Two-Persimmon Layer Cake with Vanilla Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting {Gluten-Free}

This gluten-free persimmon layer cake recipe brims with hachiya and fuyu persimmons, warming spices, and a gently-sweetened cream cheese frosting kissed with vanilla and bourbon.

For us, persimmons are synonymous with the holidays. Each year we take a drive down the winding foothills of highway 280 to Jay’s folks’ house where we’re treated to a feast of dungeness crab, copious amounts of white wine, and a deep, dark, spiced persimmon pudding with a plume of softly whipped cream for dessert.

Persimmons peak during December, when the bare branches of their trees hang with heavy, flame-colored orbs. Oblong hachiyas need to be squishy-soft before they’re ripe enough to soften their copious tannins. The jelly-like flesh is often pureed and baked into cakes, puddings, and cookies (check out these GF beauties by Snixy Kitchen). Squat fuyus can be eaten crisp, like an apple, and make a tasty addition to salads, smoothies, and crumbles.

I rarely make layer cakes (in fact, this is my very first layer cake recipe post in 5 years of Bojon!) but this idea came to me last week, when my hachiyas were attracting fruit flies on the counter and Jay kept nagging me about them every time he entered the kitchen. Plus it was my birthday, so I couldn’t think of a better excuse to bake a cake. (In fact, I baked two cakes, the second of which is perfect for the holidays. I’ll be sharing it soon.)

This cake base consists of fragrant, buttery layers seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and hachiya persimmons. To make it gluten-free, I used a combination of almond, oat, sweet rice, and millet flours, though I think you could simply combine almond flour with a GF all-purpose blend if you preferred. I particularly love the nubby texture the almond flour adds to the mix, and its proteins help strengthen the batter, making gums or starches superfluous.

The filling involves a gently sweetened cream cheese frosting kissed with vanilla bean and a splash of bourbon, and diced fuyus tossed with lemon to keep them looking and tasting fresh.

I bake the cake in a six-inch pan lined with a parchment collar to keep it from splooshing out the sides as it bakes. When cool, I cut it into three layers, topping each one with frosting and persimmons, leaving the sides bare. This technique cured me of my layer cake phobia, and I think it looks prettier than hiding the cake in layers upon layers of icing and deco.

Dark slices of cake redolent with butter, muscovado sugar, and warming spices contrast tangy frosting and jammy fruit. Serve slices at room temperature to maximize the moist, gooey factor with the butter in both cake and frosting softened up. It’s just the thing to eat on the longest night of the year.

Jay even declared this his favorite dessert of the year.

Persimmons are reaching the end of their season here in California, so if you see any, snatch them up. Hachiyas will usually take at least a week to ripen before they’re ready to use.

If there are no persimmons in your holiday future, never fear – I’ve got a persimmon-less cake coming up next. Stay tuned. And happy winter solstice.

Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, or Twitter, subscribe to receive new posts via email, make a donation, or become a sponsor.

Persimmon pursuits:
Persimmon + Pomegranate Salad with Burrata + Dukkah
Persimmon Tangerine Smoothies {Vegan}
Two-Persimmon Galettes

One year ago:
Nim-Nam {Ginger Vodka Cordial with Vanilla, Lemon and Honey}

Two years ago:
Vegan Chocolate Chile Coconut Milk Truffles

Three years ago:
Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie

Four years ago:
Bojon Egg Nog (fully cooked, fully awesome)
Sage, Thyme and Mimolette Cheese Straws

Five years ago:
Roasted Winter Squash and Sage Tart
Triple Ginger Molasses Cookies
Satsuma, Ginger and Oat Scones  

Two-Persimmon Layer Cake with Vanilla Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Make sure your hachiya persimmons are so squishy-ripe that they feel
like water balloons about to burst. I let mine ripen on the counter for
at least a week or two, stem side down to protect their delicate
bottoms, transferring them to a container in the refrigerator as they
ripen. They’ll keep there for up to a week. When ready to bake, cut the
blossom off the persimmon, squeeze out the jelly-like flesh into a mesh
strainer placed over a large bowl, and use a flexible silicone spatula
to work the flesh through. It will be the consistency of a runny jelly.
This puree can also be frozen to use later.  

If gluten is an issue for you or your guests, be sure to use certified gluten-free ingredients, especially bourbon and oat flour. If gluten isn’t an issue, give this a go with almond flour, all-purpose wheat flour in place of the rice and millet, and whole wheat flour in place of the oat.

I bake this cake in a six-inch cake pan, using a parchment paper collar to keep it from spilling over the sides. Alternatively, you can bake it in an 8″ round cake pan and cut it into 2 layers for a wider, shorter cake. 

