The first time I ever had jicama, it was cut into spears and served alongside a salad. A child then, I was excited for its newness, and I loved the way it added a sweet and mild crunch to my plate of otherwise typical veggies. But somehow I sort of forgot about jicama after that, or at least I didn’t give it much thought — until I recently discovered it pickled with chili peppers on a taqueria’s countertop. Its blank canvas quality had proved perfect for pickling, and I wondered if it might also be a good candidate for dessert. Earthy, sweet and pleasantly mild, jicama’s recipe potential seemed limitless.
With the taqueria fresh on my mind, tequila and lime were natural next ingredients. I decided on a vanilla-rich cake batter, speckled with turbinado sugar, almond meal and lime zest. Succulent, tangy nectarines in a tequila-spiked syrup would make a perfectly balanced topping. I admit, at first I wasn’t sure what would happen to jicama when I baked it — I’ve only seen it served raw — but as a jicama-hating friend said when she bravely tasted my creation, “This is what it’s meant for! Deliciousness!”
Jicama Lime Cake with Tequila-Glazed Nectarines (serves 8-10)
- 1 jicama, weighing at least 10-12 ounces
- 2-3 limes
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder, paste, or seeds scraped from a vanilla bean
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup almond meal, preferably from skin-on almonds (not blanched)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup Turbinado sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease and flour a 9″ springform pan**. If there’s any chance it leaks, wrap outer bottom and sides of pan with foil. Set aside. Carefully cut the jicama in half; this can be difficult and may require quite a whack. Cut one half into 3 wedges, and with each wedge, run a knife along the inside of the skin to peel it away and discard it. Using a standard size (large hole) grater, grate the peeled jicama. Before peeling and grating the other half (since you may already have enough), measure what you’ve grated: you need 1 cup grated jicama, moderately packed, weighing 5 ounces. Once you have that amount, set it aside. Using a fine grater, such as a Microplane, finely zest the peel of two limes. Set zest aside for cake batter. Juice limes to make 3 tablespoons juice (you may need a third lime to yield this amount); set 1 tablespoon aside for cake batter and the rest for glaze.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, and both vanillas until smooth and even. Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt over the egg mixture. (The purpose of sifting the almond meal is to get out any big lumps, not the luscious peel; do add to the batter any little flakes of almond peel that are left behind in the sieve.) Mix until pasty and smooth. Fold in the sugar until evenly dispersed, then fold in the jicama and zest until texture is consistent. Finally, stir in one tablespoon lime juice until just incorporated. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, until center no longer jiggles and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out batter-free. Let cake cool in pan until room temperature or a bit warmer. Meanwhile, make the topping.
FOR THE TEQUILA GLAZE & NECTARINES:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 4 tablespoons tequila
- dash of salt
- about 3 large ripe nectarines
Place sugar, juice, tequila and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a mellow simmer over low to medium heat and stir occasionally for about 3 – 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is not grainy. Test occasionally by placing a drop on a plate, letting it cool for a moment, and rubbing it between your fingers, feeling for smoothness. Be careful to not burn or boil. As soon as syrup feels smooth, remove pan from heat and let syrup cool, stirring occasionally (it will begin to thicken as it cools), until warm or room temperature.
While syrup cools, rinse and dry the nectarines, then remove pits and chop them into a large bowl; you should have about 3 cups chopped fruit. When ready to serve, remove sides of springform pan, slice cake into wedges, and place slices on plates. Top each slice of cake with a generous scoop of chopped nectarines. If syrup has thickened too much, heat it very briefly and stir. Drizzle generous spoonfuls of syrup over the nectarines atop each cake slice. Serve immediately.
Bursting with flavors that seem destined to be together, jicama lime cake is incredibly vibrant-tasting: practically the opposite of the main ingredient within. The bits of tart lime echo the tangy nectarine topping, just as the turbinado sugar and tequila offer a well-matched warmth. Thanks to the juicy grated jicama and flecks of almond in the batter, the cake is incredibly soft and moist — its succulence magnified by tender, boozy fruit. Refreshing, balanced, and flavorful, jicama has found a delicious new home.
Maybe next time… I love the way tangy, sweet nectarines complement this cake, and they’re very much in season as I write this. But I trust that raspberries, blueberries, pears, chopped peaches or strawberries could also be delicious. If you can’t serve this the day you bake it, the cake keeps well covered for a day or two, refrigerated if your house is warm; just be sure to wait to prepare the topping until the day of serving. On a hot day, the fruit topping is especially great chilled. I was clearly on a Mexican food kick when I made this and am really happy with the flavor pairings, but I’d bet a gin topping would also be yummy, and perhaps lemon or orange zest instead in place of the lime.
**This cake works equally well in a standard 8″ or 9″ cake pan, greased AND either lightly floured or lined (only its bottom) with a circle of parchment. In an 8″ pan it may take a few extra minutes to bake, but start testing for done-ness at the 35 minute mark, just in case. Once cooled, loosen sides of pan with a butter knife, invert cake onto plate or cutting board, and discard any parchment.