{recipe} Salted Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes

There are some things I don’t usually mess with. One is Texas. The other is grapefruit. I am not a grapefruit-eater, but over the past few months I’ve been strangely drawn to ordering grapefruit cocktails off of every fancy bar menu that’s put in front of me, and I’ve been bookmarking an inordinate amount of grapefruit-related dessert recipes. I finally gave in and made these moist yogurt cupcakes with cream cheese icing, adding  fresh pink grapefruit juice and zest to both the batter and the icing, with a sprinkling of pink salt flakes to finish.

This flavor combination was inspired by the Paloma cocktail. Have you ever had one? It’s an iced cocktail, very popular in Mexico, that’s made with tequila, a little lime juice, and grapefruit soda (like Fresca or Squirt) with a salted rim or a pinch of salt inside. (Some people will tell you a Paloma is made with real grapefruit juice, but that’s simply not accurate. Although, that would be tasty too.) The Paloma is much better than it sounds; kind of like a cheater’s margarita. Salty and sour and sweet together.

There’s not too much salt in the cupcake batter or icing; a sprinkling of coarse chunks on top is enough for these cupcakes. I was lucky because my sister recently brought me a big bag of pink Alaea sea salt from Hawaii. Alaea salt is a coral pink color with a very salty, very clean flavor–perfect for using on these, especially because the salt is almost the exact color of the pink grapefruit flesh.

If you don’t have pink salt, any coarse sea salt will do. If I was using white salt (like Fleur de Sel) or gray salt like (Sel Gris), I would probably lightly tint the icing to be grapefruit-colored, so the salt was more noticeable. Light pink cupcakes with bright white Fleur de Sel would look so lovely!

The icing is simple to make, and left soft enough to swirl on without a knife or piping bag. Half of the cupcakes were gone before dinner…

Paloma Cupcakes

Makes 24-30 cupcakes



  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • zest of 2 pink grapefruits
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt (can use whole milk, lowfat, or nonfat)
  • juice of 1 pink grapefruit
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tblsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups flour


  • Preheat oven to 350 F and put cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Set aside.
  • Put sugar and grapefruit zest in the bowl of a a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, combine until the zest is well-distributed in the sugar.
  • Add eggs and beat for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy.
  • Add yogurt, grapefruit juice, and vegetable oil and mix to combine well.
  • Add baking powder, salt, and half the flour and mix to combine. Add remaining flour and mix well to combine, until it’s smooth.
  • Fill cupcake liners with batter about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cakes spring to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before icing.



  • 8 oz soft cream cheese
  • juice and zest of 1 pink grapefruit
  • About 3 cups powdered sugar
  • coarse salt for sprinkling


  • Beat the cream cheese, juice, and zest until soft and well-mixed.
  • Add about 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix. Keep adding powdered sugar and mixing until icing is about the consistency of yogurt.
  • Pick up a cooled cupcake and invert it over the icing bowl. Gently swirl it in the icing to coat.
  • Sprinkle a little coarse salt on top, like pink salt, Fleur de Sel, or Sel Gris.
  • The icing will set up in about an hour. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature.

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1 Response

  1. Dana says:

    Pretty in pink! Grapefruit is so underused in recipes. I bet these were great!