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Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

Lately I've had intense cravings for sour and tart foods. With my traditionally sweet and salty palate (with nary a deviation), this sudden change in taste took me (and my cupboards) by surprise. The cravings would hit me out of the blue. On long car rides, I suddenly found myself buying sour candy (a rarity for me) and finding myself disappointed at the lack of a face-scrunching flavor punch. "Sour" snacks were hardly sour enough to nix my cravings.

After hitting that particular dead end, I turned towards citrus fruits.

Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

My grocery cart began filling up with lemons. I was buying six or seven at a time, determined to create a dessert with a sour taste so pungent even I could be satisfied. What I didn't account for was that baking usually includes sugar (and sugar often puts a stop to that sour hit I so desperately craved). I made lemon bars. Lemon cookies. Lemon cupcakes. Lemon poppy seed muffins, twice. Each time a new dessert was attempted, I used less and less sugar and added increasingly more lemon juice or zest.

Though they were all delicious in each individual form, they just weren't what I was looking for. They weren't sour.

I spent nearly $20 on lemons in a single month, with nothing to show for it. It was a rough period for me, as a baker. I felt defeated, defeated by such a simple craving. I assuaged my sorrows by eating lemon slices, but it was hardly the spectacular dessert I had imagined.

Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

During my next foray to the supermarket, the grapefruit found me. I'm on sale, they shouted at me. Buy us! Eat us! We will be sour enough for you! The grapefruit was, in fact, right. If ever a food should scream out at you from the supermarket shelves, do take heed. Paired with a sour, plain Greek yogurt, I found my breakfast of champions. It was only a small step to turn these ingredients into a tart (and softly sweet) cake.

This cake is fresh, bright, with a flavor you can truly appreciate whether you simply love a good grapefruit or have spent a month and unaccountable dollars trying to replicate.

Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

This Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream has an original flavor, both clean and pure. After the warm cake emerges from the oven, it is brushed with grapefruit juice which soaks deep into the layers, making an unbelievably moist and tender cake (with just a hint of true tartness). The Grapefruit Buttercream lends a sweeter aspect to this cake. Made with a grapefruit juice reduction, the sourness of the juice balances out the sweetness of the powdered sugar. This cake itself, however, is the true star and is lovely when enjoyed in the afternoon, when the sun is bright and thoughts of spring are on your mind.

One Year Ago: Italian Breadstick Popcorn

Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Buttercream

Yields 8-inch 2-layer cake

Grapefruit Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 grapefruit
2 large eggs
1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup light olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (about 1 grapefruit)
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease 2 8-inch cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar and grapefruit zest with your fingers until fragrant. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Mix in yogurt, olive oil, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoon grapefruit juice (reserve 1/3 cup for later). Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/3 cup grapefruit juice on top on the cake layers, allowing the juice to soak into the cake. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Grapefruit Buttercream
3/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
Zest of 1 grapefruit
4 cups powdered sugar
Heavy cream

In a small saucepan, bring grapefruit juice to a boil and simmer until it reduces and thickens to about 1/4 cup. Cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and grapefruit zest until smooth. Mix in thickened grapefruit juice. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated and smooth. Because the thickened grapefruit juice will vary in amount, add heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

Reader Comments (28)

I'm the same way with lemons. If I want sour, I want things sour and not subtly sour. I've tried so many lemon cake recipes but none of them are sour enough!

What amazingly pretty pictures these are. I love the color of the buttercream! I've never even had a grapefruit but these pictures are tempting me.
What beautiful flavor and color. Love it!
03.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLora
What a decadent cake! This sounds lovely.
I was just thinking today how I want to make some sort of baked good with grapefruit. This sounds perfect!
Wow, I don't think I've met anyone who doesn't get their sour craving fix by eating lemons. o.O I guess it was just meant to be for this grapefruit cake then :)

I've never had grapefruit, but this cake looks absolutely delicious, and now I'm kind of craving something sour as well.
Well I'm sure there is a reason why you want sour food so much. And good that you listen to your body and give that sour :)

