Old and New

It wouldn’t be January in the Misanthropic kitchen without a grapefruit recipe.  In fact, I started thinking about what to make way back in November (I am convinced there is a relationship between losing the light as the year grows old and craving the brightness of vitamin C-packed fruit).  This year there were two front-runners.  However, as it is my enduring goal to have my cake and eat it too, I decided to use one with a different kind of citrus (to be continued in February) and chose a new twist on an old recipe for my beloved grapefruit.

We’ll start with the twist: grapefruit and basil syrup. I know, I know basil is generally a summer flavor.   But, I couldn’t shake the idea and so decided that if I could find it at my local, generally understocked grocery store, it might be something others could also find this time of year.  For frame of reference, on the day I went in search of ingredients, there were no mushrooms to be found at the store we lovingly refer to as Ghetto Ralphs.  But, there was basil.  It was on the expensive side.  But remember, it’s grapefruit season which means they were practically giving them away.

Grapefruit rind+ a couple of cups of fresh basil leaves+sugar and water+heat=the kind of smell you’d like to dab behind your ears.

Now for an oldy but a goody, Ina Garten’s lemon yogurt cake.  Riffing on a recipe is always easier when you know the original is a ringer.

I just swapped-out the lemon zest for grapefruit zest and, because I was feeling adventurous, used a runnier, European style full-fat yogurt.  Both substitutions were a success.

The loaf on its own is lovely.  But, we know the key to this cake is the syrup poured over the top while still warm.  And this is where our basil and grapefruit syrup makes its debute.  The result?  Refreshing!  The basil adds complexity to the flavor without being overwhelming.

For an added bonus, the leftover syrup will store nicely in the fridge for a few weeks because really, who wouldn’t want a little grapefruit-basil-vodka cocktail on a Friday afternoon?

If you liked this, you might like these

Grapefruit Whoopie Pies with Avocado Filling

Triple-Quadruple Grapefruit Cupcakes


Vampire Weekend

Grapefruit-Basil Loaf

adapted from Ina Garten

Grapefruit and Basil Simple Syrup


  • 2 C basil leaves
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4X1 inch strips of pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1 C water


  1. Bruise the basil leaves bit with your hands to release the oils.
  2. Place basil, sugar, water and zest in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Turn on medium heat and let it come to a boil and allow the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Turn off heat.  Allow mixture to steep for at least an hour while it cools to room temperature.
  4. Strain syrup through a fine-meshed sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Grapefruit Loaf


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 TBS pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup grapefruit and basil simple syrup

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease, flour and line pan with parchment.
  2. Sift  together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  3. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer than pour the grapefruit and basil syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
  4. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and grapefruit juice to desired consistency and pour over the cake.

Cue Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is about a month away. Yes a month.

While in college, I wrote a rather cynical article for the school newspaper about Valentine’s Day.  The article went on and on about the commercially incited evils of sending cards and chocolate and how when it comes to the big day, we are all pretty much damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell my 21-year-old self to lighten up a little.  Sheesh.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is ridiculous.  But, it is also fun.  If you take the serious out of it, Valentines Day can be a bright spot of pink and red glitter smack dab in the middle of what is often the dreariest month of the year.

It is with this spirit that I bring you a Valentine’s Day recipe that is a little off-beat. I’ll give you a hint.  Its main ingredients include this.

And this.

Intrigued? Curious? Thoroughly disgusted?  Stick with me.

When I began thinking about what kind of treats to post in preparation for Valentine’s Day, my mind went to ruby red grapefruit.  I happen to think it is pretty sexy; sweet, slightly bitter and that gorgeous pinky-orangish color.  Try saying it in French: pamplemousse rouge.  See?  Sexy!

So then I started thinking about what goes with grapefruit.  Immediately, my mind went to a salad I often serve during the winter months composed of red grapefruit, avocado, cucumber and shallot.  I happen to think the creamy nuttiness of avocado is an excellent counter for the sharp sweetness of grapefruit.  But…could it be made into a dessert?

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I spied the whoopie pie pan my Aunt Jullie sent us for Christmas.  Now before this, I’ve always done my whoopie pies freestyle like THIS.  However, January’s Bon Appetit magazine has a whole spread on the whoopie pie versus the French macaroon [sic–alas, this is how they spelled it throughout the article], so I figured now was as good a time as any to get professional with my pies.  And so, the Grapefruit Avocado Whoopie Pie was born.

