Persimmons are the edible fruit of a number of trees in the species Diospyros. Native to China, the tree was brought to California in the 1800s. The tree is deciduous and grows best in areas with moderate winters and relatively mild summers; perfectly matched for the Bay Area.
The Bay Area is home to two main species of Persimmons; the Hachiya is oval shaped and needs to ripen fully to jelly-soft consistency before it’s fit to eat. The Fuyu is rounder in shape and is eaten while crispy, used in a similar fashion to apples.
My first experience with a persimmon tree was on a wintry day in Yountville, where I had gone to have lunch with friends. The leaves had fallen off the tree revealing the beautiful dark orange, ripe oval shaped balls, waiting to be picked. Since then, I have become fascinated with these trees. I planted one in my office garden and use the ripe fruit to make my Persimmon Budino each year.
I always know the cooler weather has arrived when the persimmons on the tree at my office start to ripen and I see them at the Monterey Market! As the weather becomes cooler, our diet naturally progresses towards foods that warm the body. That’s one of the reasons this persimmon cake recipe fits so well with cooler weather. The spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger are all warming herbs. The pulp of the persimmon fruit is rich in health promoting nutrition.
Fresh persimmons contain anti-oxidant compounds Vitamin A, beta-carotene, lycopene. These compounds act as protective scavengers against free radicals, which play a role in aging and disease processes. They also contain zeaxanthin, an important carotenoid that helps prevent age related macular disease, as well as vitamin C and many valuable B-complex vitamins, which act as co-factors for metabolic enzymatic functions in the body.
The consistency of this cake is somewhere between a cake and a pudding, which is why I’ve called it a Budino.
This cake uses the Hachiya, or soft Persimmons. You will need 2¼ cups of pulp.
Line a 10” springform or push pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour the paper. Or, line two 9″ X 13” rectangular pans with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.
Simmer 1 cup raisins in ½ cup cognac on the stove, until raisins are soft. Let cool to room temperature. Orange juice can be substituted instead of alcohol.
All ingredients need to be at room temperature. I use all organic ingredients when baking.
Preheat over to 350.
With the paddle attachment, Beat 4 extra large eggs until light.
Put the 2¼ cup persimmon pulp into the mixer, and add:
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup white sugar
1 tbsp honey
1½ to 1¾ cup unbleached organic flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt, scant
I recommend treating yourself to fresh spices at this time of year. It makes a huge difference in the taste of your food!
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
Add spices to dry ingredients.
1 3/4 cups half & half, and ¾ cup heavy cream (I use Straus) at room temperature
1 stick melted unsalted butter
Starting with the dry ingredients, and in thirds, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients to the persimmon mixture.
Add the 1 cupful cognac-soaked raisins and 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.
Pour into prepared pans and bake approximately 1 hour, or until a clean knife comes out clean. If top starts to over brown, place aluminum foil over top and lower heat to 325.
Let cool before turning out onto cooling racks. Leave the parchment paper on and wrap the Budino in foil. Store in refrigerator if not going to eat immediately.
You will be the star of the potluck if you bring one of these and they are just as wonderful to give as holiday presents.