Cake Walk

Persimmon Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting

November 10, 2016

For anybody unfamiliar, persimmons are native to America, highly-nutritious and once prized by American Indians and early settlers. They also make a fabulous cake. Last year, to really experience these, I went on an October jaunt to persimmon-expert Jerry Lehman’s 85-acre orchard near Terre Haute in southwestern Vigo County, Indiana. Right out of the car, I learned that what looks really pretty still on the tree, may not be ready to eat: Pluck an unripe persimmon as I did and it will turn your mouth inside out with pucker As the writers of put it: “Tannins in [unripe] persimmons make your tongue, cheeks, and gums feel as though you’re chewing on a cross between aspirin, alum, and chalk.” With a little tutelage from an amused Jerry, I learned that the fruits are best when they ripen on the tree and drop to the ground, to be carefully plucked up by harvesters making their way along the tree rows. (Labor-intensive, yes, but the fruit is truly luscious that way.)  Research from Slow Food USA (which includes the American persimmon in its Ark of Taste) shows that American Indians pulped persimmons, mixing the fruit with corn meal and acorns to make breads and soups. African Americans used the pulp to make sweet puddings, candy, and cakes. Early settlers roasted the seeds to make something like coffee.  And Appalachians brewed dried persimmon seeds into a kind of beer.

While you can find wild American persimmons from Connecticut to Florida and as far west as Texas, the bulk of persimmon production in the United States has centered in Indiana. There a woman named Dymple Green (who passed away a few years ago) commercially canned persimmon marketed as a product called “Dymple’s Delight.” This recipe is from a little booklet Dymple put together in the ’70s featuring persimmon puddings, breads, candies and cakes. I think the caramel icing perfectly highlights the already-caramel-ly overtones of the ripe fruit. And since most of us don’t have access to persimmon trees, here’s where you can buy the pulp.



Persimmon Spice Cake with Caramel Icing
Serves 10
Cinnamon & nutmeg spiced cake with caramel-ly persimmon and caramel icing. Perfect fall dessert
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  1. Persimmon Pulp
  2. 2 cups, store bought, or 2 cups made from 10 to 12 very ripe American persimmons, or 2 cups made from 6 to 8 of the larger, Asian, persimmon
  3. Persimmon Spice Cake Ingredients
  4. 2 cups sugar
  5. 1 cup vegetable oil (grapeseed, canola or corn work well)
  6. 4 eggs, beaten well
  7. 2 cups persimmon pulp
  8. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  9. 2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
  10. 1 tsp each salt, cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg
  11. Caramel Icing Ingredients
  12. 1 stick butter
  13. 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  14. 1/4 tsp salt
  15. 1/4 cup milk
  16. 2 cups powdered sugar
  17. 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Make persimmon pulp: Place persimmons in a colander or large strainer. Wash with plenty of cold, clear water. Repeat. Remove stems and leaves. Place persimmons in a food mill, or large fine-mesh strainer. Process through the mill, or, using a pestle, press the persimmons until all of the pulp is extracted through the sides of the strainer, leaving the seeds and skin behind. OR Peel the persimmons and use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the fruit until smooth. You should have at least two cups of persimmon pulp.
  2. Make cake: Cream sugar, oil, eggs and persimmon together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift together dry ingredients and add in two batches to the wet ingredients, stirring until no flour streaks remain. Spray non-stick spray on two nine-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Remove cakes to racks.
  3. Make caramel frosting: Melt butter in large saucepan. Blend in brown sugar and salt. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring continually. Add milk and continue stirring until mixture heats to boiling. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar, adding vanilla at the end and whisking one more time. Ice cake immediately as caramel frosting will “set up” and begin to harden.
  1. Patience! let store-bought persimmons ripen a good, long while– a process called “bletting”–until they are completely soft and almost appear over-ripe. At this stage, they’ll have an unctuous velvety sweetness with caramel overtones.
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  • Reply Yvonne Reese December 9, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Made this recipe with Fuyu persimmons that bletted in the cool garage for about two weeks. It is one of the best spice cakes I have made. I would say the cake is more like 20 servings because it is sooo rich. I could only eat a sliver. I went to youtube and viewed a video of Dymple Green talking about persimmons. What a charming lady! I normally make persimmon cookies but decided to try something different. Anyone who appreciates spices like cinnamon and nutmeg will be in heaven when they taste this cake.

  • Reply Amanda Powell November 19, 2020 at 1:55 am

    This was my first attempt to work with wild persimmons, and my first from scratch cake and icing. And I think this is now my favorite cake. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

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