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Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

A wealth of winter grapefruit abundance inspires this pink grapefruit with burnt honey custard. Let honey and spice creaminess fall where it may over caramel-marinated juicy pink fruit, twinkle it warm and brown, and you have an absolutely delicious surprise of a dessert!

Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

First you marinate the pale pink citrus in caramel, and then whisk up a five-spiced pastry cream with milk and honey and eggs. When you’re ready to serve, arrange the grapefruit sections, swath the fruit with the cream, and do the brûlée thing until the broiler blisters the custard into golden burnt dreamy.


cutting grapefruit for Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

I’m in southern Baja Mexico for the month, and the citrus trees here are going off, hanging heavy with blushing pink grapefruits so sweet and juicy you have to eat them over the sink. When I saw Becky’s January seasonal produce lineup I knew right away that my recipe would star the luscious and lovely citrus abundance.

grapefruit inspiration for Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

I considered my favorite romaine lettuce salad with grapefruit, jicama, tomatoes, and cumin vinaigrette, except the recipe is already on this blog! On Pinterest, I’d saved a yummy green avocado and pink grapefruit arrangement and was tempted to create a riff on that with avocado and pink grapefruit. But when it came down to decision time, I couldn’t pass the chance to share this very special dessert.

This pink grapefruit with burnt honey custard dessert brings back memories of our June wedding rehearsal dinner. Our dessert that night was a gratin like this pink grapefruit with burnt honey custard, except it was caramel marinated oranges and vanilla custard, broiled in individual gratin dishes.

caramel grapefruit sections for Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

The very next December I found myself arranging those caramel-y orange sections every day, for gratin of oranges ‘Girardet’ for the Mariposa restaurant. A sweet recollection from my early days as a Deer Valley baker, that recipe with oranges and vanilla custard is in my Chocolate Snowball cookbook.

Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

Here’s my pink grapefruit rendition, the vanilla custard made with honey instead of sugar, and softly perfumed with Chinese five spices, the classic blend of cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper and licorice root.

If you want to really doll things up, serve with a cookie, maybe snickerdoodles with five-spice powder instead of cinnamon. Or why not spoon the warm custardy caramel grapefruit over slices of butter pound cake? Just ideas, you know.

Assemble your marinated grapefruit sections in one shallow platter, or divide them among individual serving dishes. Sprinkle toasted almonds or pistachios on top for a little crunch, plus pomegranate arils for color and flavor pop. And if grapefruit isn’t your thing, do oranges. Many other fruits partner nicely with the broiled sauce–ahem, summer peaches, fall pears?

This Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard is part of January’s roundup of recipe ideas.

Celebrate January’s bounty—cook something seasonally delicious! Each month, Becky of Vintage Mixer orchestrates an #eatseasonal recipe roundup featuring produce listed in her seasonal food guide. Follow the links below for more seasonal recipes from a bevy of bloggers.

Oatmeal and Citrus Smoothie by Floating Kitchen
Butternut Squash, Carrot and Orange Detox Soup by Vintage Mixer
Winter Minestrone Soup with Pancetta by Flavor the Moments
Broiled Grapefruit by Bless This Mess
Gluten Free Gingersnaps with Lemon Cream Filling by Cafe Johnsonia
Meyer Lemon Tart by Kitchen Confidante
Potato and Leek Soup with Kale by Mountain Mama Cooks
Grapefruit and Avocado Green Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette by Food for My Family
Creamy Mushroom and Leek Chicken Breasts by Foodie Crush
Blood Orange Brûlée Upside Down Cake by Suitcase Foodist
Maple-Cayenne Sausage, Brussels Sprouts and Potato Sheet Dish by Project Domestication
Yogurt Brûlée with Winter Fruit by Completely Delicious
Grapefruit Pound Cake with Ginger Marshmallow Icing by Climbing Grier Mountain

Do you have a favorite way to serve grapefruit or other winter citrus?

