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Persimmon Hazelnut Cake

December 12, 2013

Persimmon Hazelnut CakePin it!

The first time I can remember tasting a persimmon, I was studying abroad in Barcelona, and my host mother came home with some super ripe “caqui” for dessert.

We halved them and scooped the bright orange pulp out of the peels with a spoon. They were like nothing I’d ever had before—sweet as nectar and with a texture that could only be described as gloppy, yet incredibly aromatic and appealing, like the fruit had been laced with ginger and cinnamon.

I didn’t encounter another persimmon until I moved to Japan, where suddenly the origin of the Spanish word caqui hit me: persimmons are called kaki in Japanese.

In Japan and Korea, persimmons are beloved and enjoyed in just the same way.

Ripe Hachiya Persimmons

This is no easy task: eating persimmons out of their peels with a spoon is not unlike eating half-set persimmon-flavored jello out of a flimsy bowl that’s collapsing under the weight of the liquified fruit. (It may be messy, but you’re still going to scrape up every last bite.)

One of my favorite summer treats in Korea was packaged whole frozen already-peeled persimmons—like a spherical popsicle—no less impossible to eat than the fresh kind, but impossibly refreshing and addictive.

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon SaucePin it!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here is yet another thing I found magical about moving to California: persimmons actually grow here!

Not only are they available at our farmer’s markets, especially in the fall and winter, but they also decorate the low-maintenance fruit trees that dot the yards of lucky tenants (and forward-thinking landlords and gardeners).

Persimmon Hazelnut CakePin it!

I scored these persimmons from a friend who encouraged us to help ourselves from the tree outside her apartment as we were leaving after a dinner party. They were still firm and pale orange—ready to be picked, but still requiring another week or two on my countertop before ripening and softening into the bright vermilion color (and rotting tomato texture) that meant they were ready to be enjoyed.

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon SaucePin it!

Most fans of persimmons will already know that there are (more than two varieties, but broadly) two different types: astringent and non-astringent. The most common non-astringent type in the U.S. is the (squat, tomato-shaped) fuyu persimmon, which can be eaten either when firm or when soft.

The type that I’ve been talking about here are astringent (oval-shaped) hachiya persimmons, which should NOT be eaten until they are super soft and ripe. Believe the “astringent” hype: under-ripe hachiya persimmons taste horribly chalky and bitter, and make your mouth dry up like it will never be able to experience joy again. (Don’t let that happen to you.)

Ingredients for Persimmon Hazelnut Cake

Whereas if you wait until they are so ripe they are practically sloshing out of their peels, you will have a delicious treat, worthy of the word “dessert.”

Ripe Hachiya Persimmons

While my favorite way to eat persimmons is still simply halved and with a spoon, I thought my luck in having several persimmons at once called for baking with them.

This cake is seriously simple (or “sinfully easy,” as the Alice Medrich cookbook that inspired it claims) and would be the perfect quick dessert to whip up for a spontaneous dinner party.

Swirling Ripe Hachiya Persimmon into Persimmon Hazelnut CakePin it!

I tried swirling persimmon pulp into the cake, which didn’t quite create the spectacular results I was hoping for: most of the more solid bits sunk to the bottom—but made for a nice treat for those particular bites, while the more liquid bits disappeared as they were absorbed into the cake batter.

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon Sauce

The persimmon sauce, on the other hand, made the dessert! Not only does it add a refreshing touch of color and flavor, it also takes a basic hazelnut cake (or almond cake) and makes it fancier and more seasonal.

Cinnamony Persimmon Sauce

I thought the sauce was vaguely reminiscent of applesauce (probably because I’ve been making a LOT of applesauce recently and) because of the cinnamon.

Ripe Hachiya Persimmons

Persimmon and cinnamon are a match made in heaven. This became evident to me the moment I first tasted the cold Korean drink sujeonggwa, a kind of persimmon-cinnamon punch made with dried persimmons, ginger, and cinnamon. It was the most delicious and invigorating of cold summer drinks (in Seoul’s hot and humid summer weather), though now that I think about it, it’d probably be just as restorative served warm in the winter.

