To be totally fair though, my going to California was a rarity—a strictly holiday occasion. And then, in my ranging young adulthood, I've found myself at home in San Diego for an entire three weeks and going on the final fourth. It was high-time to spend some valuable moments with my folks, both of whom have so much to teach that's impossible to learn on the other side of the country. So here I am: welding and soldering with Dad, getting jewelry-making feedback and sewing help from Mom, learning the long-term relationship virtues of nitpicking and pretending not to know your partner in public. It's been great! The totally unexpected added bonus on being home has been the pounds upon pounds of citrus foisted upon us by neighbors. White grapefruit, California Key limes, regular ol' limes, Meyer lemons, oranges galore—basically all the fixings to finally make this—are overflowing from the fruit basket on our counter. Since my folks don't themselves eat a lot of plain citrus, I've been baking a bunch of fruity desserts to hand right back to the neighbors. And for the first time in a long time, California actually feels like home and I'm not looking an iota forward to leaving again. Ceaseless citrus can have that effect.
Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Melissa Clark's original recipe is for a blood orange cake, but our neighbors don't grow those! As you'll read in the instructions below, I topped our cake with a layer of pithless grapefruit slices, which is why it looks custardy in the center; they sank and were delicious that way. Our grapefruit was also pretty bitter, and we all enjoyed that about the cake, but you can leave out the chunks of fruit if you're concerned about the bitterness, or just be sure to use sweeter grapefruit.
Zest from two large grapefruits, white or pink or ruby red
Scant 1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of one-half grapefruit
About 1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup olive oil, the fruitier the better
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, for top
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch cake round with olive oil. Grate zest from both grapefruits and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until zest is evenly distributed in sugar and the oils are released.
2. Halve a grapefruit and squeeze one-half of it into a measuring cup to yield about one-quarter cup juice. Set aside. If your grapefruit is sweet, slice the pith and peel off of the second grapefruit, following the curve of the fruit, so that nothing but grapefruit flesh is visible; cut the ends off and slice grapefruit into quarter-inch rounds. Set aside. Keep in mind that bitter fruit will yield bitter bites, which is a-okay by my family, but not be your audience’s fave. You can skip the fruit altogether if you’re so inclined, but those juicy fruit pockets are nice. Beauty of being the baker? It’s your prerogative.
3. Back to the grapefruit juice: fill rest of measuring cup with yogurt until you have two-thirds cup of liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs. Whisk in oil well.
4. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently whisk dry ingredients into wet ones. Scrape batter into pan and smooth top, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Top with a single layer of grapefruit slices, followed by the remaining two tablespoons of sugar.
5. Bake cake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden and a toothpick inserted into center comes out free of batter (note that some fruit may cling to cake tester). Cool on a rack for ten minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Dust with powdered sugar or top with some whipped cream if that’s your thang. Cake will keep covered at room temperature for a few days!