On a recent evening, 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 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.
And on top of all this, our neighbors had given us a basket of their chickens’ eggs. (Lucky me: they’re the best eggs I’ve had — rich and vibrant with glowing orange yolks.) Little time passed before I found myself creating a new chiffon-style cake with fluffy egg whites whipped into the batter, and a luscious batch of grapefruit curd to serve alongside it. While the cake is moist and buttery with just a simple dusting of powdered sugar, the rich curd amps up the citrus flavor as well as the decadence.
Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Curd
You’ll need a total of three medium grapefruits for the cake and custard. Start each part of the recipe by washing, drying, and zesting the grapefruits, then juicing the amount needed and removing any seeds.
FOR THE CAKE:
[makes one 8″ round cake, or two 6″ round cake layers]
- 2 large egg whites; set aside yolks for curd
- ¾ cup sugar
- 7 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (i.e., 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup grapefruit juice
- finely grated zest of one grapefruit
- powdered sugar for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare cake pan(s) by greasing inside and lining inner bottom(s) with parchment. Beat egg whites on high until just foamy. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and keep beating until opaque with medium-to-stiff peaks; set aside. 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 stir in the dry ingredients, gradually adding the grapefruit juice along the way. Mix until even, then fold in the zest until evenly dispersed. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites in two or three portions (not all at once), folding just until no traces of egg white remain; do not overmix.
Immediately transfer batter to cake pan(s), spread evenly, and place in oven. For 6″ cake rounds, bake for about 15-20 minutes; for an 8″ round, bake about 20-25 minutes. With either size, baking is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter, and edges and top are becoming golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cake cool completely before removing from pan(s).
FOR THE GRAPEFRUIT CURD:
[makes about a cup]
- Grated zest of two grapefruits
- 1/3 cup sugar
- dash of salt
- ¼ cup grapefruit juice
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup softened unsalted 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 about 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 2-3 minutes while bowl cools down.
Whisk in the butter in three portions (not all at once), stirring each time until it disappears and is fully incorporated. Push warm curd through a sieve into clean bowl; using the whisk or a spatula can be easiest. Be sure to gently scrape the backside of the sieve, too. Let cool to room temperature, then cover tightly and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Keep the cooled cakes covered at room temperature until you’re almost ready to serve the dessert — up to 24 hours. (If using 6″ layers, feel free to slather curd between them and let it ooze out the sides.) Using a sifter or sieve, dust cake with powdered sugar if desired, and drizzle slices generously with grapefruit curd.
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 zesty bite, the tender cake and silky 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… This cake would pair nicely with sweet berries or mango slices, either between its layers or right on top. You can always swap in lime, lemon, or orange for the grapefruit — just keep in mind that you’ll need more of the small fruit to make up for the large size of the grapefruits. As for the curd (such an ugly abbreviation for delicious custard!) — it can be drizzled on toast, yogurt, scones, pancakes, or just about anything.