Find out how to turn your kousa dogwood fruit into a gooey and delicious pudding cake with this unique seasonal recipe!
In our area, late summer means passionfruit (maypops), pawpaws, and kousa dogwood fruit. In case you’ve never heard of them before, kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is an Asian species that produces edible fruit, unlike our native east coast American dogwood (Cornus florida).
(Read our introductory article: Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), the edible dogwood.)
How to know when kousa dogwood fruit is ripe
Kousa dogwood fruit ripens in late summer (August-September in our area). The fruit is cherry-sized and ripens to various hues of red, orange, and yellow, depending on the tree. When ripe, the fruit is slightly soft and will either fall off the tree on its own or come off with a gentle pull.
Unless you have a named variety of kousa dogwood bred for edible fruit, you’ll find there is vast flavor variability between individual kousa dogwood trees. That’s because they’re heavily hybridized, so each one produces its own uniquely flavored fruit.
On a recent outing to our favorite kousa dogwood spot (a nearby park), we sampled three trees that all had different flavored fruit. One tasted like pawpaws, another like American persimmons, and another was so insipidly sweet it was inedible (not sugary sweet, more like stevia leaf sweet).
Takeaway: before you pick a bunch of kousa dogwood fruit to make into a recipe, it’s very important that you only use fruit from trees that have good-flavored fruit!
Eating kousa dogwood fruit
The skin on kousa dogwood fruit is technically edible, but is scaly and gritty. The culinary gold is the gooey pulp inside, which varies in color from tree to tree from yellow to deep orange.
When eating the fruit fresh, we recommend tearing a hole in the skin and squeezing out the pulp into your mouth. Then separate out the seeds in your mouth.
Here’s how to process kousa dogwood fruit to extract the pulp for recipes:
It will take quite a bit of fruit to extract one cup of processed kousa dogwood pulp. If you want 1 cup of final kousa dogwood pulp, plan on starting with at least 5 cups of unprocessed fruit. Here again, exact ratios will vary because some trees have seedier fruit, larger fruit, etc.
When using kousa dogwood fruit in recipes, you’ll want to remove the skin and seeds, so you’re left with only the flavorful pulp. Here’s how:
1. Remove the pulp from the skin.
Cut or tear a hole in the outer skin. Then squeeze the pulp (seeds and all) into a bowl.
If left on, kousa dogwood fruit skins can make the texture of the final product very gritty, which isn’t an ideal texture for palatability.
2. Strain the seeds out of the pulp.
For this step, you’ll want to have a chinois strainer set (which includes a stand and wooden pestle). As an alternative, you could use a stainless steel pasta strainer and a spatula, but it’s going to be a more difficult process.
3. Use or freeze pulp within a few days.
Once you have your processed kousa dogwood pulp, you’ll want to either use it immediately or freeze it within a few days to best preserve its flavor and color. If freezing, be sure to use ziploc freezer bags and remove any air inside to prevent freezer burn.
What can you make with kousa dogwood fruit?
Kousa dogwood fruit is very versatile, but best lends itself to desserts due to its sweet flavor. You can use kousa dogwood fruit as a 1:1 substitute in any persimmon or pawpaw recipe.
With a slight chill in the air portending of fall, we decided to turn a batch of kousa dogwood fruit into a new recipe: kousa dogwood pudding cake, using honey and whole wheat organic pastry flour. The result was a rich, delicious dessert similar to a crustless pumpkin pie but with a more cake-like texture.
This is a recipe we’ll definitely look forward to in future years, and hope you will too!
Kousa dogwood pudding cake recipe tips:
Here are some important tips you need to pay attention to in order to get this recipe right:
1. Use an electric mixer.
We’d highly encourage you to use an electric mixer when making this recipe. If not, it’s going to be very difficult to achieve the same texture in the final outcome.
For instance: you’ll need to separate your egg whites and whip them with cream of tartar before reincorporating them into the main ingredients. Doing this step by hand with a whisk is going to be quite difficult, but go for it if that’s the best tool you have available!
