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My grandmother used to receive hoshigaki, dried Hachiya persimmons, from relatives in Japan every December.  These leathery slips of dried fruit, with their wrinkled skin speckled with dusty sugar crystals, were mystifying to a curious child like me.  They were treated like gold in my grandma’s house — eaten one small slice at a time over a cup of tea and a hill of gossip.  But I loved their figgy, apricot-like flavor, and would happily listen to a story about how my grandma’s friend’s sister had to put her in-laws in a nursing home, just for another bite of hoshigaki.

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A few nibbles once a year was never enough hoshigaki.  I always dreamed that our backyard persimmon tree would someday bear fruit — and of course my six-year-old naïveté thought they’d fall from the branches already withered and sugared like hoshigaki.  But that darn tree was useless.  It was fifteen feet tall, lanky as a beanpole, and always leafless.  It never bore a single fruit.

Ever since, I’ve tried to use persimmons only in recipes worthy of being the centerpiece of one of my grandma’s gossip sessions.  This spice cake is the first recipe I’ve made that fits the bill.

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This spice cake is practically perfect, and was a star at my neighborhood holiday party.  It simultaneously has the earthiness of carrot cake, the nose of banana bread, and the sweet taste of ripe summer stone fruit.  Olive oil and a generous helping of minced persimmons and apples keep the crumb fantastically moist.  And whereas spice cakes often call for nutmeg, I use the subtler mace to let the persimmons shine.  Dress the cake with a low-key, simple vanilla frosting that won’t overwhelm the cake.

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I like to use a firm, thick-skinned apple like an Arkansas Black in this recipe, and I don’t peel the skin before shredding the apples.  During cooking, the skin toughens to mimic the texture of chopped walnuts — perfect for creating texture in the cake without blowing up your friend’s nut allergies.  The cake cooks evenly in a bundt pan.

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Persimmon Spice Cake

Makes 1 bundt | Cook time 1 hr 45 mins (1 hr inactive)

For the Cake

  • 3 Fuyu persimmons, minced
  • 2 apples, shredded
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 + 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mace powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 medium-large eggs
  • 1 C olive oil

For the Icing

  • 2 + 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T skim milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.  Mince the persimmons and shred the apples (large hole setting on a box grater); set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt onto a large plate or sheet of parchment paper.  Set aside.
  3. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, mace, cinnamon, and eggs, in stand mixer bowl.  Mix on low speed for 2 minutes.  Keep mixer on low and slowly add olive oil, then the persimmons and apples, and mix for another 2 minutes or until well-incorporated.
  4. With the mixer still running on low, add sifted flour mixture a little at a time, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare icing by combining confectioners’ sugar, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla.  For a thinner icing, use less sugar; thicker, more sugar.
  7. Let cake cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before drizzling with icing and serving.

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