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon Sauce

I thought the almond version of this cake looked irresistibly crispy and crackly in the photo in Alice Medrich’s cookbook, but really it’s a softer, sweet cake, but still a lovely one. Not too dry and not too dense, it’s gingery and cinnamon-soaked and perfect with persimmons.

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon SaucePin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Persimmon Hazelnut Cake
(Adapted from the Almond Cake in Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich)

(Serves 8-10)

Active time: 20 minutes; Total time: 50 minutes.

Cake Ingredients:
~ 1 cup (4 oz.) hazelnuts (or substitute almonds)
~ 1 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ ½ tsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes to slightly soften
~ 3 eggs
~ ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
~ ¾ tsp. cinnamon
~ ¼ tsp. baking powder
~ pulp of 1 ripe hachiya persimmon

Persimmon Sauce Ingredients:
~ pulp of 2-3 ripe hachiya persimmons
~ 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ dash of cinnamon, to taste

Special equipment needed:
~ food processor
~ 8- or 9-inch round cake pan, 2 inches deep (I used a 9-inch pan)

How to make it:

1. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Grease the cake pan with butter and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Combine the hazelnuts, sugar, salt, and grated ginger in the food processor, and pulse until the nuts are finely ground, scraping down the sides a few times with a rubber spatula. Add the butter and pulse until just blended, then add the eggs and continue to pulse until completely blended. Finally, add the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder and pulse until just combined, scraping down the sides once or twice.

3. Scrape the batter into the greased, parchment-lined cake pan and spread it out evenly. Optionally use a spoon to swirl in some persimmon pulp (though it will most likely sink and not be visible from the top once the cake is done). Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a rack. (Once the cake has cooled, run a butter knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan, invert it onto a plate, remove the parchment paper, then turn the cake right side up onto a serving platter.)

Making Persimmon Hazelnut CakeCinnamony Persimmon Sauce

4. For the persimmon sauce, scrape the persimmon pulp into a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Then transfer to a small saucepan, add the lemon juice and cinnamon, and warm over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Serve the cake at room temperature, drizzled with warmed persimmon sauce. (You can make the cake ahead of time and keep it tightly wrapped in the fridge for several days, but bring it to room temperature before serving.)

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon SaucePin it!

Persimmon Hazelnut Cake with Persimmon SaucePin it!

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Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake French Apple Tart with Cinnamon Glaze Blood Orange Tart Pear Brown Butter Buckle
Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake French Apple Tart with Cinnamon Glaze Blood Orange Tart Pear Brown Butter Buckle


45 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2013 9:26 am

    Great idea to use Persimmons. I always feel a little stuck when it comes to this ingredient – your cake looks divine!


    • December 12, 2013 9:58 am

      Thanks, Christina! I know; persimmons are tricky… that’s why I still like them best just eaten out of their peels with a spoon. But I’m so glad I struck upon the idea of the cinnamon-y persimmon sauce—so simple yet so good!

  2. December 12, 2013 10:49 am


  3. December 12, 2013 11:48 am

    I’ve never tried persimmons – but you make them look (and sound) so good!

    • December 12, 2013 5:23 pm

      Thanks! They really are delicious, even though I can see how some people might be freaked out by their super soft(/gloppy) texture… you should keep an eye out and try one when you get a chance!

  4. December 12, 2013 12:19 pm

    A couple of years ago I tried a persimmon and it kind of reminded me of a sweet-flavoured tomato (texture-wise anyways). This looks so good!

    • December 12, 2013 5:24 pm

      Thanks! And yeah, I guess persimmons have a similar texture to tomatoes… (maybe that’s why I like them so much?!). :) But really ripe hachiya persimmons are usually even softer (and definitely sweeter) than most tomatoes.

