Two-Persimmon Tea Cake

I never thought I’d say this, but I seem to be buttered-out.

Perhaps it was the scant half pound of butter in this combined with the fact that 1) I had to make it three times and 2) I have no willpower when it comes to pie. Or maybe it was this, chock full of butter, cream, bacon, and cheese. (I think I had a heart attack just typing that.) Maybe it was the knitting party that I went to where I was forced to devour crack sticks (made by the host! who I’d never met before! from this blog!), the best snickerdoodles ever, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, hot chocolate, and brie.

Whatever the case, I need a break. Today I made a vegan kale and quinoa salad for dinner. It felt like opening the car window when the heater has begun to suffocate you.

And then I did something else out of character: I swapped out the butter in this cake for olive oil.

I know! It must be because I turned thirty last week. That means I can do whatever I want now, right?

So I made Deborah Madison’s persimmon tea cake from Local Flavors, which I’d made before. But for some reason, this time it emerged from the oven sporting a cavernous center and dry texture.

Inspired by this pound cake, I decided to trade my beloved butter for olive oil. Just this once. Since olive oil is liquid at room temperature, whereas butter is solid, it can keep cakes and quick breads more moist.

It worked like a charm (though I did make it three more times to get the proportions just so). Persimmons have a complex, fruity flavor and so does a good extra-virgin olive oil. They bring out the best in each other, each creating a depth of flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Hachiya and fuyu persimmons

As you may have inferred from the title, this loaf contains not one, but two types of persimmons. Heart-shaped hachiyas, ripe to the point of bursting, get turned into a silky puree and whisked into eggs and brown sugar. I love having those sunny orbs lined up and ripening on my windowsill in December, the darkest time of the year. Fuyus, the squat ones, are tumbling into the markets now, too, colored the same reddish-orange as the freshly painted Golden Gate Bridge. These are ripe when still firm, and excellent simply sliced and crunched. Diced fuyus get folded into the batter which is laced with plump currants, toasty walnuts and a bit of spice.

Jay gushed that the baked pieces of fuyus resemble gooey, sweet marshmallows – and this from a man who doesn’t even really like persimmons (or marshmallows… or gushing). In fact, Jay has been downright possessive of this bread, forbidding me to give any of it away (sorry, people I usually foist baked goods upon).

Maybe that’s because this tea cake is stingily sweetened, and made with whole-grain flour. The tender loaf crumbles slightly when you slice it, keeps like a dream for days, and makes an excellent breakfast or snack on its own, or toasted and smeared with cream cheese.

Or, you know, butter.


Persimmon Pudding
Persimmon Galettes

One year ago:

Nibby Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Cranberry Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread

Two years ago:

Horchata Ice Cream

Two-Persimmon Tea Cake

This recipe calls for two types of persimmons: puree from heart-shaped hachiyas, and diced, squat fuyus (see photos in post, above). To make the hachiya puree: Start with 3 large squishy-ripe hachiya persimmons – they should feel like water balloons that are about to burst. Slice them in half and squeeze or scoop the flesh into a mesh strainer set over a large measuring cup or bowl. Work the pulp through with a ladle or rubber spatula. (Extra puree is excellent on its own or over yogurt or oatmeal. Read more about hachiyas and how to avoid persimmon trauma here.) Fuyus will be firm when ripe, but look for specimen with a deep reddish-orange hue that have a hint of give. A fruity extra-virgin olive oil, such as Sciabica’s, will make your cake taste that much better. All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes one 8×4″ loaf

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) whole spelt (or whole wheat pastry) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup packed (7 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces by weight) olive oil
3/4 cup (6 ounces) hachiya persimmon puree (see headnote)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped or broken up
1/2 cup plump, fresh currants
1 cup fuyu persimmon in 1/2″ dice (from 1 large or 2 small fuyus, see headnote)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line an 8 x 4″ loaf pan with a sling of parchment paper (or grease with softened butter or pan spray).

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices.

In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, persimmon puree and vanilla.

Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wets until almost smooth, then stir in the walnuts, currants and diced fuyus, and stir to distribute evenly.

Scrape the batter into the lined pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (a few moist crumbs are fine), 60-70 minutes. Cool completely at room temperature.

Slices of cake are excellent toasted and topped with cream cheese, greek yogurt or crème fraîche.

The cake will keep for up to 4 or 5 days at room temperature, but refrigerate it if the weather is humid to prevent mold from forming.

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