with APPLE CIDER BUTTERCREAM.
Apple Cider Buttercream.
Apple Cider Buttercream.
That repetition up top makes more sense if you sing those words to that Nelly song about jeans.
But what about this cake? Isn't it gorgeous? I hope I'm allowed to say that because I am very proud of how it turned out. You know when you have an idea in your head and then the execution falls a little short? This was not one of those times! I had a vision of cake, and it came true. Commence happy dance!
A few weeks ago I had a Thanksgiving dessert potluck at work, and you know if someone is inviting me to bake treats to share I'm not going to not do it. That's just not something I can physically do. But I was 100% sure I did not want to bring anything with pumpkin, so I remembered this cake idea that I've had rattling around in my brain for about a year (do you do this too? Just me?) and decided to finally make it.
I took a wonderful apple persimmon pie filling I'd made a couple of years ago, pureed it into apple persimmon butter, and then sandwiched it between layers of cardamom spiced cake and slathered the whole pile with an apple cider flavored buttercream. Then I summoned my meager craft skills and built a flower collage out of baked slices of persimmon and apple and cardamom pod "leaves".
It came out ok.
No, who am I kidding? It came out GREAT. The cardamom got buried a bit in all that flavor, but no one cared. When I took my tiny little cake out of it's box and placed it among all the wonderful looking pies and bars and cookies my coworkers had brought, there was an immediate hush and then, DID YOU MAKE THAT? And later, WHO BROUGHT THAT? And then, CAN I CUT IT? I mean, I was almost turning pink, wondering if I had totally missed the mark on what homemade potluck desserts are supposed to be, but then my ego edged out any embarrassment as the compliments rolled in and obviously now I'm a monster with a super inflated sense of self and a newfound resolve to tackle my list of cake ideas.
By the way, this cake is also completely appropriate for December holidays too! The warm spices and seasonal fruits are a perfect gateway into Winter, and all the gingerbread, molasses, and noggy treats to come.
Apple Persimmon Cardamom Cake with Apple Cider Buttercream
For the cake:
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tbs + 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
For the filling:
- 1 apple (fuji, honeycrisp, etc)
- 2 Hachiya persimmons, very ripe
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch salt
For the buttercream:
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tbs-2 tbs boiled cider
- Make the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two, 6-inch round pans, line with parchment paper, butter the parchment, then flour pans. Shake off excess flour and set aside.
- Combine the egg whites, 1/8 cup milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all dry ingredients and mix on low for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and remaining milk. Mix until moist and then beat on high for about 90 seconds. Add the egg/milk mixture in 3 parts, beating well after each addition (about 20 seconds). Scrape the bowl as needed.
- Divide the batter between prepared pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on the rack.
- Make the filling while the cake bakes: Peel and core the apples, then dice small. Add to a large skillet with the butter, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, until caramelizing and soft.
- Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the persimmons into a bowl and mash. When the apples are softened, remove skillet from heat and add the persimmon, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, until thickened a reduced a bit.
- Remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool a bit, then puree in a blender until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
- When ready to frost cakes, make the buttercream: Set a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer (or any large heatproof bowl if you are using a hand mixer) over a pot of simmering water. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl and cook, whisking constantly, until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).
- Transfer the bowl to the mixer and beat with a whisk attachment until stiff but not dry peaks. Continue beating about 6 minutes more, until fluffy and cooled.
- Switch to the paddle attachment, and turn the mixer to medium-low. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in the boiled cider, then beat on lowest speed for 2 minutes.
- Assemble cake: Trim tops of cake layers if domed, then cut each cake layer in half horizontally. Place one cake layer on a cake board or plate, and pipe a thick border of the buttercream around the outside edge. Fill in with the apple persimmon mixture. Top with another cake layer and repeat until you have your final layer on top. Spread cake with as much of the remaining buttercream as you want and smooth sides with a bench scraper. Spread any remaining frosting on top of cake and decorate as desired. See notes for how-to on apple and persimmon flowers.
- Make sure you use the persimmons called for, not the more commonly found fuyu persimmon. The Hachiya is more oval and oblong than the squat, round fuyu, and with a flesh that will break down better when cooked. It must be very very ripe, however, because it can be a bit astringent if not.
- Make sure your cardamom stash is very fresh. Mine was a bit old and I'm sure that's why the cardamom didn't really come through in the cake. I also bumped up the amount from my original recipe to 1 tsp.
- The boiled cider in the buttercream is worth seeking out. You can buy online easily. If you don't have it though, you can omit entirely or sub with apple juice or cider, though the flavor won't be as strong.
- I know this recipe is long, but the different components can all be made in advance. Keep cake layers well wrapped in the freezer and thaw a bit before frosting. Cake layers will be easier to frost when chilled anyway. Filling and buttercream can be made ahead of time and kept covered in the fridge.
- For apple persimmon flowers: using a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice one red apple and one fuyu persimmon to create rounds with the seed pattern/core in the center. Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. Flip and bake another 30 minutes. At this point, slices should have ruffled and crisped up a bit. If not, bake a little longer. Let slices cool and then decorate cake as desired. Add cardamom pod "leaves" if you wish.