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Thursday
Nov292012

Persimmon Cake

Persimmon Cake

Two years ago to the date marks the day I took my life into my own hands and changed the course. It feels strange to reflect on my decisions since then. So much in my world has changed that if someone had told me how the direction of my life would zig and zag through different paths, I certainly wouldn't have believed them.

After quitting grad school for physics and moving back home, I jumped headfirst into baking and spent the next year working as a baker in two very different bakeries. The first position was in a small cake shop. While it was a lovely opportunity, it didn't allow me as much freedom in the kitchen as I would have liked. I moved onto a second, more expansive bakery that made dozens of pastries each day from scratch. Even though I had the freedom to create whatever I wished (and I loved this freedom), there was a small, but irksome feeling in the back of my mind that wouldn't quite go away. Something just didn't feel right.

Another change began brewing within me.

Persimmon Cake Persimmon Cake

Though I've alluded to it several times on the blog, I've never outright told you that I no longer bake full-time. In many ways, I was afraid of what you would think of me. I made such a big deal of quitting school to follow my dreams that it seemed like I would be letting you down to suddenly back out on those plans. I feared you'd start to view me as capricious or fickle. Truthfully, I may have been afraid to admit to myself that I had made such a huge decision that didn't work out.

There were many reasons becoming a full-time baker wasn't right for me. The pay was low, the early morning hours were a constant battle, and I was in a constant state of exhaustion from working two to three jobs just to support myself. When I look back on those experiences, I truly loved baking, but the memories are so blurred from fatigue that all I remember is this constant feeling of trying to do everything I could to keep my head above the rising water of responsibilities. It was a bittersweet moment when I realized that I just couldn't afford to be a baker anymore, physically, emotionally, or financially.

I honestly believed baking was where I was supposed to be and it was such a devastating blow to realize the experience wasn't what I thought it would be. I had romanticized the life of a baker and reality was an unwelcome visitor.

Persimmon Cake

The next few months I floundered around, uncertain of myself, uncertain where I belonged, worried my feet would never find the right footing. I continued to bake, but this time it was in my own kitchen, for myself (and for you). Baking has become a passionate hobby and I love enjoying the fruits of my labor. Don't worry; I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

The constant throughout all of these changes in my life was my job as a math and science tutor. It took a few nudges and not so subtle hints from a few people (thanks, Kari!) to help me realize it may have been my calling all along. Right now, I am right back in grad school, but this time for education. In a twist of irony, I plan to become a high school teacher in physics. I begin student teaching in January. Life is full of surprises, it seems.

My mother once shared a few words with her vulnerable daughter that I have never forgotten. She said that some people follow a linear path, the destination laid out in front of them, always in sight. Other people follow a curved path, twisting and turning, the unknown lurking around the next corner. Both of these paths, though very different, lead us to the place we are meant to be. My path may be riddled with curves, but I've learned to embrace the zigs and zags of my road.

Persimmon Cake

Persimmon Cake is a cake to be enjoyed at the start of the winter season. Very ripe persimmons are pureed and mixed into a simple cake batter. The cake bakes up moist and fragrant from the persimmon puree. A splash of apple juice and a hint of spice bring together the flavors in this lightly spiced dessert. A simple sprinkling powdered sugar is all this cake needs to complete an afternoon tea.

Note: Persimmons are typically available in grocery stores from October to December and may take a couple weeks to fully ripen. Buy them now and enjoy them in the weeks to come!

One Year Ago: Banana Cocoa Smoothie
Two Years Ago: Sugar-Coated Daydreams

Persimmon Cake

Yields 10-inch cake (or 2 small bundt cakes)

1 cup (250 grams) persimmon puree** (about 3-4 persimmons)
1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) apple juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease baking pan(s).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together persimmon puree, sugar, and vegetable oil until uniform. Mix in the eggs, vanilla extract, and apple juice. Gradually add the baking powder, spices, and salt. Fold in the flour until just incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

** To make persimmon puree, make sure to use only very ripe persimmons (they are the texture of an overripe tomato you might throw out; dark spots are okay). Peel the skin off the persimmons, remove any seeds, and puree in a food processor or blender.

