Persimmon Cake (or Bread)

The fruit in Spain never fails to astonish me. It is just so good.

I grew up in Southern California, and I’ve also lived in the Bay Area and Seattle — all places known for good-quality (though expensive) food selections and thriving local markets. So, you know, I never really thought much about the quality of the produce I grew up eating; I just always assumed it was top-notch. (Though there was that first summer after I moved to Seattle when I realized how sweet blueberries could really be and how awful an avocado that’s been picked too early and ripened in a cold truck will taste.)

But here in Spain, so long as you stick to buying produce that’s in season*, and you make sure to choose your mercados and fruterías well, you’re going to be consistently floored. And not just by the quality — the fruit in this country is dirt cheap. For a few euros, I come home from the market every few days loaded down with kilos and kilos of fruit that is often so ripe, the only thing I can do before it spoils is make jam. Or cake.

Recently, I came back from the market with two persimmons that the vendor urged me to eat immediately. I assumed immediately meant “as soon as you get home,” but he apparently meant “this very minute.” When I got home, they looked like this after I poured them out of the bag:

Overly ripe persimmons

So a few days later, when I came home with more persimmons that managed to maintain their solid state during the commute but weren’t going to last much longer than that, I remembered a recipe for James Beard’s Persimmon Bread I’d seen on David Lebovitz’s site years ago that I’d always wanted to make. Luckily, I had nearly all the other ingredients on hand already and a free morning on my hands.

A few notes about this recipe: first, it’s huge. Beard (via Lebovitz) calls for using two loaf pans, but since I’d just sparkjoyed one the week before (¡gracias!, teeny tiny Madrid kitchen) I used a 9-inch round cake pan along with the loaf pan. I ended up freezing the round cake for a few weeks, and it defrosted beautifully. If you can’t freeze or give away one of the two cakes (and you aren’t going to eat them both immediately — though if you are, I’m not judging) then consider halving the recipe.

I made a few substitutions to the recipe that included adding cinnamon, using a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours, opting for rye instead of Cognac and going with the lesser amount of called-for sugar. This cake just wants to be adapted to whatever you’re in the mood for — dried cranberries, apricots or currants; walnuts or pecans; any type of whiskey or rum you have on hand. I’d even like to try swapping in a port or sweet sherry like Pedro Ximénez.

Be prepared for your home to smell absolutely incredible while the cakes are baking — like everything wonderful about the holiday season with none of the crowds. And since it freezes well, it’s a great recipe to make in large batches for gift-giving. In short, I can tell already that it’s going to be a good one to have on call all persimmon season long.

Persimmon Cake (or Bread)

Adapted from James Beard via David Lebovitz


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup rye whiskey
  • 2 cups persimmon purée (I used three large persimmons and quickly pulsed the flesh in a blender)
  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 2 cups raisins


  1. Butter the pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper.
  2. Heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.
  3. Add the flours, salt, baking soda, spices and sugar to a large mixing bowl and combine well.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, whiskey, butter and persimmon purée; stir well.
  5. Fold in the nuts and raisins, and then pour the batter into your prepared pans. The batter will be pretty wet.
  6. Bake for one hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

*Yes, just like in the US, the large supermercados here have strawberries, tomatoes, asparagus and the like available year-round. And just like in the US, if you buy a plum in February, you are going to get what you paid for.

4 thoughts on “Persimmon Cake (or Bread)

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