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I always hear people saying that fuyu persimmons taste like mangos, nectarines, sometimes, papaya. I politely disagree, but I suppose that lacking a proper frame of reference means you can only compare one thing to another thing you know well. What do I think they taste like? Nísperos, a tropical fruit with rough, woody skin and a fleshy tan interior. Shiny cat eye-shaped black seeds, lustrous like polished onyx, sleep in a bed of fragrant, coarse-grained fruit. The scent is sultry and intense, the flavor carries distant hint of dark coffee and musk. The flame orange color of the fuyu and its heirloom tomato shape give a misleading visual cue, which is perhaps another reason why tasters often imagine the aforementioned mango and nectarine.
In preparing this cake, I looked for a number of different ways to handle the persimmon topping. I tried sautéing in butter and brown sugar, roasting under a sheath of amber honey, and broiling and torching after sprinkling the halved fruit with sugar. Ultimately I thought the fresh, ripe flesh suffered under the heat, shriveling and losing the delicacy of its taste. A clean and straightforward arrangement with a drizzle of burnt caramel turned out to be the best way to showcase this seasonal fruit.
The cake itself is a vehicle for the persimmons, simply flecked with vanilla bean seeds and dressed with a mascarpone cheese icing. Eaten the day it is prepared, this fresh persimmon cake is a seasonal must-have.
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