I took a break from cupcakes with this special cake that is marking both a happy and sad occasion…

After four and half years working with the same group of people, I am moving on. Well in actuality many of us have moved on already – voluntary and not. So, much of my sadness is for something that was lost months ago. Regardless, I will miss my coworkers that have become like daytime brothers and sisters.

The occasion of my send-off party also happens to coincide with the time of year when we would celebrate the birthdays of three coworkers. For the past two years I have been baking cakes for this occasion – three very different cakes – one for each of them. I would spend all week baking the three different cake recipes, whipping up three different frostings, preparing a variety of fillings and decorations. Laborious by some standards, but mostly fun for me. Ok, I will be honest; normally by the end of it I am thinking “Why in the hell do I do this to myself!”

I am sort of off the hook this year. There is only one birthday boy left to celebrate and only one cake to make.

About the cake… I felt that grapefruit as a main ingredient might be a risk, that people might simply not like it. Overall, though, the cake was well received and people seemed to enjoy the grapefruit and orange center. The cake was moist, the tartness of the grapefruit balanced very well with the frosting and other sweet components of the cake, all in all the result was quite delicious. Oh, and if you like champagne, you will want to eat the custard with a spoon!

Champagne Filling
1 cup dry champagne or other sparkling wine
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons chilled whipping cream

1. in large metal bowl, whisk the champagne, sugar, cornstarch, yolks and corn syrup to blend
2. set bowl over a bain marie
3. whisk constantly until mixture has tripled in volume and candy thermometer registers 160°F., about 15 minutes
4. transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer, beat until completely cool, about 5 minutes
5. in a clean bowl, beat cream to soft peaks
6. fold cream into cooled custard
7. cover and store in fridge until ready to use (can be prepared 1 day ahead)

Fall Fruit Filling
1 grapefruit
1 navel orange
1 blood orange

1. using a zester, remove zest from navel orange and set aside (the zest will be candied for decoration)
2. cut the fruits in half crosswise
3. working over a strainer fitted over a bowl and using a small pairing knife, cut out the segments being sure to leave behind the membrane
4. cover and store in fridge until ready to use (can be prepared 1 day ahead)

Candied Citrus Peel

1 orange
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup sugar for dusting

1. with a zester, make strips of oranges zest (if you haven’t already done this)
2. in a small pan, dissolve the 1/2 cup of sugar in the water over low heat
3. add the orange zest and simmer for 15 minutes, then cool
4. place the 1/4 cup sugar on a small plate
5. remove each strand of zest, use your thumb and first finger to remove excess sugar
6. layer on parchment paper and wrap in plastic, store in fridge until ready to use (can be prepared 1 day ahead)

Vanilla Birthday Cake
2 8″ cakes / 350 degree oven
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. butter the inside of the cake pans then line with a circle of parchment or foil, butter that
2. spoon a bit of flour in the pan and shake to coat the inside, tap out excess
3. cream butter in an electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute
4. while beating, drizzle in sugar
5. continue to beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes
6. add one egg at a time, beating well after each, about 20 seconds
7. in a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt
8. combine milk and vanilla
9. add flour mixture and milk mixture to the electric mixer, alternating and starting and ending with flour, beat well after each addition
10. pour batter into pans about 3/4 full
11. bake until golden and a cake tester comes out clean, about ~20 minutes

Grapefruit Cheese Frosting

2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest, chopped
1/2 teaspoon grapefruit juice

1. bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
2. sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
3. beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
4. add 4 cups of the sugar and beat until combined
5. add grapefruit juice and zest and beat until combined
6. if you want, add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like

With a wet filling like the ones in this recipe, I like to create a berm of frosting around the edge of each layer to hold the filling in while I am decorating. For that, you fill a pastry bag with a large, plain tip and pipe a simple berm around the edge. I wish I had pictures to show you! I did a simple two layer cake (I like to do 6 layer cakes, but they are a major pain and it was a weeknight). After making the berm, I added a layer of custard and a layer of fruit. Frosted the whole thing with grapefruit cream cheese frosting and voilà!

I totally planned on getting pictures of the cake decorating process, I swear! But somehow, I left my only CF card in my laptop at work. Duh. So, no pictures and the end product pictures were done at work and not as good as I had hoped!

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