Persimmon Cake with Crème Fraîche and Maple Pecans

Photo © 2013 Shimon and Tammar Rothstein

from The A.O.C. Cookbook

by Suzanne Goin
with wine notes by Caroline Styne

I love that these persimmons actually taste of fall and winter—as if they have been grown in fields of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It’s very strange but so magical to have those flavors reinforced by the fruit itself. This is a great one for the Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet.

Makes one 10-inch cake
Ingredients:
For the cake
1 3/4 cups (approximately 3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little for the pan
About 3 ripe Hachiya persimmons (to yield 1 cup puréed flesh)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup crème fraîche

For the maple pecans
1 1/2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Note: Maple sugar can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, specialty stores, and, of course, online. Although you can substitute turbinado or even brown sugar, the maple sugar makes it extra maple-y and special.

Method:
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by lightly buttering the inside surfaces, lining the bottom with parchment paper, and buttering the parchment.

3. Cook 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick) in a small saucepan over high for a few minutes, swirling the pan, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Set aside to cool.

4. Scoop the ripe flesh from the persimmons, and puree in a blender until smooth. Measure out 1 cup puree.

5. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, the spices, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

6. In another bowl, combine the puree, 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and cooled browned butter.

7. Paddle the remaining 1 1/2 cups butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg.

8. Decrease the paddle speed to low. Alternately add the flour mixture and persimmon-puree mixture to the bowl, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

9. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until cake feels springy to the touch.

10. Whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream and the crème fraîche to soft peaks.

Make the maple nuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring every few minutes, for about 10 minutes, or until nuts are toasted.

Cut six slices from the cake (the cake will yield ten to twelve servings), and place on six dessert plates. Dollop with whipped crème fraîche, and scatter the candied pecans over the cake and around the plate.

Wine Note
This cake epitomizes winter with its weighty texture and dense fruitiness. I love how the crème fraîche brings a lightness of body and brightening flavor to the composition, and look for a wine to continue in that mode. Madeira is perfect for this, because, along with its overall nut-laden flavor, it brings a degree of texture and tart acidity to the palate. In this pairing, I opt for one that is in the mid-range of sweetness, made from the Bual or Verdelho grape varieties, which possesses back notes of stone fruits and caramel that will marry with the sweetness of the persimmons and pecans, while its tart acidity works in sync with the crème fraîche.

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