Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cebah's Birthday Cake:

THE POSSUM’S DELIGHT ~ A Persimmon Cake for Cebah's 88th Birthday:

Cebah recently turned 88 and we had a long wknd of celebrations, with a lot of wonderful things to eat made in her kitchen. Cathy can attest to that! Cebah's older sister, Francis, used to say that when she died she wanted to come back as a possum, so she could ramble around in the woods and eat wild grapes. Wild grapes are long gone, but this year there are still persimmons lingering on the trees, and they are the possum food of choice. (Cathy, if you have that wonderful photo of the persimmon tree in jpeg form, do insert it here!)

Alan said this was more butter than cake ~ but I don't think that was a critique. I was afraid the cake might be tough - persimmons react somehow with flour in a very viscous way - but my fears were unfounded, the texture was good.

Lacking wild, not Japanese persimmons, I think the closest approximate for substitution would be a 50/50 puree of Medjool dates and apricots, cooked with just enough water to make them soft and pureed until smooth.


Preheat the oven to 350o. Butter two nine inch cake pans, line the bottoms with waxed paper, butter that, then dust the pans with flour.

Sift together into a small bowl, 1 & ¼ cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of cloves. Blend in ½ cup of chopped black walnuts.

In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs, ¾ cup brown sugar and a stick of melted butter (4 oz) until smooth. Add 1 cup of persimmon puree and mix it in. Follow that with the dry ingredients and beat until everything is moistened. Scrape the batter into the pans and bake just until an inserted broomstraw or a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes rest for a couple of minutes out of the oven, then turn them out onto a towel.


Butter a heatproof glass measuring cup and have it at hand. Beat 6 egg yolks until they are thick and light. In a small saucepan bring 3/4 cup sugar and ½ cup corn syrup JUST to a rolling boil. Immediately pour the syrup into the cup to stop the cooking.

With the mixer going, slowly and gradually beat in the syrup in a steady stream. Continue beating until cool. Cut 2 cups of salted butter into 2 tab chunks and beat them in, one at a time, until the buttercream is smooth and silky. Beat in ½ cup of persimmon puree and 2 tabs of Barenjager (a German Honey Liquour) & ice the cake.

I used a “gold” cake decorator’s powder to gild the waves of the buttercream by lightly brushing it on with a watercolor brush.

Afterwards we danced to Egyptian club music as wildly as any possums might.


Cathy said...

This was among the best cakes I've ever eaten, and Dan knows what a tough critic I am. The wild persimmons are sweet/tart, lovely with the soft [salted, yes?] buttercream. The layers were spiced just enough to enhance the persimmons and black walnuts, which may be the ultimate expression of "what grows together goes together."

It was beautiful to see too. Soft orange buttercream washed with gold, layers the color of the walnuts.

Dan, don't you think it would be good, albeit different, with dead-ripe Hachiyas?

Dan Dutton said...

I'm sure it would be wonderful. They're not available here & I've never worked with them, so I'm not SURE. You'd just have to experiment. Wild persimmons lose some of their juice during the ripening so the moisture content might be the biggest difference. I don't think it could matter much in this particular cake though.

Yes! The butter for the buttercream should be salted. The salt really complements the persimmon/walnut flavor.

Cathy said...

The salt was a distinguishing feature.

Dan Dutton said...

Cebah's persimmon pudding calls for a cup of salted, melted butter poured over it half way through the baking - that was my inspiration for using it in the buttercream.