Grapefruit Pudding Cake

February 24, 2016
6 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

I expect grapefruit desserts to be either wet and syrupy (with rings of citrus I'm never quite sure how to navigate), or muted and shy (grapefruit in name, not in essence): But here, the grapefruit is serious and confident and leaning in. It's helped, not hindered by the airiness of the custardy dessert.

The smartest part of this recipe is in the first step: Fresh grapefruit juice is simmered on the stovetop until it reduces from 3 cups to 1/2. You sharpen the tart, concentrate the sweet, eliminate the excess liquid. The resulting flavor is so pleasingly bitter, you'll swear someone tipped a bit of Aperol into the batter (which is not a bad idea).

From the The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, via the blog When Harry Met Sally. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • For the grapefruit pudding:
  • 3 cups red grapefruit juice (from about 3 grapefruits) plus zest from 2 grapefruits
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup (generous) sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole-milk plain or Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • For getting fancy:
  • 1 tablespoon (scant) butter
  • 1 cup Nilla Wafers crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon (scant) vanilla sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Crème fraîche
  • Angostura bitters
  • Raw sugar
  1. For the grapefruit pudding:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 10-inch round baking dish (I've also used a 9-inch baking dish—turned out just fine).
  3. Pour the grapefruit juice into a small saucepan and simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely (you can stick it in the freezer or submerge a bowl filled with ice.
  4. Make the vanilla sugar: Split the 1/2 vanilla bean, then use the dull side of a butter knife to scrape the seeds out into the sugar bowl. Mix with a spoon or your fingers until the sugar is perfumed with vanilla.
  5. As the grapefruit juice simmers, whisk 1 cup of vanilla sugar with the flour and salt in a large bowl (reserve extra vanilla sugar for the cake accoutrements!).
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the cooled grapefruit juice, yogurt, crème fraîche, zest, and egg yolks. Whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients.
  7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the grapefruit mixture. Do your best not to deflate the egg whites.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the pudding is set but a bit jiggly in the middle and the top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving warm. (It's okay if the top of the cake cracks as it cools.)
  9. Serve topped with vanilla wafer crumbs and a dollop of bitters-spiked crème fraîche.
  1. For getting fancy:
  2. To make the Nilla Wafer crumbs: In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the cookie crumbs and stir to coat. Once the crumbs are coated in butter, sprinkle the vanilla sugar over top and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the cookie crumbs are crisp. Let cool completely so that they're as crunchy as possible.
  3. To make the bitters-spiked crème fraîche: Scoop crème fraîche into a serving bowl (I used about 1/3 cup) and add a few dashes of bitters. Stir to combine. Add natural sugar to taste.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • L. Powers
    L. Powers
  • Jaxson Oakley
    Jaxson Oakley
  • Katie Menzel Ellis
    Katie Menzel Ellis
  • Christine
  • Elise Fahrer
    Elise Fahrer

24 Reviews

Beth S. October 17, 2022
This was excellent. Terrific texture and not too sweet. Best grapefruit dessert I've made, as most lost the grapefruit flavor.
L. P. March 21, 2019
Made this for a friend's birthday, and everyone LOVED it. The flavor is very sophisticated. It's a perfect dessert for adults. The bitterness reminded us of a cocktail -- an Aperol spritz, or maybe a negroni.

I used four smallish grapefruits and only ended up with 2.5 cups of juice, but I did use all the zest required. Also, added a bit of salt to the nilla wafer crumbles, and might cut the sugar next time to boost their sweet/salty nature.

