Pink Grapefruit, Lemon and Poppyseed Cake

This is a cake that brings good things in its wake. I realise there’s been a lot of cake up here lately. My apologies. There’s also been a bit of baby chat to wade through. It’s easy to get distracted by things like that.


So for now,  I’m going to do this thing upside down. If what you’re after is merely a spiel about the merits of this cake and a bit of general whimsy; read the next few paragraphs and then skip to the bottom for a recipe. If you’re not completely saturated with the minutiae of life ferrying a brand new being into the world, then read on.

This journey of growing a Stowaway started with a poppyseed, way back in December. A few days after two lines appeared on a stick and I decided to embark on the ‘Forty Weeks of Feasting‘ I toyed with kicking off with a lemon poppyseed cake. Instead I went with Kathy’s Croatian poppy seed loaf.

It felt more appropriate. Besides, if we’re brutally honest,  lemon poppyseed cake is nothing new. It’s the sort of loaf that is best served slightly warm and rumpled around the edges, with a splodge of creme fraiche or yoghurt and a sticky trickle of syrup over the top. It’s functional and slightly frumpy. Yet it’s also self sufficient enough to be roughly sliced and parcelled into a lunch box, carted in its cake tin to a morning meeting or picnic, or sliced and frozen in small sandwich bags for cake-consuming-emergencies. It’s a staple of many of our repetoires for a reason.

Yet what can elevates it is the variety of citrus. You could stick to lemon. You could add lime, or tangelo, orange or mandarin for a bit of colour or movement. But what makes this one shine to me is pink grapefruit.

Pink grapefruit is an undeniably cheerful scent. When I was much younger I used open up the petite bottle of Body Shop Pink Grapefruit body wash and deeply inhale. It was like crack to me.  You could keep your White Musk and Strawberry lotions in their nicely wrapped gift packs. It was always Pink Grapefruit. It’s a smell that carries a whisper of summer breezes, crisp pillowcases and soft grass beneath your heels. It adds just the right sort of floral note to wake up what can be a sleepy sort of cake. And if you’re currently in a window of time where you’re not getting much rest- this can be a good thing.

*(In the spirit of ‘choose your own adventure’, and opting out of any more bleating about babies and birth, you can now skip to the recipe at the bottom)

I must say, this is a cake and a fruit that has served me well. The lion’s share of the lemons in its first iteration arrived in my kitchen from a Tamworth garden- the tree belongs to  one of my oldest friend’s mothers. We stirred and sifted together, catching up on news and making plans for the next few months. We decided it might be wise to let the poppyseeds steep in the yoghurt for a bit before adding them to the rest of the mix, to soften them (and help them stop getting stuck in the crannies of your teeth). We ate a few slices. She then took half of the loaf to appease the host at her next destination. And I sliced half for the midwives.

I have been told a few times that I was mad for even contemplating it, but I’d also  been slyly briefed by a few others; ‘cake and midwives are a good combination’.

And so on my last few appointments to the Birth Centre, I came bearing treats. Treats in a disposable tupperware with my card taped to the top- so they remembered which lady who was due to deliver in August had gifted them to the staff room.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the birth centre was where I was going to stay.

I liked the fact that their appointments always ran on time. I liked the down to earth ‘she’ll be right’ attitude of the women who staffed it. I liked the fact that there were double beds with bedspreads, lamps and comfortable chairs in the birthing suites (despite the fact that my mother said ‘Tor, in the middle of it all, you could be on a highway and you wouldn’t notice or care’ – and she was partly right).

I just wasn’t sure if I was going to be ok with the fact that there weren’t any drugs available.

I’ve always been a medicator. If I have a headache, I take panadol. I don’t believe there’s a special spot in the afterlife for those who tough it out through discomfort. I didn’t choose a natural birth because I needed to prove something or  because I have an agenda.  I did it partly because I was curious- and largely because I’m a sucker for a nicer hotel room.

So I went about greasing the wheels of the midwives. I wanted them to think kindly of me- so if the time came and half way through the endeavour I needed to tap out, I could. If I got to a stage where I thought ‘this is madness, where are the drugs, somebody, please, take me down the corridor to the labour ward where I can call an anaesthetist a golden god after he delivers white absolution  through a needle in my lower spine’, then they’d do it swiftly. Because I was the nice lady who brought  them cake. And I’d tried my best.

Tori and Will

As it turns out, on the day grapefruits were on my side. At 3 am at home in the silent darkness of pain, quiet and contemplation, I resorted to washing and re washing my hands in pink grapefruit soap in the ensuite  in between contractions. I liked the feel of the water. I liked the smell.  And seven and a half hours later, a grapefruit was roughly the dimensions of the head which arrived. He may currently have the appetite of his father, but on delivery, my son was pretty darn considerate in his proportions. Add to that the fact that his passage was relatively swift. We know we were lucky.

And the midwives? They were the golden gods. I’ve rarely encountered women who were more calm, patient or attentive. One of them was almost always on hand in the last three hours to hold a hot pack against my lower abdomen. The Hungry One had little choice for most of the process but to sit in a big blue chair- all I wanted to do was lean on his shoulders, mash my head against his and breathe with me. Sometimes he breathed too loud for my liking.  I think I told him off for that. After a few hours his head got tender. So he put a hand towel on top to cushion the impact. I think that helped. Meanwhile the midwives milled about and said encouraging words in soft tones. And they diligently kept checking the Stowaway’s heartbeat- something I’d said earlier I was very keen for them to do.

Then he arrived, safe, sound and silently, still in his sack. My waters only broke just as he emerged.

The midwives were there, all the time, making sure we were ok. And then they let us stay. For five full  hours after we welcomed Will we got to nestle in the comfort of the pink grapefruit scented birth centre, sipping tea and drinking in our son. We got to spend those first hours in a double bed in a room with nice curtains on the window. And The Hungry One went to fetch me a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich from Luxe Bakery. He fed me, while I tried to feed our son. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I’m not sure that cake is going to be enough to say thank you for all that those women did for us. But when I go back to the hospital for an appointment on Monday, there’s a good chance I’ll be bearing another loaf of this.

It’s a start, I guess.

Pink Grapefruit, Lemon and Poppyseed Cake

Serves 8


180 ml Greek Yoghurt
5 tbsp poppy seeds
180 grams of room-temperature butter
1 cup of caster sugar
3 eggs
2-3 lemons, zested (depending on how lemon-y you like things)
1 pink grapefruit, zested
2 cups of self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda

Citrus drizzle
1.5 cups of caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons (approx 80 ml in total)
Juice of 1 pink grapefruit (approx 70 ml)

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F.

2) Grease and line a loaf pan with baking paper.

3) Combine the Greek Yoghurt and poppy seeds and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the cake.

4) Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

5) Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6) Fold in the citrus zest and half of the flour and bicarb.

7)Fold in the yoghurt/poppy seed mixture.

8) Fold in the remaining flour and bicarb.

9) Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.

10) While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup by combining the citrus juice and sugar in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and it has reduced to a sticky syrup.

11) Once the cake is baked use the skewer to make 18 puncture holes in the top of the cake. Drizzle 10 tbsp of the syrup over the top of the cake. Leave to cool in the tin.

12) Serve the cake in slices with some yoghurt and the additional syrup over the top.


  1. You alone make me believe in the foodle -journal -narrative genre. Laughter, wordles, tears, salivatiions …..all the juices get going. Love it! –Lyn Levy

  2. Congratulations to you all.

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