Makes 1 (6″) layer cake, serving 8-10

For the cake:
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces / 65 grams) blanched almond flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 55 grams) GF oat flour
1/2 cup (2.75 ounces / 80 grams) sweet white rice flour (Mochiko)
1/3 cup (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) millet flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) unrefined muscobado sugar (such as Alter Eco) or dark or light brown sugar
1 cup (9 ounces / 260 grams) hachiya persimmon puree
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting and finishing:
8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) powdered sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or a squeeze of lemon juice)
2 large fuyu persimmons, ripe but firm
a squeeze of lemon juice

Make the cake:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a 6″ round cake pan with 2″ high sides with a round of parchment paper. Cut a 4-5″ wide strip of parchment paper that’s longer than the circumference of the pan and use it to make a collar around the inside of the pan.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and add the almond, oat, sweet rice and millet flours along with the baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl, adding back in any almond or bran bits that get caught.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. With the mixer on low, beat in a third of the flour mixture until combined. Beat in half of the persimmon pulp until combined. Repeat until you’ve added everything. The mixture may look grainy and that’s ok.

In a separate, clean bowl, use a whisk to whip the egg whites until they hold firm peaks when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl. (Hint: this is easier if they’re at room temperature. You can also do this in a clean bowl for your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.)

As soon as the whites are whipped, stir a third of them into the cake batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared cake pan (don’t forget the parchment collar if using a 6″ pan!). Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 60-75 minutes for a 6″ cake (less time for an 8″ pan). Let the cake cool completely, 2-3 hours.

When the cake is cool, us a small offset spatula or butter knife to
loosen the edges and bottom from the pan. Invert it into your hand, and
pry off the pan. Remove the parchment and discard. Place the cake
upright on a board, plate, or cake stand (if you have one that rotates,
bonus points!). Use a large, serrated knife to trim the top of the cake
flat. Mark the cake horizontally into even thirds. With your palm on the
top of the cake and the knife held parallel to the work surface, use a
sawing motion to cut the cake as you rotate it, taking care to make the
layer as even as possible. Repeat with the second layer.

Make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Be careful not to overbeat, or the mixture could break and become grainy or liquidy. Add the bourbon and beat to incorporate. (Mine always become slightly grainy at this point due to the low amount of powdered sugar, but I find that preferable to being too sweet.) The frosting can be covered and kept at cool room temperature for up to a few hours.

Prepare the fuyus:
Slice the tops off the fuyus and cut them into an even dice about 1/4″ square or a little larger. Place in a small bowl and toss with a squeeze of lemon juice to keep it from oxidizing.

Assemble the cake:
Place the bottom cake layer on a fresh round of parchment or a 6″ cake board. Lay the other layers on a clean surface. Divide the frosting between the three layers. Starting with the bottom layer, smooth the frosting over the surface, taking it almost to the edge. Top with about a quarter of the diced persimmon, and press the persimmons into the frosting. Top with a second cake layer. Repeat this process, using the remaining half of the diced persimmon to top the cake.

Serve immediately, or, for the cleanest slices, chill the cake at least 1 hour. The cake is best at room temperature when the butter in the cake and frosting has softened, so let individual slices come to room temperature before enjoying.

The cake is best on the day of baking, but it will keep refrigerated (ideally in a cake dome or large, inverted container) for up to a few days.

27 thoughts on “Two-Persimmon Layer Cake with Vanilla Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting {Gluten-Free}”

  1. Happy late birthday! And that cake looks stunning. I never know what to do with persimmons (and never know offhand which one is the kind that needs to get squishy, either) so I tend just not to eat them. But in a cake….that's something I can get behind! (especially since Someone in my neighborhood is bound to set out a bag on free persimmons on the curb this week. :) )

  2. Happy belated birthday!
    What stunning photos; the cake looks absolutely delicious. Traditionally, my attempts to make cakes have all been pretty poor so once I get better then I will try out your recipe! Do you have any tips on baking a cake that rises properly?

    1. Thanks! I would say be sure to have your butter and eggs at room temp, make sure your leavening is fresh, and incorporate the ingredients thoroughly so that the batter is homogenous, especially stirring the bottom of the bowl. That should do the trick!

  3. Happy birthday, Alanna! This cake is a stunner! My birthday is on Christmas Day and I bake my own cake every year…mostly because it's fun for me and also because I don't trust anyone else! :-) Only 2 days to go and I still haven't decided on the cake. Yours is so, so beautiful! I actually went and bought some persimmons and gave them another try after your persimmon salad and loved them! Thank you for inspiration and have a Merry Christmas!

  4. I was surprised and delighted to see a cake recipe on your blog (and more to come, yay!!!) I love this lovely cake so much as I love all your recipe, but this one is particularly special to me; my family in Thailand love persimmon, and I intend to make this when I am back 'home' next year. :)

    Happy Birthday to one of the most talented bloggers EVER!!! I am truly thankful to have known you in person, and am thankful for all the inspiration you have given me through your wonderful posts. Merry Christmas & Happy Birthday, Alanna :)

  5. This cake makes my jaw drop. Not just for its sheer beauty, but also because it is SUCH a warm and comforting winter cake that I couldn't stop eating. I love how you paired the spiced cake with fresh fuyu persimmons for contrast. I will gladly eat any "extra" slices. Forever.

