Persimmons were never my favorite growing up (I would much rather go for a sweet, juicy clementine), but they were a mainstay in our house during the colder months. I remember nabbing only the end pieces in an effort to avoid the fibrous centers that my grandma wouldn’t completely cut out, and though I never got the hype, my dad preferred the hachiya variety with their characteristically bulbous shape — he would wait days until they looked like they were about to burst before scooping out the ripened flesh with a spoon.
As I cut into a squat, vibrantly-hued persimmon recently, the fruit’s subtle, earthy aroma reminded me of what I’ve been taking for granted for all these years. It’s funny (and fortunate) that palates can change with age: I can’t quite explain it, but something clicked, and I’d now be hard-pressed to choose an apple, pear, or even a clementine over a persimmon if given the choice. The mellow, soft sweetness of persimmons makes them both a delicious snack and a versatile ingredient in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. In the spirit of making up for lost time, I developed this almond and persimmon upside-down cake as a way to utilize the seasonal orange fruit in an unfussy dessert — one you’ll be proud to showcase on your holiday table.
Thanks to a trio of blanched almond flour, sliced almonds, and almond extract, this turned out to be more of an almond cake than a persimmon one, but I’m not mad about it. Persimmon still adds a fruity edge that tempers what can be an intense and overpowering flavor profile (anyone who has accidentally overdone the almond extract gets it). And the recipe is simple: shower the bottom of the baking pan with almonds, layer on the sugared persimmon slices, and dollop and spread the batter on top. Be sure to use hardier fuyu persimmons (one ripe fruit will do), and arrange the fruit slices in a single layer instead of overlapping or double-stacking them. For the cleanest presentation, grease the pan well, gently run a small offset spatula gently around the edge of the cooled cake, and use a sharp serrated knife when slicing into it.
My favorite part of the process is inverting the cake at the end for the grand reveal — upside-down cakes have an inherent wow factor. I love serving the cake with ginger-spiked whipped cream, which takes the dish from a simple cake to a composed dessert, but a big scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream works just as well.
Almond and Persimmon Upside-Down Cake Recipe
Yield: one 8-inch round cake
For the cake:
1 packed cup (120g) blanched almond flour
½ cup (70g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (142g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk, at room temperature
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
For the topping:
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 ripe fuyu persimmon, peeled, lightly cored (if necessary), and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably turbinado
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease an 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with a parchment round, and grease the parchment.
Step 2: In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt until combined.
Step 3: In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the sugar and cream the mixture until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Step 4: Beat in the egg, scrape down the bowl, then add the yolk and almond extract and beat until combined.
Step 5: Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat just until combined. Carefully beat in the milk, then add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth. Take care not to over-mix.
Step 6: Evenly sprinkle the sliced almonds on the bottom of the prepared pan (on top of the parchment). In a small bowl, toss the persimmon slices with the turbinado sugar until combined. Carefully arrange the sugared fruit slices on top of the almonds in a single layer. (Don’t fuss too much about how you arrange the slices; just try not to overlap them.)
Step 7: Dollop the cake batter on top of the persimmon slices, then smooth the surface with a small offset spatula. Bake the cake for roughly 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Step 8: Let the cake cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes, then gently run a small offset spatula around the edges to loosen. Place a large, flat plate on top of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto it. Peel off the parchment on top and press any straggler fruit or nut pieces back onto the cake.
Step 9: When ready to serve, make the whipped cream: combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and ginger in a medium bowl. Whip the ingredients with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.
Step 10: Cut the cake into slices using a sharp serrated knife and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.
Joy Cho is a freelance writer, recipe developer, and pastry chef based in New York City. Celeste Noche is a Filipino American food, travel, and portrait photographer based between Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco.
Recipe tested by Deena Prichep