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Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard
Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
Broil your citrus in a flat quiche plate or in individual dessert dishes, both are stunning presentations of this simple, elegant and delicious dessert!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Gluten-free, Vegetarian
Keyword: grapefruit, creme brulee, vanilla custard, dessert
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Letty Flatt | Letty's Kitchen
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup hot water
  • 6 pink grapefruit
  • 1 cup whole milk or dairy-free almond milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Blend
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lightly toasted chopped almonds or pistachios, optional
  • Pomegranate arils, optional
For the grapefruit:
  1. In a saucepan, over low heat, mix the sugar and the 1/4 cup of water. Stir occasionally, until the sugar dissolves into a clear syrup. Over medium-high heat, cook the syrup until it turns a deep amber caramel. Every so often move the pan to swirl the sugar and distribute the heat, but do not stir. (see note)

  2. Remove from the heat and immediately add the remaining 1/2 cup water, keeping your hands and face at a distance. Return to the heat and cook the caramel and water a few minutes to dissolve any lumps. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. With a sharp knife, slice 1/4 inch off the top and bottom of each grapefruit. With the grapefruit standing on its cut bottom, slice down the sides, following the fruit’s contour, completely removing the outside white pith as well as the peel. Hold the peeled fruit in your hand and remove the segments by cutting between the fruit and the membrane. Lift out each segment in one piece and drop into the caramel syrup. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. The grapefruit sections can marinate in this caramel several days.

For the custard:
  1. Put the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat almost to a boil. Remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the honey and the egg yolks. Whisk in the arrowroot and five-spice powder. Drizzle in the hot milk, a little at a time to temper the eggs, whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. Immediately transfer to a small clean bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the hot pastry cream, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate. The custard can be made ahead and kept, refrigerated, up to 3 days.
To serve:
  1. Preheat the broiler with the rack about 4 inches below the burner. Strain the grapefruit sections from the caramel marinade. Arrange the sections in a single layer in one large flat oven-proof serving plate or in 6 individual gratin dishes. Pour the cream mixture over the oranges, dividing evenly if in separate servings. Place under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, cooking until the top is golden brown.
  2. Sprinkle the chopped nuts and/or pomegranate seeds, if using. Serve at once.
Recipe Notes

To prevent crystallization of the sugar, cover the pan with a stainless steel bowl; as the syrup cooks, water droplets will condense on the bottom of the bowl and wash down the sides of the pan.


  • I LOVE that you use Chinese five spice in your custard!! Everything about this dessert sounds incredible. And I’ve been wanting to try arrowroot instead of cornstarch but wasn’t sure about proportions so I’m glad to see that they’re interchangeable! Reply · 11 January, 2016

    • Becky,
      I always use arrowroot instead of cornstarch. Nutrition from the root vs a corn product–easy decision for me. Arrowroot used to be difficult to find, but has become more available because so many people are trying to lower the gluten in their diet. Reply · 11 January, 2016

  • This is such a unique way to enjoy grapefruit! This is such an elegant dessert, and I can’t wait to try it! Reply · 11 January, 2016

    • Thanks Marcie–I hope you love citrus gratin-style as much as I do! Reply · 11 January, 2016

  • I’m loving all the citrus recipes this month! I’m so inspired! Your custard sounds incredible! Reply · 11 January, 2016

  • Deb

    I’m making this for our wine dinner club. Can you suggest a wine pairing? Thanks Reply · 13 January, 2016

    • Hi Deb,
      I have haven’t tried this dessert with wine! But given that the fruit is marinated in caramel and the custard is honey-sweetened, I am thinking a Viogner or a Reisling, something not too dry. You might want to go to your wine store and ask for a recommendation after describing the flavors. Let me know how it goes and what you choose. Reply · 13 January, 2016

  • Gorgeous!! Reply · 16 January, 2016

  • Such a lovely use of grapefruit in a dessert. Reply · 16 January, 2016

  • […] This recipe is part of a monthly roundup of seasonal fruit and veggie recipes that I’ve been a part of for several years. Last year, I chose tangerines, and blended up a super-healthy tangerine Julius smoothie. The January before that, pink grapefruit inspired a burnt honey custard tart topped with caramel-drenched grapefruit. […] Reply · 8 January, 2018

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