Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake


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Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 1 //

I first drank Campari overseas, when all my French and Italian friends pressured me into my first easy sip. Easy, it was, and I’ve now come to love bitter aperitif, as well as almost anything it touches, like grapefruit and kumquats. Oh, and sign me up for all cakes with bitter and sweet citrus flavors. Sign yourself up for Sheila’s cake too, because everyone will be so impressed you worked booze into a cake. -Maggie

I have to be totally honest: I am not really a cake person. While I love to indulge in cookies, pies, and the like, I just am not usually excited about cakes. Is that blasphemy? I’m beginning to think I’ve summarily dismissed cake without giving it its fair due.

Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 2 //

This yummy cake is fluffy yet dense, almost like a pound cake, with delicious texture from the caramelized grapefruit and kumquats. I somehow convinced myself that it’s appropriate to eat a slice for breakfast (it’s just like a muffin, right?), a little bite after lunch, and maybe, just maybe, I had a couple slices for dinner the night I made it. So, fine…you win, cake. I love you after all.

Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 3 // Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 4 //

At the height of citrus season, this grapefruit and kumquat upside-down cake is pretty darn tasty, bringing a very welcome dose of brightness during otherwise drab January. I adapted it from a plum cake recipe in Twelve Recipes, the new book by the chef of Chez Panisse, Cal Peternell, and served it with a Campari syrup and crème fraiche. All those Campari-grapefruit cocktails can’t be wrong!

Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 5 //

Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Cake 6 //

Grapefruit & Kumquat Campari Syrup Upside-Down Cake


For the cake
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 3 to 4 grapefruits, peeled and segmented (how-to here)
  • About 5 kumquats, thinly sliced
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
For the Campari syrup
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Campari, or to taste
For the whipped crème fraiche
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch sea salt


Make the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and a 1/2 stick butter, cut into slices, in a 9-inch oven-safe (such as cast iron) pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Stir until the mixture gets bubbly and looks like brown butter, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. Lay the grapefruit and kumquat segments over the browned butter and sugar in the pan (I like concentric circles with the grapefruit slices facing in the same direction).
  4. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  5. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter with a wooden spoon or in a mixer, until it becomes lighter in color and texture. Add the remaining sugar and beat more until incorporated. Add the egg yolks, stirring until combined, and then add the vanilla.
  6. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stirring until fully combined. Pour in the milk, mix well, and then add and incorporate the remaining dry ingredients.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until very fluffy with soft peaks. Gently incorporate the whipped egg whites into the batter, being careful not to overmix – lest all that air in the whites deflate.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan over the arranged citrus and bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes. If it looks like it’s getting too golden on top, you can cover it with foil and continue cooking.
  9. Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately and carefully flip it upside down while it’s still hot -- otherwise, that caramel layer on the bottom of the pan will harden! Using a large spatula, trace the edges of the cake and loosen it, making sure it isn’t stuck anywhere. Place a large board (or serving platter) on top of the pan, and using oven mitts to carefully hold both the board and the pan, turn the pan onto the board. Give the pan a few good taps, then gently remove it. Let cool before drizzling with the Campari syrup and and adding a dollop of the whipped crème fraiche.
Make the Campari syrup
  1. Melt the sugar and water together in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves. If you prefer a thicker syrup, leave it over medium heat until it reduces slightly. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Add the Campari and swirl the pan. Taste, and add more Campari, if desired.
Make the whipped crème fraiche
  1. Combine the crème fraiche, heavy cream, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
Photos styled and taken by Sheila Jarnes.

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.