It was my friend George's birthday. I asked her what sort of cake she would like and the request was for something seasonal. In April, when she was actually born, that would have meant one thing, but by mid-June, which is when we finally got together down on the Great Ocean Road, for a girls' weekend with our friend Gill, it was deepest, darkest winter which meant one thing: citrus.
It's impossible to feel anything other than sunny when eating citrus, which is why it's so wonderful at this time of the year where the wind howls, the light dims and temperatures drop.
Grapefruit is the bridesmaid of the citrus family, always overshadowed by oranges and lemons. No-one ever thinks to do anything with it other than juice it or slice it in half, both of which are more associated with diets and cold remedies than anything you actually get excited about. So here's what you do: you cook all that Vitamin C down into a rich, creamy curd, then fold it through a batter flecked with pretty pink-orange zest, reserving some to dollop on top. You decorate the finished cake with candles, sing happy birthday, celebrate being friends for twenty years and look forward to doing it all again soon.
Grapefruit curd cake
Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker
I used pink grapefruit for this but the regular sort would work just as well.
for the grapefruit curd
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, seeds strained
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
for the grapefruit cake
6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit zest
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups grapefruit curd
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon self-rising flour
First make the grapefruit curd: in a small saucepan, simmer grapefruit juice til it's reduced from 1 cup to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a medium heatproof bowl, cream butter and sugar until well incorporated and fluffy. Using a whisk, add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition. Whisk in the salt and cloves and lemon juice. The mixture will seem slightly curdled. Don't panic. Slowly stream in and whisk the slightly cooled grapefruit juice until evenly combined.
In a small or medium saucepan, bring a few inches of water to a simmer. Place the heatproof bowl over the simmering water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Whisk constantly. The sugar will begin to dissolve and the mixture will begin to thicken. This takes between 8 and 10 minutes of near constant whisking. Don't stop or the eggs in the mixture may create lumps.
Once thickened, remove the bowl from the simmering water and transfer to a small bowl. Allow to rest in the refrigerator while you make the cake.
Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch round baking pan with baking paper, grease the pan and set aside.
To make the cake, beat together butter, sugar, and grapefruit zest until pale and fluffy. Add half of the grapefruit curd and stir to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Add the flour and use a wooden spoon to fold together until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tin. Top with the remaining grapefruit curd and use a butter knife to swirl the curd just slightly into the cake. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool in tin for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.