One of my go-to bakes will always be a classic lemon loaf, either with a lemon syrup, crunchy sugar topping or zesty lemon icing – I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it. Therefore, being such a grapefruit fanatic, I was keen to experiment and see whether the cake lends itself to the bittersweet qualities of pink grapefruit. Fundamentally, cake is a sweet thing, and so it’s interesting to eat something that is bittersweet, or rather initially sweet, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. From experience, I find that red grapefruit is more pungent and flavoursome than the pink variety, or though it can be slightly harder to come by. The lemon zest used here helps to bring out the zestiness of the grapefruit.
There is a time and a place for the creaming method, but here I find the all in one method to be delightfully quick and easy and produces an exceedingly light crumb.
This is delicious eaten with coffee, though for something a bit stronger, I see no harm in making a gin-spiced grapefruit syrup to soak the cake in lieu of the icing.
For the cake:
125g margarine, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 2 pink or red grapefruit
(+ 1/2 tsp xantham gum if making gluten free)
For the icing
200g icing sugar, sieved
Juice 1/2 red grapefruit
Few drops natural pink food colouring (optional)
Fresh grapefruit, to decorate (optional)
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and lined/ 2lb loaf tin
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Butter and line a 23 x 13 x 7cm (or 2lb) loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and beat well using an electric hand whisk (or else in a freestanding mixer) for at least two minutes until smooth and well combined. Transfer the mix into the prepared loaf tin, smoothing with a spatula.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and risen in the middle. You will probably need to cover the loaf with foil and bake for a further 5-10 minutes to ensure the cake is cooked all the way through – the cake should feel springy to touch and a skewer should come out more or less clean. Once out of the oven, run a knife around the cake and then leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool a little before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake cools, make the icing. In a bowl, add the grapefruit juice little by little to the sugar until the icing comes together – you want it to be quite a thick consistency so that it opaquely covers the cake and slowly drips down the sides of the loaf. The grapefruit juice gives a very subtle pink hue to the icing, but if liked, you can add 4-5 drops of pink food colouring for a more pronounced baby pink colour.
Once cool, gently pour the icing evenly over the cake and allow it to work its way down the sides of the loaf. You can leave the cake as it is, or decorate with some slices or fresh or dried grapefruit.
Note: omitting the citrus zest, this is a brilliant basic loaf cake recipe that lends itself well to a number of variations.
Lemon loaf – zest of two lemons in the cake batter, plus icing made with 200g icing sugar and the juice of 1/2 lemon
Lemon and blueberry loaf – as above but with 150g of flour-coated blueberries gently folded in before baking
Orange loaf – zest of one orange in the cake batter, plus a syrup made with 100g icing sugar, the juice of one orange and a dash of cointreau
Chocolate chip loaf cake – 150g dark chocolate chips folded into the batter before baking