The cake, maybe, if last November’s Spanish Almond Cake inspired, but have you ever tried it with cherimoya, or custard apple, pictured below?
Custard apple is an apt description, as the creamy flesh is the consistency of soft-serve, and its taste is ambrosia, a beguiling mixture of apples, pears, bananas and mangoes. The pulp is tantalizing when folded into a mildly sweet cake, and it’s wonderful by itself too, scooped directly from the fruit:
These magnificent properties weren’t lost on residents of the cherimoya‘s native region, the Andes. In fact, way back in colonial times, when the region still was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, people today known as Ecuadorians were adding cherimoya pulp to the Spanish torta de Santiago, or almond cake, with spectacular results. The almonds’ slight sweetness, somewhat reminiscent of cherries, expands and improves substantially when the custard apple introduces a whole orchard of fruit flavors.
One of the concoction’s fans is, for the first time here, a fellow resident of the WordPress empire, chef Brian Fink, of the Cascadian Kitchen. Unfortunately, his blog may be asleep, as the latest entries and comments date to 2014, but who knows? Even if the blog now is in the past, its legacy, introducing the cherimoya here, is current.
Anyway, pulp is scooped from the custard apple, taking care to exclude the seeds, which actually are toxic if chewed. The flesh, though, is magnificently flavorful and nutritious. Here’s enough for our cake:
A personal inspiration is to garnish the cake with grated lemon and lime zest. Not only does this add eye-catching flashes of color, but it completes the flavor profile, covering every flavor orchards produce. Also, like last year’s torta de Santiago, this uses only almond flour, thus keeping it gluten-free! All the more reason to try this, and make the answer to today’s headline question, “”Yes!”
Tarta de Chirimoya
(Ecuadorian Cherimoya Almond Cake)
- 1 pound (4-and-1/4 cups) almond flour
- 6 ounces butter, softened slightly
- 1-and-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1-and-3/4 cups cherimoya, seeds removed (*1)
- 2/3 cup lavender blossoms
- 1 lemon, plus one more lemon and a lime for garnish, optional (*2)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spritz a 10-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the granulated sugar.
Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cherimoya and add the rest to the batter. As with the eggs, whisk until smooth. Grate a lemon’s zest into the batter and mix it in well (be sure to retain the zested lemon itself for use later in the recipe!). Fold in the lavender blossoms.
Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the pan from the oven and spread the cherimoya you reserved earlier on the cake top, using a rubber spatula to spread it to an even thickness. Return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes more (45 minutes in total).
Set on a wire rack to cool. Juice the lemon you saved and sprinkle the juice over the cake. When the cake is cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes, remove from the pan and top evenly with powdered sugar sprinkled through a mesh sieve. Zest a lemon and a lime on top, if desired, slice and serve.
1 – This equals about two cherimoyas. By the way, there’s a subtle difference in how the fruit is spelled in English and in Spanish. In English it’s “cherimoya;” in Spanish the word is spelled “chirimoya” (two “i”s, no “e”).
2 – Zesting with an extra lemon and lime is an option worth pursuing. If you can find them, use Meyer lemons, please.