Grapefruit Meringue Poke Cake

by Jillian

Moist and fluffy vanilla cake, deliciously tart grapefruit curd, and fluffy toasted meringue!

When it comes to citrus, most people think of lemons, limes, or oranges. Grapefruit, on the other hand, doesn’t quite get the same amount of limelight (pun definitely intended). I’m actually guilty of neglecting one of the most refreshingly tart fruits on the planet since I don’t have one single grapefruit recipe on my blog. (Gasp!)

Luckily, today that streak has ended…

This Grapefruit Meringue Poke Cake is like biting into the softest, most fluffiest cloud of delightfully tangy deliciousness! (I know, I have such a way with words.) With a soft and pillowy base of vanilla cake, lusciously tart grapefruit curd, and ultra fluffy meringue topping, this dessert is the breath of fresh air you’ve been needing to get through these dull and dreary winter months.

This cake was actually inspired by my Lemon Meringue Poke Cake that I made a couple of years ago. Even the most picky of eaters in my household could NOT get enough of it! It had the perfect combination of flavors and textures, and I just knew it deserved a sequel. So when I saw the grapefruits in the grocery store, I knew EXACTLY what to do with them.

Although grapefruit curd isn’t nearly as popular as lemon curd, it’s just as deliciously tangy, and it’s made almost exactly the same way. The only difference is that the lemon juice is replaced with grapefruit juice. 

Since I was aiming for a stronger, more robust grapefruit flavor without adding too much liquid, I decided to cook the grapefruit juice down a little. I started with 1.5 cups and allowed it to simmer over medium heat until it was reduced by half. You should end up with about 3/4 cup of grapefruit juice–don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be exact!

Once you’ve reduced the grapefruit juice, you’ll combine some egg yolks, one whole egg, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir in the grapefruit juice, some grapefruit zest, and a pinch of salt. Add some butter, and cook the mixture until it thickens into a sumptuously smooth and silky curd. If you want, you can add a few drops of pink food coloring since the curd will have more of a yellow hue. Place it into the refrigerator to cool completely before spreading on top of the cake.

Since this recipe requires three different elements–cake, grapefruit curd, and meringue–I decided to take a little shortcut with a box cake mix. You can either use white or yellow cake mix. I prefer white (made with only egg whites) because of the starker contrast in color between the white cake and the pink curd.

After the cake has baked in the oven and cooled completely, take a wooden spoon and use the handle end to poke rows of holes evenly into the cake. I ended up poking 60 holes–10 rows vertically and 6 rows horizontally. Try not to poke all the way to the bottom of the cake. You only need to go about halfway through the cake. Spread the cooled grapefruit curd on top and into the cake holes. I recommend using a skewer to push the curd all the way into the holes so that it doesn’t just sit on top of the cake. This is absolutely crucial if you want that fun poke cake appearance.

Now it’s time to tackle the meringue! You’ll want to make it up on the day you plan on serving the cake. Meringue tends to be rather temperamental based on weather and temperature changes, so your safest bet is to make sure that it’s the freshest when you serve it. That being said, this meringue holds up A LOT better than your traditional Lemon Meringue Pie meringue. That’s because I topped this cake with a different kind of meringue that’s less foamy and much more stable.

Most lemon meringue pie recipes require the meringue to bake on top of the pie, so I went with a meringue that doesn’t require any baking. This meringue has more of a marshmallow fluff consistency, making it less stiff and more fluffy. 

You’ll start off by whipping the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Oh, and make EXTRA SURE that the bowl you whip the egg whites in is impeccably clean–no grease, food particles, etc. If there’s any residual grease left on the bowl, the whites won’t whip up properly. Once whipped, it’s time to start on the sugar syrup. Combine your sugar and water, and cook this mixture on the stove until the temperature reaches 240ºF.

Immediately after the desired temperature is reached, the sugar syrup is slowly and steadily poured into the egg whites as the mixer is going. Try to avoid hitting the beaters/whisk if you can. The hot sugar syrup actually cooks the egg whites, making this meringue completely safe to eat. Once you’ve added all of the sugar syrup, cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vanilla are tossed into the meringue. Crank that mixer (or beaters) up to high speed, and continue beating that meringue until it’s extra thick, glossy, and room temperature–about 8-10 minutes. The meringue will gradually cool down as more and more air is whipped into the meringue. 

Delicate vanilla cake, refreshingly tart lemon curd, and fluffy toasted meringue—the perfect spring OR summer dessert!

As you can see, this recipe makes A LOT of meringue. If you want, you could definitely cut the meringue recipe in half. However, I found that the light and airy sweetness of the meringue really helped to balance out the tangy richness of the grapefruit curd. Plus, the thickness of the meringue layer definitely adds to the wow factor of this cake.

To toast the meringue, I used my most favorite tool in the kitchen…my handy dandy kitchen torch! What I love about using a kitchen torch is that you can control the flame–something that’s not really possible when you use an oven broiler. It’s also a lot more fun! Just make sure to keep it AWAY from the kiddos though…

Light, fluffy, refreshingly tangy and oh so heavenly, this Grapefruit Meringue Poke Cake is guaranteed to make the gloomiest of days feel 100 times better. It’s like baking up a delicious dish of sunshine in your own home!

You gotta try it!

Grapefruit Meringue Poke Cake

Moist and fluffy vanilla cake, deliciously tart grapefruit curd, and fluffy toasted meringue!
Prep Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 48 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Pieces

Ingredients
  

Grapefruit Curd:

  • 1 ½ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons grapefruit zest
  • teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces
  • Pink food coloring (optional)

Cake:

  • 1 box white cake mix (plus all the ingredients needed to make it)

Meringue:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
 

Make the Grapefruit Curd:

  • Pour the grapefruit juice into a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half--it should be about 3/4 cup of juice. If it ends up being a little more or less, don't worry about it.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar together until just combined. Whisk in the grapefruit juice, zest, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 4-8 minutes minutes. Stir in a few drops of pink food coloring, if using.
  • Immediately strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-size bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Make the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Prepare the cake batter according to the directions on the box.
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
  • Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes into the cake that are about an inch apart (I did 60). Pour the lemon curd on top and spread into an even layer, ensuring that the grapefruit curd gets down into the holes. Use a skewer to push the curd into the holes, if necessary. Place the cake into the refrigerator to firm up the grapefruit curd layer, about 2 hours.

Make the Meringue:

  • Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or large mixing bowl with a beater), and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Pour the sugar and water into a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until it reaches 240ºF. This usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes from the time it begins to boil. Immediately pour the hot sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream into the egg whites, with the mixer running on medium speed; try to avoid the whisk attachment.
  • Once all the sugar syrup has been added, add the cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Continue beating the meringue on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it’s cooled to room temperature and glossy peaks form.
  • Using a spatula, spread the meringue evenly on top of the chilled cake. Use a spoon to add decorative swirls to the meringue. If desired, use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue.*

Notes

*If you don't have a kitchen torch, you can also use your oven broiler to toast the meringue. Just be sure to watch it the whole time to avoid burning it.
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