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Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

Drape honey and spice cream over caramel-marinated juicy pink fruit and put it under the broiler until it’s warm and browned for an absolutely delicious surprise of a dessert!  A wealth of winter grapefruit inspired this pink grapefruit with burnt honey custard.

Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

First, the pale pink citrus marinates in a simple caramel syrup for a couple hours or even overnight. Then whisk up a five-spice pastry cream with milk, honey and eggs just before you need it, or make it the day ahead. When you’re ready to serve, arrange the marinated grapefruit sections in a dish, swath the fruit with the cream, and do the brûlée thing to blister the custard to golden burnt. Soooo good!


caramel grapefruit sections ready in dish for the Honey Custard Brulée

We’re in southern Baja Mexico for the month. The citrus trees here are 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 grapefruit abundance. I couldn’t pass the chance to share this special dessert.

grapefruit hanging from tree and a bin of whole Pink Grapefruit

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Pink grapefruit with burnt honey custard comes from a memory of our June wedding rehearsal dinner. For dessert that night we were served caramel marinated oranges with burnt vanilla custard in individual gratin dishes. Simple and elegant in the same warm bite.

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

Arrange your marinated grapefruit sections in one shallow platter, or divide them among individual serving dishes, like at our wedding. Sprinkle toasted almonds or pistachios on top for a crunch, and maybe pomegranate arils for color and flavor pop.

Variations and ideas:

  • Of course you could make this recipe with oranges, like the original. Many other fruits partner nicely with the broiled sauce. If it’s not citrus season, feature summer peaches or autumn pears.
  • If you want a little something more, serve with a cookie, maybe cinnamon snickerdoodles.
  • Instead of fussing with the broiler for gratin brulée, you can spoon warm custard and caramelized fruit over slices of butterry pound cake. 
  • You might also want to feature pink grapefruit in a salad–like this one with romaine lettuce, jicama, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Another citrus dessert–this Orange Almond Honey Cake is gluten free.

Arrowroot vs. Cornstarch:

  • Arrowroot is completely tasteless and gluten-free. I use the white arrowroot powder made from a tropical root plant whenever a recipe calls for cornstarch. As a thickener, say in sauces, arrowroot becomes clear when cooked. It can be used one-for-one in place of cornstarch.
  • If you avoid genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) know that almost ALL cornstarch comes from corn that has been genetically engineered.

Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard

The December after our June wedding, I became a Deer Valley baker and found myself arranging caramel-y orange sections in little dishes, for gratin of oranges ‘Girardet’ at Mariposa restaurant. A few years later I wrote Chocolate Snowball: and Other Fabulous Pasties from Deer Valley Resort, and of course our wedding dessert went in the cookbook!

#Eat Seasonal

Each month, Becky from Vintage Mixer blog orchestrates an #eatseasonal recipe roundup featuring produce listed in her seasonal food guide. This Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard is part of January’s roundup of seasonal recipes from a bevy of bloggers. For all of our seasonal inspirations, check out the links below.

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

We hope you celebrate January’s bounty along with us. Get in the kitchen and cook something delicious and seasonal!

cutting grapefruit

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Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard
Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
marinating in caramel syrup
2 hrs
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
Calories: 331 kcal
  • 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
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch (see note)
  • 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.
  • Arrowroot flour aka arrowroot starch is a completely tasteless, gluten-free white powder, a nutritious alternative to cornstarch and can be used in place of cornstarch in recipes. 

*** Nutrition information is meany to be an estimate only. The numbers will vary based on the quantity consumed, brands used and substitutions that are made.

Nutrition Facts
Pink Grapefruit with Burnt Honey Custard
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 331 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 102mg34%
Sodium 23mg1%
Potassium 426mg12%
Carbohydrates 69g23%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 56g62%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 3025IU61%
Vitamin C 77mg93%
Calcium 120mg12%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • 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

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