Emita is the kind of friend that the second you see each other again, it’s like it was yesterday, except it’s been really almost a year since you both live on opposite sides of the country. Such is the reality of the mobile generation I belong to.
I met Emily while studying in Chile for the year. We were both finishing our last years of college and enjoying a state of non-responsibility abroad, truly one of the best experiences for any college student. I loved it so much, I studied abroad twice because I couldn’t get enough.
Em came out to California around Christmas to visit friends here in Nor Cal and family in So Cal. Kris and I were very excited to show her our house, and I wanted to bake something with her. I have realized that one way to make our house into a home is to create memories of cooking and eating with friends. Not only that, but in my quest to join the farm to table movement, I wanted to use ingredients from our own yard. I had many stories to tell her of my meager attempts to utilize our edible landscape.
Emita’s visit in December inspired me to try my first recipe using our persimmons. It comes from David Lebovitz’s book Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes that I procured from epicurious.com. Since it was a baking recipe and my first time using persimmons, I was very faithful to his protocol, adding in only a few extra spices to experiment and make the recipe a teensy bit mine. I also added extra lemon flavor to the cream cheese frosting. We used lemons from our tree, and the taste exploded on your tongue. Although there is a large amount of persimmon puree, the persimmon taste is very mellow. It was a good thing that Emily left with half of the cake because it would not have lasted long in our house, and I’m a much faster eater than Kris is.
Persimmon Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes one 10-inch Bundt cake; 12-16 servings
¾ cup raisins
½ cup brandy or whisky
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod (optional, but fun if you have some laying around)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups persimmon puree
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (depends on lemon taste preference)
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
4 or 5 teaspoons water
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 10 cup Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the whisky or bourbon, raisins, cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod to a soft simmer for about 5 minutes. You want most of the liquid to soak up into the raisins, but not all of it. Discard the cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pod. DON’T strain it, you risk losing the infused alcohol.
3. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients to combine: flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in the sugar.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients: butter, persimmon puree, eggs, and vanilla.
5. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Gently stir. Fold in the raisins, their liquid, and the nuts. Mix until everything is just put together, maybe even less, you don’t want to over mix, only until things are roughly combined.
6. Scrape every last bit of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for about an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Remove from the oven, and let cool. Once it’s cooled, flip the cake onto a serving plate.
7. Make the icing: in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of butter until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and lemon juice. Gradually add the powdered sugar a little at a time. After each addition of powdered sugar, beat until combined and smooth. Add in 1 teaspoon of water at a time until the icing has thick liquid consistency. How much you add depends on amount of lemon juice used. Pour on top of the cake and let it run messily along the sides and crevices.