Romney Steele, author of “My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family and Big Sur,” will be chatting up her new book at 4 p.m. Sunday at Readers’ Books in Sonoma. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by for some  lore and a glass of wine from Pisoni Vineyards.

Part cookbook, part photography and part history and memoir, “My Nepenthe”  pays tribute  to the famous restaurant perched on the cliffs of Big Sur that was created by Steele’s grandparents,  Bill and Lolly Forsett.

A cook, writer and food stylist, Steele grew up at the family restaurant and has many stories to tell about her “crazy stew of a family” and all the bohemian artists, writers, actors and food lovers drawn to its magical setting.

Here’s a recipe from her book for Persimmon Pudding cake, a favorite of her grandmother’s. “I used to bake multiple batches of it in emptied coffee tins for holiday gifts,” Steele writes. “Use 4 or 5 Hachiya (acorn-shaped) persimmons for the puree. Slice them open, scoop out the flesh,  and push the pulp through a sieve to remove any seeds.”

Persimmon Pudding Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8 to 10

2 cups persimmon puree

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup whole milk

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup whipping cream

¼ cup honey

3 eggs

2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

1½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Scant ½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup toasted walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch baking dish or small individual molds.

In a large bowl, whisk together the puree, suar, milk, butter, cream, honey and eggs until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the brandy.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir in the wet ingredients. Fold in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.