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Holidaying (+ Flourless Persimmon Cake)

A holiday-spiced, naturally gluten-free persimmon cake that’s perfect for December days.

[Fisherman, Dar Bouazza, December 2014.]

A week of rain, a week of sun, and we leave Morocco very early Saturday morning for a month in California. We’ll trade palm trees for redwoods, the Atlantic Ocean for the Pacific, and running on trails rather than bricks, enough so that we get properly muddified and return to our roots. I’m hoping for lots of hikes, lots of quiet miles in the wet and dripping woods, and hopefully lots of afternoons spent under the bright sun at the coast. The winter beach in fair weather is perhaps my favorite beach.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m stockpiling gluten-free/flourless recipes for the few days we’ll spend with my sister-in-law this month. The one I’m sharing today is my favorite so far: a naturally gluten-free, holiday-spiced persimmon cake. Persimmons are surprisingly available here in Casablanca but of course also are incredibly prolific in Northern California and I look forward to raiding my neighbor’s tree to make this just as soon as we get there.

I probably should be ashamed to admit that I ate most of this cake myself but actually I’m not. Why do I log all those early morning miles along the Corniche if not to indulge in a bit of cake afterward? This graced my Thanksgiving dessert table, a lovely complement to the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, and since my brain, addled by too much cooking and the presence of a tiny child, forgot to send home extra slices with my guests I was left with rather a large amount. And let me tell you, I made it last.

[The last slice, December 2014.]

The recipe, as many of the best do, came by way of epicurious.com plus a lot of tweaks by me. I immediately swapped out the all-purpose flour for a simple gluten-free blend, added yogurt because I didn’t quite have enough persimmon puree, and used brown sugar to give it that lovely caramelly note I crave (I also reduced the amount of sugar called for because persimmons are quite sweet on their own and while this may be the season of sugar … you don’t want to go totally overboard. Right?). The result is a persimmon-laced, spice-kissed, walnut-flecked cake that needs nothing to along with it save a cup of strong tea or coffee. The yogurt helps keep things balanced and keeps leftovers from drying out; I was able to nibble pieces for mid-morning snack/elevenses for quite a few days afterward and kept the remaining bits of cake well-wrapped in the fridge.

The holidays are upon us and I couldn’t be happier. I’ll be checking in from the West Coast shortly — happy baking and merry-making to you. xo

[print_this]Persimmon Cake, adapted heavily from epicurious.com

If you don’t have access to persimmons – or if they aren’t your thing – try a cup of pumpkin puree or even applesauce though of course apples will certainly change the flavor profile. If you don’t drink whiskey or keep any in the house, sub 1/4 cup strong-brewed tea. I think this cake tastes best the day after it’s baked and keeps getting better.

Makes 10-12 servings.

1 cup (gluten-free) oat flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup persimmon purée
1/2 cup plain whole fat yogurt
1/4 cup brandy or whiskey
3 large eggs, at room temperature, slightly whisked
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
optional: 1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-cup (2.5-liter) Bundt cake or tube pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in the brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, persimmon purée, yogurt, eggs, whiskey, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the persimmon mixture, and gently stir. Fold in and the nuts if using. Mix just until everything is moistened; don’t overmix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, invert the cake onto a serving plate.

Leftovers will keep, well-wrapped, in the fridge for up to one week. [/print_this]


  1. As with everything you post, this looks fantastic! Good persimmons are hard to come by here in the nation’s capital, and I think that I really only had a good one or two in Texas years ago when I picked them straight from the tree. It was then that I knew what I’d been missing. So, enjoy your fresh-plucked persimmons and your holiday catching up with your beautiful coast and I’ll look forward to more of your yummy words and pictures. Bon voyage, Dear Girl!

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