  5. December 12, 2013 1:48 pm

    Oh, a wonderful post! My Italian husband loves persimmons, I’m a little skeptical, however. The fruit is beautiful, and I do love the trees with nothing else but orange fruit left on the branches. They are a lovely dash of colour against the grey autumn landscape, but I don’t really like the flavour.
    I asked my husband just a couple of days ago if they are used for more than eating simply “as a fruit”, and he couldn’t think of even a persimmon jam… Now I have to try your recipie!
    By the way, persimmons are called cachi in Italian.

    • December 12, 2013 5:29 pm

      Oh interesting! I just assumed the word went from Japanese to Spanish, but now I wonder if the Japanese word actually came from Romance languages, since the Italian and Spanish words are cognate, and not the other way around…

      I’m impressed and honored that you’re willing to give this recipe a try even though you don’t like the flavor of persimmons! (I would guess that more people would have a problem with their texture than with their flavor…) Anyway, I hope you enjoy persimmons either in cake or in the persimmon sauce—at the very least your husband will.

      You might also both enjoy eating persimmon quick bread—like banana bread or zucchini bread (more like a cake, really), but made with persimmon instead! I don’t have a recipe for it, but there should be plenty floating around the internet!

  6. deliciouslynell permalink
    December 12, 2013 2:12 pm

    Persimmon and hazelnut, not a combination I’m used to – but one I think I now really want to try!

    • December 12, 2013 5:30 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad to hear it, and hope you enjoy it if you do get to try out this cake recipe! The recipe I adapted it from called for almonds instead of hazelnuts, but I thought persimmons would go better with hazelnuts than with almonds… hazelnuts just seem more autumn-y to me, I guess. :)

  7. December 12, 2013 3:19 pm

    not much one for sweet foods, but i would give this cake a try without a second thought.

    persimmon season just finished here in izu. i eat enough in the last few weeks to make me never want to see them again, but that is the way it is every year. ;)

    i was always confused why persimmon culture never really caught on in a big way in the united states. seems like a waste (we have the trees after all) to let all that fruit just fall to the ground and rot.

    • December 12, 2013 5:33 pm

      Haha, I’m glad you have a yearly habit of enjoying your fill of persimmons. It’s also struck me how odd it is that persimmons aren’t more commonly known/eaten in the U.S.—or definitely not in Wisconsin where I grew up, anyway. But actually now that I live in Southern California, where they grow on trees around town, it does seem like more people around here actually know of and appreciate persimmons! (Even if they’re still hard to find in the big supermarkets.)

  8. December 12, 2013 3:54 pm

    Interesting combination.I love a good hazelnut cake. You can check my recipe for a Hazelnut and Chocolate Gateau here I love how vibrant the sauce is :)

    • December 12, 2013 5:36 pm

      Thanks! Wow, your cake looks gorgeous and sounds easy to make—I’m definitely going to bookmark that one to give it a try!

      I would have liked to make this flourless, too, since it’s already mostly made of ground hazelnuts, but the original recipe called for ground almonds + a little flour, and I am too inexperienced a baker to know how to adjust for leaving out the flour completely (although it seems from your recipe that I could have done just that with only the addition of one extra egg and a little faith in the structural integrity of the cake!). Next time! :)

      • December 17, 2013 10:47 pm

        A flour less cake would be great too. From my experience you can leave out the flour completely as long as you replace it with more ground nuts. The resulting cake will be slightly more moist that the one containing flour, and it will be dense as well. If you’d like it to rise better (without self-raising/cake flour) you could use a technique used in an italian flour less chocolate cake. Whipped egg whites, folded into the batter, provide that perfect rise as well as making the cake lighter.

  9. December 12, 2013 5:59 pm

    Arg! I haven’t had time to make your cranberry challah yet and you give me another recipe I have to try… damn…

    Looks absolutely beautiful, the photography is lovely and I can’t wait to taste it.

    • December 12, 2013 6:02 pm

      Haha, that is exactly why I go around muttering to myself, “too many recipes, too little time…”.

      Although actually this cake is so fast/easy compared to the challah, you could make them both at once and have this mixed up and baking in the oven with your dishes washed, all while the challah is rising!

      Anyway, thank you for the comment! :)

  10. afracooking permalink
    December 13, 2013 6:08 am

    This looks so increadibly beautiful! Stunning.