  6. Greetings!

    I’ve been looking this cake online for almost a year, and after an unfortunate loss of all of last season’s frozen persimmion goo (double check the old freezer when you buy a new one…that’s all I’m saying…) it had to wait until this year to happen.

    And it was worth it!

    Because I happened to have King Arthur’s Gluten Free Flour Blend and you mentioned you’d thought it might work, I tried it. I used blanched almond flour and replaced the other flours with the GF flour. And it turned out great! Honestly, I was surprised because baking (especially GF baking) can be so finicky.

    I love your blog and appreciate your recipes. Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Teresa, thanks for the kind words! I’m not sure how regular rice flour will work here. You might try 7 T rice and 1 T tapioca. Let me know how it goes!

  7. I purchased your book and have tried a few recipes with success so I was excited to try this cake when persimmons came into season. I followed the recipe to a T, weighing all ingredients meticulously. Unfortunately, the cake ended up being incredibly dense in texture and somewhat dry. I’ve been baking for 30+ years and very familiar with techniques such as folding in beaten egg whites, so that wasn’t the problem. I thought maybe you had left out baking powder from the recipe because my cake hardly rose. What a disappointment. I don’t think I’ll attempt this again as I hate to waste expensive ingredients but I’m curious to know if the texture of the cake is supposed to be that dense and dry?

    1. Hi Isabella! Thanks so much for the kind words about my cookbook – I’m glad you’re enjoying the recipes! I’m sorry this persimmon cake wasn’t to your liking. It does have a dense texture (most persimmon cakes I’ve had do) but when I’ve made it it turns out pretty moist and fluffs up a decent amount in the oven, so I’m a bit mystified about the dryness! This is one of the few recipes that made it from my blog into my book because it’s been so well-loved. I had it recipe tested by a couple of different testers, and I also re-tested it as cupcakes when I was writing the book. I remember serving them at a party and my guests went wild for them.

      Is there any chance the cake got overbaked, or that your baking soda wasn’t super fresh, or that the hachiya persimmons weren’t quite ripe enough? Because of the butter, the cake will also firm up when chilled which can make it seem dry. Anyway, I totally understand not wanting to risk another experiment, but I bet you could lighten it up by adding baking powder (maybe a teaspoon?) and maybe taking the flour down a bit. If I have a chance to make it again this year, I’ll report back. Thanks again for the note! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any more questions. :)

      1. Hi Alanna,
        Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply and suggestions! This was my first time baking with persimmons so I didn’t know that all persimmon cakes are dense. Good to know! I was actually going to experiment and make my favorite pumpkin bread recipe using persimmon puree instead of pumpkin puree since now I have a lot of it in the freezer :)

        Back to your persimmon cake. I might try the recipe again in a smaller pan and adjust a few of the ingredients. Yes, the butter will make the cake firmer esp. when refrigerated. I wonder if using coconut oil or a mild oil might lighten/moisten the texture a bit? (like in carrot cake). My baking soda was fresh, so it’s not that. I might’ve left it in the oven a bit longer… I had a bad experience once when I first started with GF baking and took the cake out when the knife test yielded ever so slight moist crumbs (not wet by any means) and the cake sank. Couldn’t save it. Had to throw it out. Ugh. So now I’m cautious about underbaking. GF is so different and trickier than traditional wheat-flour based recipes. Still learning :)

        Thanks again. If I find the courage to try it again, I’ll report back!

        1. Hi Isabella! It’s totally my pleasure. Persimmon puree is usually a lot more liquid than pumpkin, so you may want to decrease the other liquids in the recipe – just a tip from my own past baking endeavors! Coconut oil is also firm when chilled, so I’m not sure it would help the texture, but you could try sunflower oil which is liquid when chilled, or a mild olive oil. Oils have a higher fat content than butter (nearly 100% for oils as opposed to about 85% for butter) so it may also take some messing around with ingredients to get something you’re happy with. Keep me posted on your bake-speriments! :)

  8. Hi Alanna! Do you think I could make this with peaches? I’m wondering if I would have to change anything else (liquid wise)? I’m making a birthday cake this weekend and of course I don’t have persimmons now… I happen to have a few ripe peaches, which always go good with bourbon:)

    1. Hi friend! I love that idea, but I’m not sure how well it would work. If I were you, I might try the vanilla butter cake from Alternative Baker, throw some chopped peaches into the batter (maybe take down the dairy a bit to account for the extra moisture), then top it with the bourbon frosting and some more sliced peaches. :) Let me know what you end up trying! Big hugs! <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *