Hachiya persimmons can be culinary head scratchers. They’re mild in flavor, a regional specialty, and have the most delicate texture. Imagine a water-balloon filled with chocolate pudding that will burst if you so much as sneeze in its direction, that is a ripe hachiya persimmon. Gorgeous to look at, persimmons were meant for still-lifes. Even the trees possess drama, with waxy large leaves that turn a rich auburn as the season shifts toward winter. But like many things this beautiful, they seem otherwise useless. You don’t just bite into a gooey hachiya persimmon, and even the crunchy fuyu persimmon can be uninspiring on its own. What to do…
Fuyus are wonderful sliced up in a salad or on a cheese board paired with something sweet and mild (imagine burrata or goat cheese), and the more I thought about the squishy hachiya, the more it reminded me of one of my favorite baking ingredients: applesauce. Unassuming but subtly delicious, applesauce adds moisture and sweetness to baked goods and is a staple in vegan cakes and pastries. I took applesauce cake as a jumping off point, and created a spiced persimmon cake. Dense and rich, it’s perfect served with a hot cup of coffee on a fall afternoon. Finally, my persimmon conundrum resolved!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (plus more for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in persimmon pulp. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts.
Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
INGREDIENTS (BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING)
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer until light and a little fluffy, add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until combined. Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer on a low speed so it doesn’t blow out everywhere. Spread on the cake and coat the edges with chopped walnuts. Top with cinnamon.