Can't wait to try this with meyer lemons!
Jaxson O. April 30, 2017
Made this tonight for a light end to a heavy meal and it was amazing! I steeped the zest in the juice as it was cooling to maximize the flavor, and I only used the zest of 1 grapefruit like a previous commenter suggested. I took it out a little bit early because my oven runs hot and the edges were turning black, but it was still a fabulous dessert!
Normally grapefruit desserts are too bitter or not flavorful enough, but this was a nice in between. Would be great for any grapefruit lover or a grapefruit skeptic, like myself.
Sarah J. April 30, 2017
So glad you liked it!!
judy February 28, 2017
I can't eat grapefruit (medication) but I have some reduced organic mulberry juice. I think I might try this using that juice instead of the grapefruit in this. I certainly miss grapefruit, but there are sure a bunch of other options. this might be one. Thanks
Whitney December 25, 2016
I loved the texture of this pudding cake. But I could've done with a little less bitterness. I think I'd only use zest from 1 grapefruit next time. And I"m gonna try this technique with other fruit juice reductions. Like passion fruit! Anyone try anything similar?
Heather D. September 10, 2016
Do you think you could cheat & use frozen gf juice concentrate if pushed for time?
Katie M. April 10, 2016
I am obsessed with this cake. I made it for a dinner party and it was SO GOOD. My neighborhood grocery didn't have creme fraiche, and I didn't have time to go to a second store, so I subbed sour cream instead for the filling and just made some rhubarb bitters whipped cream for the topping; it turned out perfectly. The texture was magical and the flavor was just so sweet and tart and delicious. Sometimes I crave it now.
Christine March 21, 2016
I made this in a 10" pie plate and it filled it perfectly. Everyone loved this dessert! I accidentally let my grapefruit juice reduce just a little bit too much and the resulting syrup was intensely bittersweet (would be great in a cocktail!) but it turned out perfect. Super grapefruity and the texture was luxurious-definitely adding to my bag of dessert tricks!
MB M. March 21, 2016
A cocktail? Hmm, now you're talking! What a great idea. Grapefruit reduction and gin for some intense version of a greyhound.
Elise F. March 20, 2016
My brother and sister in law have a grapefruit tree and sent us up a ton. So instead of letting them go to waste I looked up something to do with them and this recipe came up! I love this recipe! It was perfect for the end of a beautiful spring day. The grapefruit flavor is intense but in the best way possible. I ended up topping it with vanilla bean ice cream to serve. Will definitely be making this again and again!
Sarah J. March 21, 2016
So glad you liked it!
Christine March 19, 2016
I don't have a tart pan like the one in the picture-would it work in a pie pan?
Sarah J. March 19, 2016
Yes, it will work but you might not be able to fit all of the cake batter into the pie tin. Fill it into the top, then divide amongst other baking dishes!
MB M. March 7, 2016
I made this yesterday and found it delicious. The grapefruit flavor is very intense! As others have mentioned, I also subbed sour cream for the creme fraiche.
Detrishious March 6, 2016
Oh my goodness!!
This is one of the best things I've ever tasted. The bitter, slightly tart, creamy, warm, cakey, crunchy goodness was a refreshing change from chocolate and vanilla. I did not have creme fraiche so I used sour cream and whole milk. Then whipped cream for topping.
Thank you for sharing ❤️
Sam March 1, 2016
Ok just made this and it's delicious! It's like half moist cake and half pudding. The grapefruit flavor is definitely bitter but in a fresh way--just as grapefruits are. Mine cracked while cooking--gave me an excuse to try it early:) definitely book marking!
judy February 29, 2016
I'm a fan of lemon pudding cake and have made it with a variety of citrus. I cannot eat grape fruit because of medications. But I think I will try this version using meyer lemons, which seem to be in abundance right now at my local market. I wanted to comment on the springform pan idea. If this is true to form, there is a loose pudding under the cake layer. If one used a springform pan, this would all leak out and be a mess. The pudding-like sauce is a wonderful foil for the cake. But, I do wish I could have the grapefruit. My Mom made a wonderful grapefruit dessert when we were kids. But then growing up in So Cal we had citrus thrown into almost everything. You haven't lived until you have had your spaghetti sauce simmer all day with a whole orange in it!
Joshvolt February 28, 2016
Thought I would give this recipe a try, and on my end the cake didnt crack at all.


Respectfully speaking, it was very difficult to remove the cake from the baking dish. Instead, I would recommend a springform pan (with the adequate protection on the outside - foil - and on the inside, a 9 to 10" round parchment paper on the bottom before cooking) to get this perfect!
Sarah J. February 28, 2016
Glad you gave it a try!! I'd definitely be interested to see how it comes out in a springform pan. I think a baking dish is recommended because it's more like a pudding and can't be unmolded in the same way a cake can be. (It's intended to be scoopable rather than sliceable.)
Christy February 28, 2016
Why the yogurt AND creme fraiche? Could you use just one or the other for simplicity?
Sarah J. February 28, 2016
The crème fraîche is a lot higher in fat (about 30%), so it adds a richness that the yogurt does not. If you have sour cream but not crème fraîche, you might want to try that and see how it turns out! Might lead to a tangier-tasting cake! BUT if you do spring for the crème fraîche, I'd highly recommend making the optional topping, or looking here ( for ideas on how to use it up.
Deena B. February 25, 2016
This sounds lovely. Unfortunately, I can't do grapefruit because of interactions with prescription medicines. Do you think oranges or another citrus would work as well? Less sugar perhaps...
Sarah J. February 25, 2016
Yes, I do!! I think other citrus will work well, but I would play with slowly cutting back on the sugar, especially if you use sweet oranges.