A Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake to Celebrate

February 8, 2014 § 3 Comments


The first cake I can recall helping to bake was called “Princess Coffee Cake”, and to my 5 year old consciousness, simply princess cake. The recipe came from a book my older sister received for her birthday and which she graciously allowed me, the slightly lower and less worthy princess in all of this, to assist with. The recipe was a simple affair, probably a 1-2-3 vanilla cake at its most basic deconstruction, but I was firmly convinced that that cake, well, that was what royalty ate. We sliced into it warm out of the oven, golden and fragrant with vanilla, and it was utterly magical- turning two little girls into the stuff of fairytales at the first bite.


My mother’s cakes were an altogether different story, their recipes pulled out solely for birthdays for as long as I can remember. The rarity of the occasion made them that much more ethereal. Of course, the fact that there were six of us meant SIX cakes per year, which does not exactly add up to cake deprivation, and certainly never meant our diets weren’t well supplemented with other treats like warm chocolate chip cookies and apple crisps. Only cake was reserved for birthdays. The most requested cake to this day is her marbled Chiffon, preferably with a mocha whipped cream swept along the sides and across the top. As a child those cakes seemed oxymoronic- whipped up with a precise and confident speed only to bake and then rest for an eternity. But each bite was worth it- meltingly tender, with a fine sponge of a crumb that was the gastronomic equivalent of champagne-like laughter on the tongue. 


Then there were my grandmother’s cakes, everyday cakes or quick-breads which often arrived via mail and were chock-full of produce from her garden or boasting the thrift of the Depression generation: heavy apple loaves and zucchini or banana bread speckled with walnuts. These were the coziest cakes- baker’s hugs that bridged the distance between grandchildren and grandmother whenever visits were too far apart.


As every baker knows, all cakes are celebratory by nature.  The “Princess Coffee Cake” brought fairytales within reach, my mother’s cakes rivaled the pictures in Better Homes and Gardens in their splendor, and my grandmother’s packages meant unexpected joy and comfort. 

But this cake. This cake is worth making just as soon as you catch sight of it. In fact, you should probably make it exactly now, in the last dregs of winter, when the daffodils are beginning to pop up and wave cheery hellos over the sidewalks to welcome spring. Because this cake is about seizing grapefruit season and celebrating it at an elemental and sincere level. Earnestly citrusy and tender with olive oil, it is  sweetened only with raw muscovado sugar so the ingredients sing out with a clarity that is nothing less than utterly seductive. It is a cake for celebrating the everyday victory, like today’s welcome patter of rain after the long drought.


It comes from Deb Perelman, a woman whose success in the blogosphere inspired so many kitchen-tinkering enthusiasts without formal training, like myself. I remain convinced that like “Princess Coffee Cake”,  The Smitten Kitchen website is infallible, and the cookbook Deb produced under the same name has proved itself time and time again to be just the same. 

This cake is a thoroughly rewarding project for a drizzly February afternoon. Add it to your “to make” list, then throw that away and jump right into making cake, because the grapefruit season is waning fast. Because you need to celebrate.


Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake

from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

makes 1 loaf cake, 12 servings


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw or muscovado sugar (I used only raw muscovado)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp table salt (I used Eden’s sea salt)
  • 2 tbsp grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt


  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup grapefruit juice


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tbsp grapefruit juice
  • pinch of salt

to make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, rub grapefruit zest into the sugars with fingertips (bruising the zest and helping it to release more of its essence). Whisk in oil until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, whisk until each is combined. Scrape down bowl.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a second bowl. In a liquid measuring cup combine 2 tbsp of grapefruit juice and the buttermilk or yogurt. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to sugar/oil/egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Spread the batter in the pan, smooth the top and rap pan on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

to make the grapefruit syrup: warm 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice and 2 tbsp of sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

When cake is finished: Let cool for 10 minutes in loaf pan, then invert onto a rack set over a tray. Poke holes in top of cake with a toothpick, then spoon or brush syrup over still-warm cake and leave cake to cool completely while it absorbs the syrup.

to make the glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, grapefruit juice and a pinch of salt in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour glaze over the top of cooled cake, allowing glaze to drizzle decoratively down the sides.



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§ 3 Responses to A Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake to Celebrate

  • baretoedgirl says:

    Ugh, citrusy cakes are always the best, and with a citrus glaze too?? My mouth is already watering! Gorgeous pictures and I loved the family anecdotes you worked in, especially my Cinderella Cake. 😀 I can’t believe you have 337 followers already!!! I am so impressed.

  • This cake sounds wonderful — as do the princess coffee cake and the marbled chiffon. And your writing is the most delicious! A joy to read and savor!

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