One morning during Lexa’s visit, we were all sitting around the TV (hungover from burgers and microbrews) making fun of Paula Deen. The mocking was in love, I believe, but nothing was off limits–her exaggerated southern accent, her undying love of butter, her inability to make anything even remotely healthy, and her fuax-genteel sign-off tagline. Suddenly, all of the jokes at Paula’s expense stopped, as she told us she was going to make a beautiful grapefruit cake. We were intrigued and silenced.
The recipe didn’t look too difficult, so we headed out to get ingredients at the only place you CAN get ingredients when you have an out-of-towner in tow: the Dekalb Farmers Market. Actually, the official name for this magical place is “Your Dekalb Farmers Market” (YDFM), just to give it a more friendly community feel. If you’re from DC, don’t think it’s a farmer’s market in the same way that Dupont or Eastern Market are farmers markets. YDFM is more like a warehouse of culinary goodies from across the globe. They don’t allow cameras inside, but if you were to see photos, you’d probably have the same adorable wide-eyed expression as Lexa.
We made our way through the little snack shop (shock, we were hungry) for a quick homemade veggie samosa and some steamed broccoli. We walked through the extensive dairy and meat selections. We stopped at the seafood counter to procure giant shrimp, and we both lamented that we needed to buy a whole fish and learn how to take it apart. We saw countless spices, pastas, legumes, flours (I swear, they have 15 different kinds), and baked goods. The real kicker is the produce section, where they have every weirdo recipe ingredient that you never thought you could find, plus the “normal” stuff, at ridiculously low prices. The market is pretty overwhelming in size and scope, and it was crowded on the Sunday we visited, so we only did one brief pass. However, if you’re in Atlanta and you have some time, YDFM is definitely an interesting sight to explore.
With the grapefruits I purchased at YDFM, I made Paula’s cake. It actually turned out very well, though it benefited (in flavor and texture) from sitting for a day before eating. I tempted fate by making a meringue-based cake on a humid, rainy day, and it didn’t bit me in the ass TOO much, but I can’t help but wonder if it would have turned out even better had it been dry outside. The cake itself is citrusy and slightly sweet, and I think it would have been delicious on its own as a pound cake, maybe just dusted with a little powdered sugar. My only issue with the icing was that it wasn’t quite thick enough for my liking, but it had a wonderful tangy flavor. Make sure you have a large serrated knife before cutting the cake in half for layering, or you’ll end up with a crumbly mess. I don’t have any special cake decorating tools (I just used my knife and a stationary cake stand), and this still ended up as the prettiest dessert I’ve ever created. Not sure what that says about me, but enjoy!
Preheat oven at 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick oil.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center for dry ingredients. Add water, oil, zest, grapefruit juice and egg yolks. Beat until smooth. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually fold egg whites into flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir the mixture.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
Bake for 25 minutes or until cake springs back when gently touched with a finger. Invert pan on cake rack to cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With a serrated knife, gently cut layer in half.
Let cream cheese soften to room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add grapefruit juice and zest. Gradually blend in sugar. Mix until well blended. Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 teaspoons.
Blend into frosting. Spread frosting on bottom half of cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer of cake. Frost top and sides. Garnish with remaining grapefruit sections.