  11. December 13, 2013 7:39 am

    Hazelnuts and Persimmons! What a terrific combination of flavours! If I am lucky enough to get my hands on some persimmons I will try this!

    • December 13, 2013 5:11 pm

      Thanks! I really hope you’re able to track down some persimmons while they’re still in season! (…and that I haven’t just tempted everyone with something unattainable until next fall…) I actually made this cake about a month ago, but then with deciding to post two different Thanksgivnukkah recipes, it got pushed out of November and became a December post.

  12. December 13, 2013 5:33 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, GORGEOUS!

  13. December 14, 2013 7:09 am

    Such pretty and inviting food x

  14. December 14, 2013 11:00 am

    Oohh, I LOVE persimmons! I discovered them two years ago when I lived in teh city – my suburban grocery store never had them – and fell in love. They have such a unique flavor and texture.

  15. December 15, 2013 10:57 am

    I have (shamefully) never eaten a persimmon but I have definitely seen them in the grocery store every now and again. I’m really intrigued by this cake though! If I was going to substitute would you say that oranges or clementines are an acceptable swap, or do I need to keep my eyes open for some persimmons?

    • December 17, 2013 9:32 am

      Thanks for the comment, Heather. Persimmons definitely have a very different texture than citrus fruits (and they’re usually much sweeter, too), so I’m not sure how well that would work. But honestly, you could 1) leave the persimmon out of the cake itself, and 2) make a pureed fruit sauce from some other kind of fruit (like berries?) to serve it with. (Although oranges + hazelnuts or almonds also sounds like a lovely combination…)

  16. December 15, 2013 9:15 pm

    Such stunning photos! And such a unique flavor combination. Is it weird that I’ve never had a persimmon? I need to change that ASAP, especially with how vibrant and gorgeous that sauce looks.

    • December 17, 2013 9:33 am

      Thank you!

      And oh man, yes, you should change that ASAP… I only hope I haven’t posted this too late in the persimmon season for you to track some down!

  17. December 17, 2013 4:14 pm

    Just came across your page while surfing through food blogs!!! Very lovely space… Happy to connect!!! See ya sometimes @ :)

  18. December 17, 2013 7:11 pm

    Will have to try this.

  19. December 20, 2013 8:35 pm

    This looks so refreshing. It seems like this time of year dessert recipes tend to be heavy and sticky sweet. This is something completely different for the holidays.

    • December 21, 2013 6:02 pm

      Thanks! Despite all appearances, this is still actually a pretty sweet cake (in my opinion), but the sauce itself is definitely refreshing and fruity, and makes the dessert as a whole seem lighter, and you could always add a little more fresh lemon juice to the sauce itself to make it more tart. (I already reduced the sugar in the cake a tiny bit from Alice Medrich’s recipe… not sure I’d want to do that anymore in case it changed the texture too much.)

  20. December 30, 2013 9:14 pm

    This looks awesome! Just bought a ton of persimmons and I can’t wait to try out this unique recipe!

    • January 2, 2014 9:27 am

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear it! So cool that you were able to find a ton of persimmons to buy where you live, too. :) Hope you enjoy the cake!

  21. January 2, 2014 3:57 pm

    I adore persimmon (and Barcelona, for that matter!). :-) What a great recipe. I can’t find a single persimmon these days but enjoyed reading your recipe (and stories). Best – Shanna

    • January 9, 2014 9:53 am

      Thanks, Shanna! I was worried I’d posted this too late in the persimmon season for people to find them until next year… :( Sorry—craving out of season food is the worst! I hope you come across an unexpected persimmon sometime soon. (And Barcelona is the BEST isn’t it?!)

      • January 9, 2014 4:02 pm

        I am still trolling the markets for Persimmons. It really is such a glorious fruit. Oh, well – this recipe is always worth holding onto. It is truly original, and persimmons will come into season, too. As for España: Me encanta el país muchísimo.

  22. January 8, 2014 6:25 am

    that’s my kind of a cake…..will do awesomely with tea!

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