Monday, January 05, 2009

My Grandad lived in New York City, so I didn't get to see him very often. He was a soft spoken man with twinkling light blue eyes, but you could tell that he was not a man to cross. Family lore has it that he was active in the Sein Fein movement to free Ireland, his birthplace, from the British. He loved Ireland and would visit as often as possible. One time when we visited his home after Christmas, there on the mantle was a Christmas card from DeValera, who at the time was the equivalent of President in Ireland.

I suppose that I should be much more knowledgeable about Ireland, but there was a real effort once the children (my Mom and her brother) were born to make sure that they were raised as Americans, so she never learned as much about her Irish heritage as her much younger step-sisters did.

When my Mom would visit Grandad in New York, she would always try to make this cake to take with her because Grandad loved it. Well, not this cake, but the applesauce version. He would ask if she had gotten it downstairs because there was a very good bakery downstairs from their apartment. He apparently would be surprised that she would make him a cake and bring it all that way, but he was always pleased. When he came to visit at our house, she almost always made the applesauce version of this cake because it was his favorite. He wasn't that fond of super sweet cakes or ones with a lot of icing. My Dad was like that, too. He actually preferred fruit pies to cake any day.

When the persimmons ripened this week, I decided to try substituting persimmon pulp for the applesauce in the recipe. The persimmons need a cold snap to really get sweet. The leaves fall off the tree and they hang there, like bright orange Christmas balls, until it gets cold enough for them to ripen. This type of persimmon is inedible until it is soft and almost squishy. This year there were fewer fruits than last year, but most of them were huge, weighing at least a pound each.

It only took two to make two cups of persimmon pulp. To prepare them, you cut off the stem end and then peel them and chop up or mash the pulp.

Since I rarely cook with shortening, I replaced the shortening in the original recipe with butter, decreasing it to 1/2 cup. I also reduced the sugar and mostly used brown sugar. The resulting cake was delicious, with a subtle persimmon flavor and assertive spice flavors. If you can't find persimmons, you can switch back to applesauce and you will still have a cake that Grandad would love...and you will too.

Grandad Would Have Loved This Persimmon Cake
a variation of a recipe from Virginia Cookery

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans (or another nut)
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups persimmon pulp

Sift together flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

Cream the butter, add the sugars gradually, creaming until light. Add beaten eggs and beat to blend.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the persimmon pulp, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Fold in the nuts. Turn into a Bundt pan that has been greased and floured.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for one hour or until done. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool before serving.

Makes on large Bundt cake. Once it has cooled, you can sift a little confectioner’s sugar over for garnish if desired.


  1. I'm sure that, if I had such a tree, I'd be making cakes & things too. But right now? Right now I'd just eat them plain!

  2. This looks fantastic! How funny that you post about your bundt pan when I just pulled mine out of the oven too.

  3. I would love this cake. My aunt got me to love persimmons.
    I think it was genius to use persimmon in place of applesauce.

  4. I never bake with them. I am really thinking I need to make this cake so I can see how they taste in baked goods.

  5. I've often thought of trying to do something with persimmons but can you believe I've never even tasted them. Now I'm compelled to try. The cake recipe sounds incredible.

  6. Davimack, plain is fine, too. Ever tried freezing them and spooning up the frozen persimmon pulp? It's great that way, too.

    Breadchick, Great minds obviously think alike...heehee.

    Tanna, do try it with persimmons. The taste is very different than with applesauce...but great.

    Peabody, Yes, you can pretty much sub persimmon pulp for most recipies calling for applesauce. Persimmon cupcakes anyone? W\The pecans were great, but walnuts go really well with persimmons, too.

    Giz, a new taste treasure awaits you in 2009. See if any neighbors have persimmon trees...most people are happy to give you some...they look like orange Christmas tree ball on bare branches. Hard to mistake :)