Cherimoyas–at least up here in the Pacific Northwest–are beginning to leave the shelves. For the last few years, since I discovered it, this tropical fruit has been part of my warm transition into the spring. Most people have never heard of them, not in my encounters. And those who have face difficulty in figuring out how to use them.
The flavor of cherimoya reminds me of mango, banana, apple and pears all at once. In other words, the cherimoya isn’t simply sweet. It is a symphony of different flavors: sugar with a hint of piquancy, a creamy and mellow tartness and an almost winey clarity. Thus, this dense and moist cake has a flavor profile way beyond its simpler cousin, the Galician cake, Tarta de Santiago.
Once you pick out all the seeds, you are left with a gloopy, yellowy mush. In my opinion, one could use cherimoyas as one would use bananas in baking. So, this recipe is perfect for that cherimoya that is sitting in your fridge, that one you thought was a good idea at the time, but seems like it’s rotting. A cherimoya that is beginning to ferment might be your best buddy here. Choose one with barely any green left on its skin.
OH, a note on the seeds: THEY ARE TOXIC! That’s right, cherimoya seeds are a danger to human health. In fact, they have been used traditionally to make insecticides. So, make sure none get in your cake.
For a cake less dense, just use a bit less butter. By the way, this cherimoya cake is gluten free.
- 1 lb. almonds, skins on
- 6 oz. butter (in weight)
- 11 oz. sugar (in weight)
- 6 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cup cherimoya (or, 1 large cherimoya, seeds removed; or, 2 small ones)
- 2/3 cup lavandar blossoms (optional)
- 1 lemon
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahreinheit.
Grind the whole almonds in a food processor. You can use a coffee grinder, but it will take much longer and you will have to pause to give your little man a break. Set the almonds aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs and mix until smooth. Add 1 1/4 cup cherimoya and mix until smooth. Reserve the rest of the cherimoya for later. Finally, add the almonds, a cup at a time, until smooth. The batter should be thick but runny. Zest the lemon–half to whole, depending on your preference–into the batter. Mix. If using the lavandar blossoms, fold them in now.
Grease a 10-inch layer pan (or another baking pan large enough for the mix, such as a springform pan) with the butter. Pour the batter in.
Bake for 45 minutes. When the top is firm enough to handle, carefully dollop the rest of the cherimoya on it. A teaspoon here, a tablespoon there. You can spread it around if you’re careful and if the cake is toughening up. Return to the oven and bake for 20-35 more minutes, until the edges are brown and a knife comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Squeeze the lemon over the cake, covering the entire surface with drops of the divine juice. Let cool at room temperature, preferably somewhere near your nose. When cool, remove from the pan and shake the powdered sugar over it by using a sieve. Slice and serve with strong coffee.