Reader Comments (32)

I'm a firm believer in, "Everything happens for a reason.". You needed to go through those experiences to make you a better equipped person to handle the next phase in your life. I'm so happy for you, your dreams and your blog (please don't stop blogging). I love reading your stories, quotes and recipes. And of course, I love your photographs!. Thanks for inspiring me.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVenetrise
This post really touched me, because it so similarly describes my own experience (as you probably already know). I absolutely loved working at a bakery as well--but towards the end, the fatigue and low pay (and trying to see a future in it) just started to overcome all the positive. And then, I decided I wanted to go to culinary school--which I don't regret in the least and was definitely something I feel like I HAD to do and has opened many doors for me. However, now that I'm working in a restaurant, I've been struggling with similar feelings about the long-term and finally coming to terms with the fact that i don't think I have a long future in the production side of food. In a way, I'm glad that I've finally been able to answer that question through experience, rather than just not doing it and never knowing! But I can totally agree, the truth can sometimes be hard to accept, especially when you feel like you put so much into it and it was such a brave decision to begin with to even pursue the "dream"!

I'm so happy for you that you feel like you have finally found your true path (although I think the journey was a very important and critical part of it--and something I have to remind myself of when I start to get anxious!). And I love that you can still enjoy baking as a side hobby and put all your creativity to use through sharing everything on this wonderful site!
Being good at something and loving it are two different things. I think many people get stuck on a path and don't know how to take those twists and turns to pursue their real passions in life. Thanks for sharing your story! I'm in a bit of a quarter-life crisis myself and am not sure what my next step will be, but your story has given me hope that I will figure it out. Beautifully written post and lovely recipe (as always)!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnie
Thank you for being honest and open. Following a dream is hard and takes true courage, as does coming to the conclusion that it may not be the right path for you. Congrats on student teaching and good luck!
I have to second what Laura said... This post really struck a chord with me since it sounds so similar to my story. I spent 5.5 years (and 4 major changes) getting an undergraduate degree that I will never put to use and am now considering going back to get a master's degree in my original major. Culinary school has been suggested to me as well as the thought of opening a catering business but while that seems like it could potentially be my "dream" job, I honestly don't want to lose the love of cooking and baking I have. I feel (and know deep down in my heart) that I would grow to resent it if it were a full time occupation right now. Which is precisely why I started blogging. It gives me the opportunity to get in the kitchen but do it so it doesn't become something that stresses me out day in and day out. If I need a break, I can step away and take one. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this. And I have to say, I don't think you are a failure in the least for admitting any of this. Like your mother told you, your path is clearly full of twists and turns but it is exactly the path that you are meant to be on. Good luck with student teaching and I can't wait to see what other goodies you have to share!!
Congratulations! And good luck to you. I like what your mom said about roads. Very true.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
What a pretty cake! Awesome recipe :)
This looks great! My mom loves persimmons and I've been looking for a good cake recipe. I'll have to try this soon...
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSahar
love your blog....it is such a visual treat to the eyes....this post is soo wonderfully written....you so aptly describe the dilemma many face - the choice between what we love and what we are good at.....life is often unpredictable and twisted....i wish u good luck! whichever path you choose...btw gorgeous, tempting cake!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterArchana
Wow, this really strikes a chord with me as I've been struggling with my own road's twists and turns lately (and I often come up with my next course of action while labouring over something in the kitchen so maybe I will give this cake a try!)...thanks for sharing so candidly!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi
The great thing about blogs and loyal followers is that we support you no matter what. Some people are brillient and know what they want to be as soon as they're born, others not so much, and some people just need a little time to realize what they were doing is the correct path for them. I'm glad you finally found your calling. :)

Your cake looks beautiful by the way.
Wow, I am so glad I read this post. I love the way your mom explains the path- I am also one of those curved path people- always have been. I wish you all the best in your new direction.