2. Use cream of tartar (and other recommended ingredients).
Other than kousa dogwood fruit pulp, the second most important ingredient in this recipe is probably cream of tartar (a byproduct of wine making). You can get cream of tartar at any grocery store.
If you want to make perfect meringue, whipped cream, soufflé, etc, cream of tartar is the secret ingredient you need to use. It gives lift and staying power to all those tiny air bubbles.
We also used organic whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe. Pastry flour has a better texture for desserts than regular whole wheat flour. Organic because that’s the type of farming/farmers we want to support and whole wheat because we try to eat whole foods.
We’re not sure how using white flour or non-pastry flour would impact baking time or final flavor/texture.
Two final things:
- use organic, grass-fed whole milk not low fat or skim;
- we used honey rather than cane sugar (which is why we baked at a slightly lower temperature).
3. Pay attention to baking dish size (and butter your baking dish)
Other than baking time, how will you know when your kousa dogwood pudding cake is ready? When it’s risen in the center and no longer really jiggly when given a light shake.
Baking time for this recipe is 60 minutes IF you use a 10″ long x 7.5″ wide baking dish (ours is also 2″ deep). If you use a baking dish with different dimensions, that would make the ingredients deeper or shallower, affecting baking time. Or if you use a non-ceramic baking dish, that may also impact baking time. Another caveat: different ovens cook differently so remember to also rely on your eye not just the cook time.
A couple other points here:
- Our oven has 7 racks and we cooked on the third rack from the bottom. If you cook higher up in your oven, you risk burning the top of the pudding cake before it’s done.
- Generously butter your baking dish before pouring the batter in to keep things from sticking.
4. Expect sinking – that’s good!
This kousa dogwood pudding cake WILL sink after you remove it from the oven and let it cool… And that’s ok!
Sinking helps give this recipe its final gooey brownie-like texture. Also, the sides of the pudding cake will remain taller than the center giving each piece an interesting crust-like edge.
We recommend letting the pudding cake cool to at least mildly warm (ideally room temperature) before serving. It’s actually best the next day after it’s been refrigerated.
Recipe: kousa dogwood pudding cake
Kousa dogwood pudding cake
A delicious dessert made from kousa dogwood fruit with a texture like a cross between pie and cake.
- 1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 chicken eggs, separated into whites and yolks
- 2 tbsp butter room temp
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup kousa dogwood fruit pulp
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk (preferably organic grass-fed)
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 10" long x 7.5" wide x 2" deep baking dish.
Stir the following dry ingredients together in bowl with a spoon: flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt. Set aside.
Separate egg whites from egg yellows. Put egg whites + cream of tartar into mixing bowl under electric mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed until cream of tartar fully incorporated and the mixture has a frothy appearance. Then turn speed up to high and whip until smooth, creamy, and peaks form when you pull the beaters back, about 2-3 minutes. Using spatula, remove whipped egg whites to separate bowl or large measuring glass. (Don't worry about scraping the mixer completely clean since you'll be adding other ingredients to mixer next.)
Add honey and room temperature butter to mixer, and mix on medium until butter fully incorporated into honey, about 1 minute. Add kousa pulp, egg yellows, and vanilla, and mix on medium for 1 minute. Add milk, mix on medium for one minute. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer, about 1/4 cup at a time, while mixer on medium speed and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
Pour your whipped egg white mix into the kousa-flour mix, then mix in with a spatula (not with mixer). This is to help the final pudding be lighter and fluffier.
Pour ingredients into buttered baking dish. Bake on 325°F (163°C) for 60 minutes or until center of pudding cake is risen and barely jiggles when lightly shaken. Let cool to room temp (or lightly warm) before serving. Even better refrigerated and served the next day!
We hope you love this kousa dogwood pudding cake as much as we do! Or is it a cake-pudding? Who knows.
But now you do know how to turn your kousa dogwood fruit into a delicious dessert you can enjoy each year when kousa dogwood fruit is ripe.