Grapefruit Cornmeal Cake
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus more for greasing)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornmeal [from Woodson’s Mill, Lowesville, VA]
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest plus 1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice [from Paramont Citrus Farm, Clermont, FL]
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 ½ or 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with buttered parchment paper. (I used a springform pan because it’s all I have in the cake pan department, so I just buttered the bottom of that and called it a day.) In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the eggs, grapefruit zest, and grapefruit juice. While whisking constantly, add the butter mixture to the flour mixture in a slow, steady stream. Whisk until well blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the cake, then invert it onto the rack. Peel off the parchment paper. (Or, in my case, run a paring knife around the edge and pop off the bottom of the pan, then struggle a little to get the cake off.) Flip the cake right side up and set the rack over a baking sheet. Let cool until warm, about 30 minutes. (Don’t underestimate the importance of that “let cool” step. Trust me.)
Meanwhile, make the glaze in a medium bowl. First, mix the confectioners’ sugar and poppy seeds. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the grapefruit juice until a smooth, thick glaze forms. Pour the glaze all over the top of the warm cake and spread evenly over the top and side. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.
For this recipe, inspired by (well, almost completely identical to) this one, I focused on one of my “Value-Added” CSA goodies: stone-ground cornmeal from Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA. Woodson’s looks like an awfully neat place – picture any standard old mill from those historic villages you went to as a kid (I’m thinking Sturbridge Village, naturally, but I’m sure my DelMarVa friends are thinking Colonial Williamsburg or some other quaint southern place). The mill was built in 1794, and while it hasn’t been running continuously since then, all of the old equipment and machinery was refurbished in the 1980’s. They grind small batches of their product by hand, using a water-powered stone mill. You should seriously visit their website and check out the pictures, it really is something else. And their cornmeal is amazing. Now, I never thought I’d say that about cornmeal, because the word itself is kind of gross, but compared to the storebought stuff made in huge batches and shipped all over, there’s definitely a significant and noticeable difference. Plus it comes in this nice little brown resealable bag.
Although I had a couple of grapefruits in my bag, I did not use them to make the fresh grapefruit juice for this recipe. I did use them for the zest, but I wanted to hold onto my grapefruits for breakfasts or desserts later. That still may be kind of surprising since – “But citrus isn’t local?!” That’s true, conventionally it’s not, but 4P adds citrus fruits from sustainable farms in Florida to keep its winter bags from being overwhelmingly filled with squash, potatoes, greenhouse lettuce/tomatoes, and (gross) radishes every week. I certainly don’t mind, because I LOVE grapefruits. But I feel even better about it after reading that blog post above, since it’s clear that the organization puts a ton of effort into picking the right farms for the right citrus and transporting it in a responsible way. (To keep their carbon footprint down, they actually send a truck down to Florida already full of Virginia apples to be sold down there, so that they aren’t wasting an entire trip with an empty truck.)
To finish off this recipe, I had to overcome my lifelong fear of poppy seeds. They’re just so small and black and just waiting to fit themselves in between your teeth and make your day both embarrassing and uncomfortable. I’ve always kind of seen them as instruments of evil… But, for the sake of the recipe, I took the leap and added the poppy seeds. I can happily report that (for the most part) I’ve moved past my fear! The seeds were definitely important to the glaze and added a nice texture and flavor. That being said, the original recipe called for a quarter cup and that was WAY TOO MANY. No meltdown in this recipe, fortunately, but poppy seeds EVERYWHERE. So I lessened the amount in this version to account for potential partners in the phobia.
Speaking of changing amounts, I also added more grapefruit juice than required in the original, because there is no such thing as too much grapefruit. I’ve been watching a lot of The Great British Baking Show lately (including in the background while I made this cake) and decided that I’d gained enough baking experience from that and knew exactly what the cake would need. I’d say on a scale from staying at a Holiday Inn to being a professional pastry chef, my expertise was at a solid low-middle. But it still worked! I would totally impress those Brits with my floury finesse.
Overall I think it went swimmingly. Well, except for the part where I skipped the “let the cake cool for 30 minutes,” and ended up literally swimming in poppy seed glaze. That step is important. (It happened to the finalists on the show, too, so I felt a little bit better about the situation.) If you want your cake to look good and your counters/plates/hands to not be covered in sticky icing, WAIT. But after that small (literal) meltdown, the cake was amazing. It could get a little crumbly, but was still pretty light and absolutely delicious. I ate almost the entire thing single-handedly. (Over the course of a week, but still, I was never tired of it!) Definitely a fun and interesting dessert to try if you want to bake like Mary Berry but don’t want to make 36 identical tea cakes.