Friday, 4 March 2011

Pretty in Pink: Thomas Keller's Gorgeous Grapefruit Cake

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Sometimes it's nice to try something new.  I mean, I love me my lemon bars and  cakes and cookies, every now and again I read a recipe for something kind of out there and think 'hells yes, this must be made immediately.

And that was exactly the response I had when I read the recipe for grapefruit cake in Ad Hoc at Home.  Now, granted, pretty damn near everything in that book sounds delicious– I think I've spent more time drooling over it than the bf has, and it was his Xmas gift from me!– but this one definitely caught my eye.  Because, really?  Grapefruit?  In a cake?

Um, yes.  Really.   Ooooooh yes really.

To be fair, how can anyone resist the pink grapefruit?  Even on a purely aesthetic level– that is one fine-looking piece of fruit up there, and you're not even seeing it in daylight!

Unfortunately, significantly less attractive were my little 'overflow' ramekins (because I seem incapable of finding a loaf pan that's legit 9x5.  Now ordered, thankyouverymuch, after much conversion of centimeters and inches and research on, which, ironically, overflowed:

Luckily, the main loaf turned out alright:

And any ugliness was soon covered in a deliciously concealing layer of icing!  Mmmmmmmmm...

So delicious, I think I ate half the stuff off the board before we even cut the cake.

But when we did cut the cake, oh lord have mercy: stripes of pink grapefruit syrup down the insides!

This cake is, in a word, insane.  It's basically a fragrant, moist grapefruit cake, with sticky-sweet grapefruit syrup all up inside it, and ooey gooey grapefruity icing all over the top.  In. Sane.

I highly recommend it, and as this was the first recipe we've (I've) made from this gorgeous book, I think it's a great start.  Hopefully we'll haul this massive tome out from our stack of cookbooks more often!  With a recommendation like this beautiful, unusual cake, I'm fairly certain the effort would be worthwhile.

Pink Grapefruit Cake:
     slightly adapted for lazier cooks from Ad Hoc at Home

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.  Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

In medium bowl, whisk together:
     2 c flour
     1 3/4 tsp baking powder
     1 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat at medium speed about 3 minutes, until whisk leaves trail through thickened mixture:
     1 2/3 c sugar
     2 large eggs

Beat in:
     1 c whole milk (I used semi-skimmed because it was in the fridge)

     3/4 c canola oil (I used sunflower seed oil, because it's what the closest grocery store had)
     1 Tbsp grated pink grapefruit zest
     1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (I used extract)

Reduce speed to low and add flour mix, mixing just until incorporated.  Spread batter into pan, and run a lightly oiled knife lengthwise down the center to help the cake rise evenly.  Bake on a small baking sheet for 30 minutes.  

While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining and simmering one minute in a small saucepan:
     1 c strained fresh pink grapefruit juice
     2/3 c sugar

Set the syrup aside and turn the cake around to bake a further 30 minutes.  As soon as the cake is finished (a tester should come out mostly clean, with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it), poke holes all over it with a long skewer and brush the syrup all over it.  Keep going until you've used all the syrup.  Let the cake cool 10 minutes.

Turn cake out of pan onto a cooling rack and let cool to room temp.

To make the icing, stir together:
     3/4 c powdered (or icing) sugar
     1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh pink grapefruit juice

Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.  Slice and serve.  Cake keeps well at room temp, loosely covered, for two days.


  1. I think there's an error... the recipe calls for "3/4 c baking powder." I used logic and used 3/4 teaspoons and the recipe came out well! Might wanna fix that.

  2. Great recipe! However, I only used 2/3 cups of sugar instead of 1 and 2/3 cups in the loaf and it came out great!!

  3. Anon 1: Thanks so much for pointing that out (and for using logic instead of letting my absentmindedness ruin your cake)!

    Anon 2: I could definitely see cutting the sugar with delicious results– it's a pretty sweet cake if you follow the recipe exactly.

  4. I have been salivating over this cake since I came upon your blog. I am limited on time now, so I emailed this recipe to my husband who made 2 of these cakes. I wish I could only be there to bite into this simple yet unique morsel of a cake. It looks so tender and moist...definitely going to make this in a few weeks!

  5. It's certainly moist, that's for sure! I hope your husband enjoyed baking it (where can i get one of those, btw?), and I hope you love it as much as I did, C!
    Thanks so much for stopping by,

  6. Thanks for posting the recipe dear. I will try this one certainly.

  7. You really can't go wrong with a Thomas Keller recipe, this cake looks awesome! The brownies from that book are sooo good too!

  8. Brilynn, i think you just chose my next recipe for me!

  9. I made this cake today and it was very delicious. I cut the sugar to 2/3 cups as well and didn't use all the syrup. It was so easy to make. Thanks for posting this!

  10. i'm glad you liked it, ann! i think next time i make it i'll use my own judgment on how much syrup i use, because it was quite a lot... not that i was complaining! but i think it would probably have been just as tasty with less sugar.

  11. Anne,

    After reading the recipe and then comments, I want to know, is it "1&3/4 tsp baking powder" or just "3/4 tsp baking powder"? Also, the recipe says "3/4 canola oil", but does not state 3/4 of what. I really want to make this, but I need to know what measurements first.

    1. Never mind, I found the recipe online at For those who are wondering, it is 1&3/4 tsp baking powder and 3/4 cup canola oil.

  12. Hi Elizabeth,

    Unfortunately, I don't have the recipe book here with me to check (I'm on vacation in SF), but I'm pretty sure it's 3/4 cup oil. As for the baking powder, I suspect that the original measurement (1 3/4) was correct (and just the wording that was incorrect), but it sounds like the earlier commenter had good luck with 3/4 as well.

    I'm sorry about the confusion! This was one of the first really long recipes I ever wrote out for the blog, and I guess I slipped up a bit too much!


  13. I will be baking this one very very soon!
    as soon as i can get my hands on some quality pink grapefruit!
    thanks for sharing (:

  14. Great recipe! I made this in a bundt pan and cut down on bake time to 33 minutes total. I used the original 1 2/3 c sugar but agree this could be cut down & still be very good. I didn't use all the syrup as there is likely a line between moist cake and soppy wet with syrup cake & I wanted it keep the integrity of the cake. I used cake flour the result was a very light almost spongy cake golden on the outside. I ended up using 2 grapefruits--perfect for amount of juice & zest. I did double the zest to 2 tblsp (I love tart citrus flavor). Next time I think I'm going to change up the frosting to make it a little more frosting-like, it ended up more like a clear glaze then a frosting but still very yummy.

  15. Hi Heath,

    Thanks so much for sharing your variation! I love the idea of doubling the zest ... I might have to make this one again soon and try that!


  16. This is amazing!! As a pastry chef myself, I find that grapefruit is often overlooked for pastries. Thank you for sensationalizing my taste buds!!

  17. Hi Anon,

    I totally agree – I order grapefruit desserts whenever I get the chance (I had some amazing grapefruit donuts once that I've never forgotten), but it does seem to be too often thrown over for chocolate or lemon. I'm glad you enjoyed this cake as much as we did!


  18. If you make a mistake like I did and added all of the sugar into the batter, just omit the sugar from the syrup. You can simmer down the grapefruit juice to make a syrup then pour that on, and it works perfectly. Whew!

    1. That's great to know, thanks!


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