Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake – tender and fluffy poppy seed cake layers with a grapefruit curd and cream cheese frosting.
Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake
Time for another cake update! This Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake has been on the blog for nearly four years and was in serious need of a makeover. And I’m not just talking pictures. The cake itself was super yummy, but after several more years of practicing and learning more about cakes, I knew it could be even better.
Poppy Seed Cake
The first set of changes I knew I needed to make were in the cake layers. While I liked the flavor and texture of the cake, I received comments and emails that some people struggled with getting a moist cake from this recipe. I’ll write another post about how to make sure you get moist cakes, but with this one, aside from watching the bake time, I knew that using all egg whites and the poppy seeds could be causing an issue.
When we only use egg whites in a cake, we risk getting a dry cake because there’s no fat from the yolks to help create moisture. However, sometimes we don’t want to add yolks because we want to keep the cake layers nice and white. So, we need to add fat somewhere else. Similar to my Champagne Cake, I ended up adding a cup of sour cream to this cake batter to ensure a super moist cake.
I had also read, after posting my initial recipe, that poppy seeds absorb moisture and can be a reason a poppy seed cake doesn’t taste moist. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you’ll just soak your poppy seeds in water for about 5 minutes. After they’re soaked, strain the excess water and mix them into the batter as instructed.
But, above all else, making sure you don’t over bake your cake layers is the sure-fire way to make sure you don’t end up with a dry cake. Keep your eye on your cake layers toward the end of the bake time. And remember, when you insert a toothpick in the center of the cake, it SHOULD come out with a few moist crumbs on it.
Next up, the grapefruit curd. Have you ever made grapefruit curd? It sounds like most people haven’t, but I’m about to change your world. If you love a lemon or citrus curd of any kind, you’ll love this tart, sweet grapefruit curd.
Making homemade curd is incredibly simple. You’ll start by mixing sugar, corn starch and salt in a sauce pan. After those dry ingredients are mixed well, you’ll then add the grapefruit juice and begin to cook the mixture over medium heat. As the mixture cooks, it will thicken a bit. When this happens, it’s time to add the egg yolks. The key here is to make sure you temper the eggs so we don’t cook them into scrambled eggs when we add the hot juice mixture. In the instructions you’ll notice that we take out a little of the hot juice and add it to the yolks while stirring quickly. After we’ve tempered the eggs like this, we can then add the egg mixture into the juice mixture and continue to cook. You’ll finish up the curd by adding butter and straining it through a mesh strainer.
The curd is a great element to make ahead of time. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple weeks.
TIP: for a true grapefruit color, add a bit of “soft pink” Americolor food gel to the curd at the end of the cooking process.
Cream Cheese Frosting
The cream cheese frosting on this cake creates an awesome culmination of flavors: sweet, tart and tangy!
I don’t use a ton of cream cheese in my cream cheese frosting because I think it can become too overpowering. Instead, I use just 4 ounces of cream cheese to give the buttercream a tangy flavor without it stealing the show.
As you’re planning out the elements of this cake, here’s how I’d lay out the week:
- Three days before you want to serve the cake, make the grapefruit curd. You’ll store the curd in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
- Two days before you want to serve the cake, make the cake layers. Once the layers are cooled, wrap each one in plastic wrap and freeze. Remove the layers from the freezer about an hour before you plan to stack and decorate the cake.
- The day before you want to serve the cake, make the frosting. Once complete, store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- The day you plan to serve the cake, remove the frosting from the fridge a couple hours before you want to stack and decorate. Rebeat the frosting for a few minutes and then begin assembly.