One question- what do persimmons taste like? Does this cake have a strong persimmon taste, or a mild one? I've never tasted anything persimmon, so I'm very curious.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Funny, I just always assumed that you were a full-time blogger. Your work is so professional and you appear to post so often. Who knows, maybe there is room in your life for two careers. I always wanted to be a school teacher, but once I finished 7 years of school, I said that's enough. Good luck to you, physics is an exciting topic - although I still don't quite understand how gravity works ;)
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Lovely cake, so pretty! We just got a bunch of persimmons that I didn't know what to do with...now I do! :)
11.29.2012 | Unregistered Commentersara
Thanks for sharing your journey. I truly believe that figuring out what you do not want to do is just as important as figuring out what you do want to do. Teaching is a wonderful career path! And still allows for baking for fun :) I look forward to reading future posts!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
I have to say, I really hope that you can find something that makes you happy, and do it, and it sounds as thought teaching is what you've always enjoyed. But, someone has to tell you - you have a great talent for photography, and for food styling and writing! If that's something you enjoy, well, damn gurl, you're good at it!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I baked full time from just before I turned 17 until i was 24. I loved it passionately in the begiing, but once I had a husband and my stepson moved in the early mornings and cruddy pay wore me down immensley. I to now bake at home and discovered your blog a couple of months ago and have loved creating many of your recipes. If only bakers were highly paid and did 9-5 :)
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFiona
I enjoy eating persimmon and didn't think of it in a cake context which I also enjoy:-) thank you for sharing an outside the box recipe.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFatema
Thanks for sharing this, and the gorgeous cake recipe. I found both quite inspirational.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVery Highbrow
Looks like a wonderful cake! Need to get my hands on persimmons :)
11.30.2012 | Unregistered Commentermarla
I can feel your vulnerability. Thanks for sharing :) If you were in my culture, my mother will be tearing her hair out and tell of a thousand and one reason that is a bad decision. Asian. Haha. But I admire your courage and I salute your bravery of taking that step. Actually I feel that your step to retake the education aspect of Physics is quite a good choice. Not only are you taking the advantage of your science self (I am the artsy language person!) but you chose a different path from your first scientist one to one that you would like - tutoring/teaching and baking. I was thinking that a side business can work for you if you want to go that way! Custom cakes and orders for occasions. Why not? Nowadays anything goes as long as it works, you like it and you enjoy it!

I am currently in my final year of my degree in education in English. Started to bake a little and realized I like it. But I know it is not my main thing, unlike you :) But I like baking nonetheless! I don't mind running a casual side business of custom bakes. Haha. My future after graduation still not entirely clear so there is a bit of uncertainty there so I feel you somewhat of the things you encountered before!

P.s: I once baked cupcakes for my students when I taught temporarily as a reward for winning best presentation. They are so happy! :D
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy
I think it's great that you're going to be a physics teacher, and continue with the blog. There's no reason it has to be one or the other. Sounds like the perfect mix to me. Also, I love to see young women teaching in the science/math fields. Congratulations!
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracie B.
I'm so happy for you...AGAIN! Funny that we both enjoy physics and baking...and have crazy, curvy paths in life. Anyway, I'm sure you'll enjoy teaching physics. Teaching is one of the more rewarding and yet exhausting jobs in the world, I believe. And what could be better than getting to share your love of physics with a captive audience! :)
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristie
Thank you for sharing your storing. I like the story about curved and linear paths. I always thought I had a linear path, but now I'm not so sure anymore. Good luck with becoming a high school teacher! (and keep baking, I love your blog and recipes!!!)
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDjoeke
Good luck with your studies! It's funny - I think you did the Madison Astro REU the year after I did. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe (I have about 12 persimmons ripening away on my shelf). I like to mix brandy or rum in with my persimmon baked goods, as well - maybe I'll try substituting that for the apple juice...
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterYvonne
Don't think I've ever tried a persimmon - will have to add that to my list. I have tried the 'bakery cure' though - years ago I had planned on starting a life in Montreal. I moved there and it simply did not fit. One month later I moved all my things back to live with my parents to figure things out and ended up processing this abrupt change working at a local bakery owned by a family friend. I didn't stay long, moving to the next curve in the road that eventually lead me to Toronto, and a host of other life-altering experiences (some of which have involved butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate) that lead me to where I am today - in a pays-the-bills job that I love that keeps me in butter and gives me time to bake and blog. Happy to hear you have found a way to respond to multiple callings. :)
what a beautifully honest post! i firmly believe that everything the universe throws at us is for a reason, and obviously you have many talents that can take you anywhere! good luck on your new adventure!
Being a semi-new follower of yours, I didn't know much of your background. I also feel like my life is going in circles right now because I left chiropractic school with only a year left (sometimes the thought still makes me cringe), but it still usually feels like the right decision. It was excessively hard to make that decision and I'm not planning on going back in the near future, but I also won't rule it out. It's sort of stressful when things aren't clear!
Hi!
I'd like to substitute oil with butter, how much should I use?
Thanks a lot, I love your recipes!!!
12.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLola
Hi there! I've visited your blog quite a few times, but never commented. This cake on foodgawker led me here, and then I was totally pulled in and moved by your post. I'm a teacher -- have been for the past 8 years -- and it's a truly rewarding experience. It's the only career I've ever had, but I'll be bold and say that it's the best job there is. Congratulations and good luck in January!!
12.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
Thanks for the recipe, I rarely ever make cakes from scratch but I tried your recipe and it came out great!!
Good luck with grad school and your new job! You'll be an awesome teacher. :)
11.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Struck another code, and made another beauty of a cake. I love love persimmons. You better believe I'm making this, this weeekend! Pinned.
12.16.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfrancesca

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