Grapefruit (Citrus) Yogurt Cake
I know this little quick-bread loaf of a thing doesn’t look like much, but it’s exactly what I’ve been wanting.
Most of Tuesday was an off day. It began with an early-morning appointment with a professor who basically crushed in 30 seconds all of the research and planning for my thesis I had accumulated over the past two months; worries about getting a job this semester to save up money, and thus widen the buffer between how long I can stay suspended in fantasy without a job, began to creep in; the fact that Waylon now lives 6,000 miles away from me has been slowly setting in—everything just started combining and combining. These are normal whiney things of the sort that everyone goes through every so often. Yet no matter how many days of those one has, or how common it is that people have such days, it never seems to lessen the blow, does it?
But, miraculously!, the bitterness of that morning was not destined to last all day. Thesis worries abated and were given new-found motivation from the generous help of my thesis adviser (she’s one of those people that is kind and comforting and inspiring and just the right amount of eccentric all in one—my favorite), the sun started shining, and “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart started playing on the radio. And before you laugh embarrassingly for me, just know that I’d never really listened to the song before, and hearing the nice-to-the-point-of-cheesy lyrics was just the sort of thing I was in the mood for. One lyric in particular, “may sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home,” particularly resonated with me. When I reached home, instead of reaching for academia-things, I baked.
I’m assuming, by the fact that you’re reading this in the first place (are you still reading this?), that many of you are acquainted with the soothing practice that is baking. Of how satisfying the instant gratification of it all can be, when you measure this and that, blend them together, and bake it all up to make something that’s quite a bit more than the sum of its parts. Even in my case, where I under-shot the time it’d take to bake this cake—I am both weary and paranoid of over-cooked, dry cakes—which led for the top to sink slightly in the middle, it was still something to behold (besides, I don’t mind a little bit of squidgyness on the top of a loaf cake). There’s just something about the calm dreaminess that is baking.
I’m happy that this is what I decided to bake, as this cake is of the low-maintenance and intuitive sort, neither too sweet or densely rich (thank you, yogurt!), and the vibrancy of the grapefruit makes for a special-tasting cake. I know it may sound a little weird, to envision that bitter, tart flavor that is grapefruit locked in cake form, but it really does work. While it’s hard to distinguish the grapefruit flavor in the crumb—it tastes more generically citrus-lemony—the grapefruit-honey syrup poured on top of the cake once out of the oven makes for an unnoticeable grapefruit taste on the top. I really like it (along with the stickiness that the syrup contributes to the texture). A few friends stopped by for dinner last night, and after we finished eating we sat around the table munching on thick slices of this cake for dessert. Everyone liked it, a lot, so keep that in mind if you’re having doubts about grapefruit cake.
With that being said, I really liked this yogurt-based cake and I think it’d taste great with all types of citrus. If I were the kind of person that liked things like blueberries or raspberries in my baked goods, I’m sure that’d be good with a lemon-yogurt cake. It’s a simple, seamless cake to keep in mind next time a bad or especially chilly day strikes.
As I mentioned above, this cake would do well with any citrus flavors. I would just substitute 1 for 1 the amounts of grapefruit called for.
butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of one grapefruit (about 1 tablespoons)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plain whole-milk, plain yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
juice of one grapefruit (about 1/2 cup), divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and grapefruit zest on medium until fragrant and the zest is well dispersed, about 1 minute. (This releases the essential oils of the zest better, making a more flavorful cake.)
Add in the eggs, and beat until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the yogurt, vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of the grapefruit juice (reserving the rest) and the vanilla extract. Beat to combine. Sprinkle in the flour mixture and, on a low speed, stir until all the ingredients are combined, making sure to not overbeat.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is goden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with just some crumbs attached. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
While the cake is baking and cooling, make the syrup by combining the honey and grapefruit juice in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup has reduced a little bit, about 10 minutes.
Pierce the cake all over (like, all over) with a skewer or a toothpick, letting it go about 1 to 2 inches deep. Pour the warm grapefruit syrup slowly and evenly over the cake. After letting that rest for a few minutes, run a knife along the edge of the pan and invert. Serve in thick slices. To store, I wrapped mine in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil–it got better and better as the days went on.