Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grapefruit Cake

I'll start by saying that I love grapefruit. When I was a little girl and we'd go visit my grandparents all the grownups would have half a grapefruit with breakfast. It was such a grown up thing and I was so desperate to be like the grownups - so I'd pour on the sugar and dig right in. Eventually I enjoyed the grapefruit more and the sugar less. Now I enjoy grapefruit in an even more adult fashion - a gin and tonic with a splash of grapefruit is one of my go-to drinks! But I say this knowing that grapefruit isn't something that everyone enjoys. Honestly, though - even those that don't care for grapefruit really liked this cake. But Keller says you can substitute other citrus fruits in this recipe, so it could be lemon or orange, etc.

Grapefruit Cake sounds like a nice spring dessert - perfect for Mother's Day! Mother's Day also happened to be Mary Beth's birthday this year. So I invited Mary Beth over to taste test cocktails (I was picking out a drink to serve at a party the next weekend), and figured Grapefruit Cake would make a great birthday cake as well. (Plus, it was an easy one to start with!) I probably shouldn't have decided to make my first Ad Hoc recipe while also test tasting cocktails...

The thing that makes this cake a bit unique is that once you bake the cake, you poke small holes in it with a skewer, patiently brush on a grapefruit glaze - allowing it to soak into the cake slowly, and then top with grapefruit icing. Note the words "patiently" and "slowly". Then remember the word "cocktails" from the paragraph above.

I prepared my mis en place (I am now a fancy-pants food blogger, so I use phrases like "mis en place" and "prepare" - you can't touch this). And then I spent about twenty minutes cleaning up my kitchen because I realized when I started taking pictures that everything needed to look perfect. So I'm behind schedule already...

The cake recipe itself is your basic cake recipe. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) into a large bowl. Then in your mixer's bowl, combine the wet ingredients (grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice, sugar, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, slowly, and mix until the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet. So far, so good. Please do note the spotless countertops...

Pour the cake batter into a lightly oiled loaf pan and pop it into the oven. Here's where I learned that it's more difficult than you would think it is to pour cake batter into a loaf pan with one hand while taking a picture of pouring said cake batter into said loaf pan with the other hand. (Sidenote: some of the pics on this post aren't so hot... I promise I'll get better with practice. Or I'll talk Jeremy into being my food photographer.)

While the cake was in the oven, I made the grapefruit glaze - which was just fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and sugar warmed over medium heat in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. More or less it's a grapefruit simple syrup. I made the grapefruit icing as well - which was just powdered sugar with a couple of tablespoons of grapefruit juice. Paste and syrup - easy schmeasy, right? Eh. Well at least making the glaze and icing was easy.

So while the cake was baking and I'd already finished the glaze and icing, it was time to work on my cocktails. I wanted to serve a cucumber cocktail, but I'd never made one so I had several recipes I wanted to test. I was in fancy-pants food blogger mode, so I put together my mis en place for cucumber cocktails! Hey, why not? This, by the way, is where we start to go downhill...

Mike, Mary Beth and Ryan arrived and I had just taken the cake out of the oven. Perfect timing! Now all I had to do with riddle the cake with holes, brush on the glaze, top it with icing and serve! Then we could dive right into the cocktail testing. Easy-schmeasy, right?

I was warned that I may have to give the glaze a moment to soak in a few times, so the glaze may take a while to get it all into the cake - but to just be patient. Well, yeah. There was a lot of glaze. A lot of glaze. And I poked and poked and poked holes. And I brushed and brushed and brushed glaze. And I waited. And I looked longingly at my cocktail mis en place. And then I brushed some more and I waited. Then I poked some more holes, and then some holes in angles. And I brushed and brushed. Then I poured the freaking glaze over the cake and brushed some more. Are you tired of reading about my brushing and poking? Yeah well, me too! I was tired to death of brushing and poking and waiting. It was taking forever.

So I went ahead and made cocktail number one, which was originally enough called "Cucumber Cocktail". And it was delicious. Mint, cucumber, limes, sugar, run and champagne - delicious. And I wanted to serve a lovely refreshing slice of Grapefruit Cake along with my delicious Cucumber Cocktail to the birthday girl - but it still wasn't ready. So back to the cake... I'm brushing and waiting and poking... Finally I figured it'd been enough already - there was a ton of glaze in the cake by now and it was already a nice moist cake and darnit I want more cocktails!

But I told myself I'd have to be patient... so I brushed some more and I poked some more. Blah, blah, blah - you know the drill. But I just couldn't do it - I just couldn't be patient enough. I wanted to sit and visit with MB and have a drink and enjoy a piece of cake. And besides, there must be some mistake because there's no way there's supposed to be THAT MUCH glaze in the cake - it'll get all soggy and gross. So it was really in best interest of the cake's own integrity that I nip this soggy-glaze-disaster in the bud.

So yes, I admit it. I cheated on my very first Ad Hoc at Home recipe. I didn't let all of the glaze soak into the cake. I got impatient. I'm not perfect. I'm sorry - I'm just so so sorry everyone. Whatever. I put the icing on the cake and sliced right in. And immediately I regretted my impatience. I could see where the glaze had soaked in and where it hadn't (if you click on the pics they'll enlarge and you can see where the glaze had soaked in). It wasn't at all soggy - the cake stood up to the glaze and had I been patient enough to get all the glaze into the cake it would have been so beautifully dense and soaked through with the glaze. 

But I sliced and took pics and served the cake. And it was good. It was really good. Mike and MB both said they liked it - but kids are honest. So what did Ryan think?  She cautiously took her first taste...
I waited patiently (yes, patiently) while she mulled it over and absorbed the flavor. She enjoyed the bouquet of the glaze... she had me hanging on tenderhooks while I awaited her verdict.
"It's surprising fresh and delicious, with just a hint of tart. But not too much, if you know what I mean. It really appeals to my palate in a way that's unpretentious and joyful. Perfect spring dessert and as fresh and beautiful as my mother. Yay! I love it, Aunt Heather! Good job!" She can't talk yet - I read all of that in her expression. If you click on the picture you'll see it there too.

In all honestly though, it was light and refreshing, just a tiny bit tart. As a matter of fact, I took it in to work and several people that don't like grapefruit at all really enjoyed the cake. But it didn't have the bite I expected from a cake with so much grapefruit juice and zest - and to be honest that disappointed me a bit. I do think I'll make this again - on a lazy Sunday when I have no plans all freaking day and I'll take the time to let the glaze soak in next time.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the most beautiful redhead I know. Isn't she gorgeous? I love that kid. Ryan has her own blog - go check it out: The Tardy Princess
So there you go - my first Ad Hoc recipe. I wanted to take this seriously and make them to Chef Keller's standards and I'm not off to such a great start. Next time no cocktails. I promise.

On a related note, in order to avoid gaining a ton of weight while cooking my way through the blog, I've decided to start the Couch to 5K challenge. Bought my running shoes and jog bras today and tomorrow I start. Wish me luck! Cheers!


  1. Katie O'DanielsMay 17, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    Congrats on your first recipe...the pictures are making me hungry, so off to cook dinner...meatloaf from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook :)

  2. I must say that I, too, read Ryan's expressions and you have it dead on! The cake was delicious but I would agree with the retry for more tartness. Love the pictures and am looking forward to the next recipe. Now I'm off to buy cucumbers, mint & champagne. Great job!

  3. Looks fantastic! Love the pictures of Ryan!!! Good job on your first recipe, but don't be too quick to abandon the cocktails. They might compliment your future ventures just beautifully. Have fun! Can't wait to hear how the next one goes.