Still not convinced?  Let me win you over.

The cake was inspired by the Lemon Whoopie recipe from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes by Billingsley and Treadwell (the book came with the pan).  My variation of the cake starts with a generous heap of grapefruit zest (I used Texas red grapefruit but use whatever toots your horn).

The zest gets incorporated into a buttermilk-based cake batter.

Even with the reddish zest, you can see the batter really wasn’t looking all that grapefruity.  Once upon a time I would have left well enough alone.  But then I started making French macarons which are, lets face it, the peacock of the petit fours.  If there is one thing I learned from the French macaron, it is that food coloring is not only my friend, but an important visual cue for taste.  So, I got out my hot pink food gel and colored half of my batter accordingly (note, I halved the recipe in these pictures).

While the batter tasted of grapefruit, the flavor was very subtle and I didn’t get that bitterness at the back of my tongue that I happen to like so much about grapefruit.  So, while the cakes were in the oven, I made a simple syrup of the ruby grapefruit juice and sugar.  As a side note, this syrup works well in cocktails with vodka and club soda.  Just so you know.

One of the cool things about whoopie pies is that they bake as quickly as cookies.  Twelve minutes and I had nearly a dozen ginormous pie halves.

Once out of the oven, I placed each still-hot cake on a cooling rack upside down.  I then poked several holes 3/4 of the way through the cakes and spooned about a teaspoon of the grapefruit syrup over cake.

While the cakes were cooling, I got busy with some avocado.  There are several recipes out there for avocado frosting/icing/filling.  However, all roads really lead back to an Alton Brown recipe.  A couple of avocados get beaten.

And then lemon juice, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla are creamed into the avocado.  The recipe is very simple and despite the ridiculous amount of sugar in it, the frosting has a nice mellow flavor.  After thinking about it for a couple of days, it struck me that at least to my taste buds, sweetened avocado tastes a little like banana.  This frosting is rather elastic and ploppy.  For this reason I let it rest in the fridge for an hour before loading it into a pastry bag to fill my cakes.

I realize that the color is interesting.  It looks a lot like the Kid’s Choice (or You Can’t Do That On Television if you are old school like me) slime.  But remember, we’re having fun with the day of love.  What says fun more than green slime?

I know that for many, Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without chocolate.  And, I promise a chocolate recipe before the big day.  But, if your honey/brother/sister/best friend/ stranger-who-looks-like-they-could-use-a- Valentine’s-treat likes things a little wild, this might just do the trick.

Grapefruit Whoopie Pies with Avocado Filling

Grapefruit Cake inspired by the Lemon Whoopie recipe from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes

Frosting adapted from Alton Brown



  • 2.25 C all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • .5 t salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 4 T vegetable shortening
  • .5 C granulated sugar
  • .5 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • .5 C buttermilk
  • Grated zest of 1 grapefruit
  • 2 T fresh grapefruit juice
  • .5 t vanilla extract

Grapefruit Syrup

  • 1 C fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 C granulated sugar

Avocado Frosting

  • 8 oz ripe avocado (about 2)
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1 LB confectioner’s sugar
  • .5 t vanilla extract

To Make Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, powder and salt.  Set aside.  Using a standing mixer or electric mixer, cream butter, shortening and sugars until fluffy–2 or 3 minutes.  Beat in eggs one-at-a-time.  Mix in Zest, juice, vanilla and buttermilk.  Fold in flour mixture.  Spoon 2T of batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets or oiled whoopie pie molds. Bake until cake springs back when touched–12-15 minutes.

While cakes are baking, combine 1 C each of grapefruit juice and sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to boil and reduce to summer until sugar dissolves (do not stir).  Take off heat and set aside.

When cakes come out of the oven, let sit on pan for 5 minutes and then carefully flip and place each on a cooling rack, top-side-down.  Poke each cake about 3/4 of the way through several times with a bamboo skewer or toothpick.  Carefully spoon grapefruit syrup over each.

While cakes are cooling, mix-up filling.

Cream avocado until smooth (I mashed it with a fork guacamole style and then introduced the hand-mixer).  Cream-in lemon juice and then confectioners sugar and vanilla.  If the consistency is not to your liking, you can slowly add-in additional sugar until you get what you want.  Spoon or pipe filling onto half of the pie-cakes.  Top with remaining pie-cakes and WHOOOOPPPPIIEEEE!