merchants what they were and how to eat them. Persimmons, or kaki as they are called in Italy, were officially in my life.

P. took this photo last December when we went to visit a town in Umbria called Gubbio. Soon after we arrived there was a snow storm and it made for a picturesque stay, complete with this snow-covered persimmon tree in the courtyard of the hotel.

I sometimes scoop out the pulp and mix with yogurt for breakfast. I find persimmons to have a very mild taste and can be roasted, used in jam and cookies, eaten plain or, baked into a bread cookies or cake. This cake, (originally called bread by James Beard) is very festive, decadent and rich...I can imagine it in the court of Henry the Eighth around Christmastime. To be that much more decadent, I added a cream cheese frosting. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the inside of this cake because I took the whole thing to a baby shower. But once sliced, the inside is chock full of walnuts, apricot chunks and raisins. You can taste both the nutmeg and the brandy. It would be a real treat served at a holiday party, served with egg nog, mulled cider or a glass of prosecco! I recommend serving this cake for afternoon tea, or un-iced for breakfast or brunch. I think it would be too heavy to eat following a meal. Mmmm, I'm getting in the mood of the season that's upon us!

Persimmon cake
Adapted from James Beard

3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (the original called for mace)
2 cups sugar
1 cup melted butter, cooled
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac or bourbon (I used brandy)
2 cups persimmon puree (depending on size, this would be between 2 and 4 persimmons, not necessary to peel them)
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups raisins (I used one cup raisins and one cup of chopped dried apricots)

Sift all five dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter (cooled!), eggs, Cognac, persimmon puree, nuts and raisins. Mix the dough until it is quite smooth. James Beard used 4 molds, but I baked this in a ring mold to do the cake. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cream cheese frosting, courtesy of Martha Stewart found here!

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