One evening last week, my husband came home with a full shopping bag from Moe’s Books. (Not an unusual scenario.) At first I perked up at the thought of new summer reading, but then I noticed the odd shape of the bag: lumpy and rounded — not book-like at all! “They’re grapefruits from Harvey,” he revealed in response to my puzzled face, which quickly brightened again that instant. In place of the excitement for books, I felt gratitude for the kind generosity of our friend who shared his harvest, for local trees that bear fruit all year long, and – naturally – for the realm of dessert possibilities that these gifts had opened. Here’s what I made with them.
Grapefruit Cake filled with Grapefruit Curd
- 2 egg whites (set aside yolks for curd)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Finely grated zest of one grapefruit
- Scant ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup grapefruit juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare two 6” cake pans by greasing and flouring or lining with parchment. Beat egg whites on medium/high until foamy. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and keep beating until opaque with medium-to-stiff peaks. Separately, beat butter, ½ cup sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy and even. Sift over bowl: flour, baking powder and salt. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often as you mix in the dry ingredients. Once even in consistency, slowly mix in the grapefruit juice, then stir in the zest until evenly incorporated. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites a little at a time, just until batter is even. Immediately transfer to cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick tests clean and edges are golden brown. Let cakes cool completely before removing from pans. (Feel free to stop here; the cake is delicious and moist plain or topped with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.)
- Grated zest of two grapefruits
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Dash of salt
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup softened butter
Whisk together everything but the butter in a heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching water) and whisk constantly for 10-15 minutes, until custard is thick enough to hold a deep trail when whisk is pulled through it. Remove bowl from heat; keep whisking for a few minutes while bowl cools, then let sit for a few more minutes until it becomes to lukewarm. Whisk curd through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl; gently scrape the backside of the sieve, too. With a clean whisk, stir in butter a little at a time until it is completely incorporated. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Keep cakes at room temperature until you’re almost ready to serve the cake (up to 24 hours). To assemble, place one layer on a plate, add most of the chilled grapefruit curd, and add the second cake layer. The more curd you use, the more it will ooze down the sides of the cake. Dust the top layer with powdered sugar and chill until ready to serve (up to an hour).
If you’re a fan of grapefruit and ever wondered how it would taste as a creamsicle, this dessert is for you. Buttery with a bite, the cake and custard are rich and refreshing at once. Together, they satisfy with sweetness, creaminess, and a tangy quality that only fresh citrus can impart. With a heartfelt salute to the growing trees and giving friends that abound, may you enjoy every bite.
Maybe next time… If you don’t have 6” pans, you can use one 8 or 9” pan and bake the cake longer, checking frequently for doneness, and carefully split the cooled cake into two layers with a sharp knife if filling it. If you want to frost this cake, be sure to pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the bottom layer to hold in the filling, and use only about half the curd. Because of its tartness, this cake would taste great with the addition of sweet berries or mango slices between its layers or right on top.
*Curd is a rather ugly word for custard with butter added to it, usually flavored with fruit, most popularly lemon. Aside from a cake filling, it can be drizzled on toast, yogurt, scones, pancakes, or just about anything! Mine looks a little bumpy in this photo because the camera picked up on the bits of zest in it. (I mistakenly grated the peel a little too fine and used a sieve that was not quite fine enough, but it was still smooth, creamy, and delicious!)