Persimmon pudding is the quintessential American persimmon preparation throughout the South, especially popular in southern Appalachia. Though persimmon is used in all sorts of baked treats, the fruit’s flagship dish is always pudding.
Because ripe persimmons have such a thick, smooth, and gooey texture—almost like pudding on its own—I just assumed persimmon pudding would be a simple custard. But I was mistaken. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding. It’s like a very dense pumpkin pie, with the flour and butter mixed into the filling rather than in a crust.
It seems every family in the South had a matriarch who could fashion a signature persimmon pudding. No two recipes are exactly alike. Some prefer to add quite a bit of spice, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Other recipes call for more sugar than persimmon pulp. Some add salt. I’ve seen recipes that blend sour cream into the batter, and one that adds baked sweet potatoes. The variations are endless, and can be daunting.
But if this is your first foray into persimmon pudding, then you can’t go wrong with this recipe recommended by the Persimmon King himself, Gene Stafford. This is his favorite variation of persimmon pudding (though he might be a wee-bit biased), handed down to him from his grandmother, Ms. Lelur Stafford.
Grandma Stafford didn’t suggest the optional garnishes, and I would understand if she would’ve taken exception to this California boy’s recommendation. Still, I find the whipped cream coupled with the bright zing of fresh kiwi or lime helps balance this overtly sweet Southern treat.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
2 cups persimmon pulp
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
½ cup sweet cream butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Lime or kiwifruit slices
Preheat the oven to 325°F and grease a 9 x 13-inch cake pan. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. (Vary the spice amounts according to personal taste.) Then stir in the wet ingredients.
Pour the mixture into the greased cake pan and bake about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Slice, and serve with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and a couple slices of fresh lime or kiwifruit.