Cake looks really beautiful!
03.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMedeja
I just bought a bag full of pink grapefruit, and this cake looks like an amazing use for them. I've been looking for a grapefruit cake lately, but haven't found one that seemed quite right., I really like how you got so much grapefruit juice flavor into the frosting, and I'm drooling over that pale pink color...
Delicious and unique. Loving grapefruit lately!
There seems to be something wrong in the directions for the buttercream. Ingredients list grapefruit juice which you reduce and thicken and zest of 1 grapefruit. But the directions say to beat the butter and grapefruit juice. Then mix in the thickened grapefruit juice. Did you mean to say beat the butter with the grapefruit zest?
03.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo Wishnie
I love how the warm weather is bringing more fruity and citrus recipes... yay for spring!
03.10.2012 | Unregistered Commentersweet road
I've never baked with grapefruit juice before, but I really love that the juice is brushed onto the cake after it is removed from the oven. This cake reminds me of spring and I can't wait to give it a try!
03.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterbrookeO
Jo-- Thanks so much for pointing that out! I did mean to beat the butter with the grapefruit zest. I've edited the recipe above to reflect this.
03.10.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Sounds great can't wait to try.
03.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJLS
I absolutely love grapefruit! I am going to have to bookmark this one to try!
I love grapefruit anytime and a cake with grapefruit sounds marvelous! I love the barely-pink shade to the frosting and the cake looks incredibly moist... I am featuring this post in today's Friday Food Fetish roundup (with a link-back and attribution), but please let me know if you have any objections. It's a pleasure following your creations…
03.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJavelin Warrior
Hi! Made this cake today because I had two friends coming for lunch who are very judgemental and I wanted to make something impressive! They loved it! Thanks so much :) I am new to your blog but have made your peanut butter brownies and saffron truffles in the last two days too!
03.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
For one,I must complement you!Confession - I don't like Food Bloggers that tell a whole lot of story.
I so much loved the write-up before the recipe began,you write beautifully!:-) Interesting,clear and very well linked to the topic.The line "Buy us! Eat us! We will be sour enough for you!" actually made me laugh,hehe.
Going to note down/bookmark this recipe,The cake looks beautiful;Thank you so much for sharing!:-)
I made the cake and it turned out the consistency of a very dry cornbread. The batter seemed way to thick...I triple checked my ingredient measurements. Seems like it needed more liquid?
The Lady and The Pig-- Hmmm. It is a thicker batter and does come out a little dense, but soaking it in the grapefruit juice really makes the cake moist. My only guess it that perhaps you added too much flour? Using cups is such an imprecise measurement and one cup can hold 1/4 cup more flour if it gets packed in. I'm guessing this may be what happened? It's hard to say. When I get a chance, I'll try making this cake again.
04.6.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Wow, beautiful cake! I've been craving citrus like crazy lately. I bought some grapefruits and they smell so good! I bet this cake would be really delicious.
Is there any alternative to Greek yogurt?? I want to try this really bad, but I don't have it around here... Great Post!
05.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina
Do you think I could make this in a bundt cake pan? What sort of temperate/time changes would you suggest??
05.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Hi Kate-- I've never tried this cake in a bundt pan, but I see no reason you couldn't! I'd leave the temperature the same and increase the bake time for 45-60 minutes total. The cake may take longer, so watch it closely after 45 min and you'll be able to catch it when its finished.
05.14.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Okay, I have this cake in the oven now. I was looking for something different to bring to my church bake sale. I used the recipe as directed but I floured the pan and used a 13x9 cake pan. I plan on cheating a little bit on the frosting. I bought a can of buttercreme frosting and plan on adding the zest and juice to the frosting. I usually water down the frosting anyway because its always so thick so this should work great. Wish me luck and say a prayer. Thanks
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Briggs
I love grapefruit and this sounds fabulous! Never heard of grapefruit cake! I must try it. Soon! Besides the great recipe, I find your writing style very entertaining. I will surely be back. Love your photos, too. Inspiring :)
Resa ~ Pitcher and Plate
01.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterResa Dance
Thank you for sharing this recipe, I have just made this cake and it is delicious by just tasting bits of it, it is a pink dream :) Definitely I will share this experience to my friends and family. Agnes
02.5.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAgnes
Just tried this recipe for Easter. The cake turned out very hard and dry. I followed the recipe exactly, even making the cake flour according to the link. The icing was TO DIE FOR! I could eat tubs of it! Next time I'll use a regular white cake mix from a box and add the grapefruit. Thanks for the wonderful idea.
04.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMillir
Since I had access to grapefruit and orange trees in our backyard, I made grapefruit cupcakes and tweaked the frosting to orange. Turned out great! I halved the recipe which made six average size cupcakes. My aunt, who I made these for, can't stop eating them. It's lunchtime and she's on here third one. Guess she enjoyed them. The zest is the key I think. Zest really packs a pop of sour-tartiness, especially in the icing. I dropped a few teaspoons of cranberry juice into the cake batter also to give a little bit of a pinkish hue. These are citrus heaven.
04.14.2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeo3

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