Ruby Red Grapefruit Cake
The illustrious Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, whimsically shaped like a man’s hat, catered to the Hollywood elite; there gossip columnist Louella Parsons famously battled with her rival Hedda Hopper to win the best table at lunch. Legend has it that the famous Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake was created for the dieting Parsons, who demanded a healthier option for dessert. It was an instant hit, even if it wasn’t the figure-friendly dessert Parsons had hoped for. The original Brown Derby closed, but you can still taste a version of this cake at Valerie’s Confections in Los Angeles.
In my version, I’ve added a little extra zing with a rosy grapefruit jelly slicked between the layers and glossed over the top of the frosted cake. Don’t be tempted to use bottled grapefruit juice cocktail—it’s too sweet. Many produce departments stock freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices for your convenience, if you don’t want to squeeze your own.
RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT JELLY
3 Tbsp low-or-no-sugar-needed powdered pectin
11/2 cups [300 g] granulated sugar
21/2 cups [600 ml] freshly squeezed Ruby Red grapefruit juice (from about 5 grapefruit)
1/2 cup [120 ml] freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1/4 cup [60 ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp grenadine (optional)
RUBY RED CAKE
3 Ruby Red grapefruits
13/4 cups [175 g] sifted cake flour
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
11/4 cups [250 g] sugar
1/2 cup [120 ml] canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup [120 ml] orange juice or milk
6 egg yolks
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup [110 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 ounces [340 g] cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp Ruby Red Grapefruit Jelly (from above)
4 to 5 cups [480 to 500 g] confectioners’ sugar, sifted
To make the jelly:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pectin and sugar. Set aside. In a 3-qt [3-L] saucepan over mediumlow heat, stir together the grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon juices. Whisk in the pectin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the jelly is thick and syrupy but still pourable, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the grenadine to enhance the pink color of the jelly, if you like. Strain the jelly into two 1-pt [480-ml] jars. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Coat the bottoms only of two 9-in [23-cm] round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Using a Microplane zester, grate the zest from 1 grapefruit. Cut the grapefruit in half and use a citrus reamer to squeeze the juice into a small bowl. Set aside the zest and juice. Remove the peel and pith from the 2 remaining grapefruits and then slice them into 1/2 inch [12 mm] thick rounds (see page 110). Store the grapefruit segments in a covered bowl until you are ready to assemble the cake.
In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in 1 cup [200 g] of the sugar.
In a second large bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, egg yolks, 1/4 cup [60 ml] of the reserved grapefruit juice, and the grapefruit zest, the lemon zest, and the vanilla, orange, and lemon extracts. Whisk the egg-yolk mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth.
In the clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on low speed until opaque and frothy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue beating, adding the remaining 1/4 cup [50 g] sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the egg whites are firm and glossy, about 1 minute more.
With a rubber or silicone spatula, fold one-third of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whipped egg whites into the batter just until incorporated, taking care not to deflate them.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, spreading the batter tops smooth with a spatula. Bake until the layers are golden and spring back when pressed gently in the center, and when a wooden skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool the layers, upside-down in their pans, on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin, offset spatula around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert onto the racks and discard the parchment paper. Let the layers cool completely.
To make the frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and grapefruit jelly until creamy. Add 4 cups [480 g] of the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth and spreadable, 2 to 3 minutes. If the frosting seems too thin, add as much of the remaining confectioners’ sugar as needed to reach the desired consistency.
To finish the cake:
Place one layer on a cardboard cake round, cake plate, or cake stand, bottom-side up. Spread with one-fourth of the cream cheese frosting. Melt 3/4 cup [225 g] of the grapefruit jelly in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Spoon the melted jelly over the frosting and spread in an even layer with an offset spatula. Give the jelly a few seconds to set. Drain the reserved grapefruit slices, reserving a few of the prettiest ones to garnish the top of the cake, and break the remaining segments into two or three pieces. Scatter the pieces of grapefruit over the jelly. Top with the second cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake generously with the remaining cream cheese frosting, spreading it smoothly with an offset spatula. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is cold and very firm.
Melt 1 cup [300 g] of the grapefruit jelly and pour it over the top of the cake, spreading the jelly into a thin, even layer and allowing the excess to drip down the sides of the cake. Arrange the reserved grapefruit slices decoratively on top of the cake. Store the cake in a tightly covered cake carrier or other container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Although this cake is best eaten the day it is assembled, the jelly, the grapefruit slices, and the cream cheese frosting can all be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until needed.