Glazed Pawpaw Spice Cake


for the cake:
1 cup mashed pawpaw* (about 4 large pawpaws)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch salt

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon melted butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons mashed pawpaw
2-3 tablespoons water


Butter and flour one loaf pan. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat together the pawpaw, vanilla, egg, butter, and sugars until fairly smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients. Mix mix until a thick batter forms. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just 1-2 moist crumbs. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack then remove from the pan. Continue to cool on a wire rack completely.

In a small bowl. whisk together glaze ingredients. Add water as needed to make it pourable. Pour over fully cooled cake. Allow to sit 30 minutes prior to slicing.

*Make sure your pawpaw is ripe! It should be quite soft. When fully ripe, the seeds will pop out easily and the flesh will be so soft you should not have to mash it at all. Do not use unripe or underripe pawpaws!

My thoughts:
First things, first, I’m talking about the North American native fruit, pawpaws which look sort of like mangos and is a member of the same family as custard apples and soursop, not papayas, which in some countries are also called pawpaw. American pawpaws can be tricky to find because they are not very grocery store friendly–they go from ripe to rotten in about 2 days unless refrigerated (and even that is iffy)–but in areas where they are grown you can occasionally find them in farmers’ markets. Or hunt for them in the wild, especially in a marshy area! We grow our own using trees from a local native plant nursery. Here is a piece by NPR on foraging for pawpaws that gives some background into the fruit. 

We have been growing pawpaws for quite a few years now but until now I really haven’t a big enough harvest to really make anything with them. First, you really need around four trees (unless you are very close to an area where they grow wild, I live in Baltimore City so I do not) for optional pollination. You can get away with two apparently but we have not had luck with that few. Then the trees need to be fairly mature to actually produce fruit. Our neighbor also grows pawpaws and knows by looking at the trunk if they are old enough to fruit. From what I can tell, the magic number is about 6 inches around or about 4 years old. It’s a commitment! When the fruit is ripe it falls off the tree (where is it quickly consumed by birds and bugs) but you can catch it when it is just soft, similar to an overripe avocado or mango and harvest it yourself.

Pawpaws have a soft, custardy texture and a very strong, fruity mango meets citrus aroma and flavor. They add a ton of moisture to any baked good making them perfect for simple cakes like this. We had a similar cake at a now-defunct restaurant and I have been wanting to recreate it for years! Finally, we had enough pawpaws (and we were actually home when they ripened, they go from unripe to overripe amazingly quickly) to make a whole (small) cake. It came together quickly and for just the two of us, a loaf cake is the perfect size.

 It’s excellent for dessert or a little snack with tea. The lush tropical flavor really makes it stand out against other similar cakes and is a fun change from the usual citrus or banana.

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