I am passionate about the stories that tell a cross-section of life from the unusual and alienating perspective of an object, which unexpectedly connects the characters and is often the key to understanding something more about their lives, their expectations and their dreams.
I could tell you of a slow Tuscan Sunday afternoon, the one of two days ago for example, from the strange perspective of this particular autumn persimmon cake, a cake for a relaxed afternoon tea, wholesome, not too sweet, simple.
I baked the cake just after lunch, inspired by the basic and reliable pound cake recipe. It is the right cake for the autumn, a simple one perfect for a break in the afternoon: it has a slightly nutty taste given by the whole spelt flour, a caramel hint thanks to the moist muscovado cane sugar and slices of juicy persimmons, the fruit that best represents the season of flaming colours, the smell of fireplaces and the need of something cosy and warming to go with a cup of steaming black tea.
As in a film, follow me in a changing of scenes and focus your attention on the cake, brought from a silent kitchen into a crowded living room, where uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins are chatting in the soft light of the fireplace. The cake is lightly dusted with icing sugar and leaves a subtle scent of vanilla and fruit as it passes through the people, making everyone turn to understand where that good scents comes from.
Just as the cake is laid on the table, in the midst of mismatched tea cups, cane sugar, lemon and spoons, the door opens and comes the long awaited guest who enters for his first time in the living room into his little blue pram, just a month year old, with a delicate sweet face, a feeble voice and a chiselled small nose.
In one corner of the table the cake is sliced in the dim light while everyone is looking elsewhere, gathered around the pram to study every little movement, a first release show made of wheedles, eyes blinking in disbelief and shrieks. Gradually, the slices of cake are passed from hand to hand and reach the proud grandparents, bringing back the attention to a chat about lullabies and nappies.
Further along the persimmon cake reaches the couch, where my uncles are already planning the Christmas lunch, mixing restaurants and dishes with more serious references to taxes, salaries, crisis and possible solutions. That is the corner of the serious discussions, where a slice of nutty cake is highly needed to soften the hearts, to go with a steaming cup of tea with sugar and lemon.
From outside the headlights of a car illuminate the open windows, lively pictures sparkling in the evening. A few minutes after comes into the room the baby girl who used to be the youngest of the family, now ousted by the newly born, all wrapped in a pink scarf and a white hat, with her arms around her father’s neck.
With decision and a merry attitude she wins everyone’s attention and she sits next to the cake that becomes again the star of the afternoon in front of her hungry eyes. Bite by bite she eats three whole slices, alternating the sugary persimmon cake with greedy gulps of water, drunk with the transportation that only children have, as they strive to appreciate every moment.
The scene closes on the living room after dinner, when the last remaining slices of the cake are wrapped and taken home for breakfast by the last one leaving, a lover of wholesome food, just like the persimmon cake is.
Here is my recipe for the persimmon cake, which seems even more but it is autumn: it has the color of the leaves rustling with vibrant accents of sliced apples.
I have used for the first time crunchy to the bite persimmons, while usually I find and eat in a joyful mess the soft persimmons, the ones you eat with a spoon. This kind of persimmons, with a texture that reminds apples, is perfect to bake a cake for the afternoon tea.
- 3 free range eggs
- 200 g muscovado cane sugar
- 200 g of whole Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon of organic vanilla essence
- 200 g of organic wholemeal spelt flour
- 10 g of baking powder
- 1 persimmon
- icing sugar to dust
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Separate the egg yolks from the whites and whisk the yolks with the muscovado sugar until it is almost completely melted, thick and creamy with a pale coffee colour.
- Stir in the Greek yogurt and a teaspoon of organic vanilla essence.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and stir in until just combined.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold them in.
- Peel and slice the persimmon into irregular chunks.
- Butter and flour a 24 cm round baking tin, spoon the batter into the mould and scatter the persimmon slices on the surface, then sprinkle a tablespoon of brown sugar over them.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown on the top and dry inside (test with a skewer), then remove it from the oven and let the cake cool on a wire rack.
- Dust with icing sugar before bringing the persimmon cake to your dear ones.