Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake

Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake | Homesick Texan

March 2 is Texas Independence Day. On this day 176 years ago, a group convened at Washington-on-the-Brazos (back then simply known as Washington) to craft a declaration of independence from Mexico. From that moment, the Republic of Texas was born.

Because of its significance to Texas history, March 2 is a state holiday, a day of recognition. Now, banks don’t close and you still have to go to work, but plenty of folks gather to say howdy, share a Texas-themed meal and talk about how much they love their home. And yes, usually at these parties there’s some eating and some dancing and maybe even some singing. It’s a wonderful thing.

There are many ways to mark the occasion. For instance, you’ll see Texas Independence Day barbecues held around a smoking pit chock full of briskets, sausage and ribs. Or you’ll see Texas Independence Day get-togethers at local community centers where pots of chili simmer on the stove and hot skillets of corn bread arrive fresh out of the oven. And picnics have long been a popular way to celebrate, with fried chicken and cold salads on hand.

Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake | Homesick Texan

So what do my friends and I do? Being in New York, a backyard barbecue is out of the question. Instead, we keep it inside and offer plates of chicken-fried steak smothered in cream gravy. There will also be plenty of frosty beverages and lively songs. And while it may be a challenge to two-step in a five-foot square space, it’s been known to be done.

But no matter how you celebrate Texas Independence Day, you have to have cake since it’s Texas’ birthday and all. My preferred birthday cake is chocolate sheet cake, as that’s what my mom made me when I was growing up. I wondered, however, what would happen if I changed it up and gave it more of a homegrown Texas taste.

So instead of adding cocoa to my cake batter, I added our state fruit, the Ruby Red grapefruit, and our state nut, the pecan. The result? A tangy and nutty cake made extra decadent as it’s topped with cream cheese frosting loaded with chopped pecans and grapefruit zest. This one’s a keeper and I do believe a new tradition has been born.

Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake | Homesick Texan

People who aren’t familiar with Texas Independence Day often ask if there are fireworks or parades as there are on the Nation’s birthday. I’ve never seen that, though it might have been that way in the past. But even sans all the fanfare, it’s still a splendid occasion to gather with friends and family and share your mutual love for the great state of Texas.

Happy birthday, Texas!

Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake | Homesick Texan
5 from 2 votes

Ruby red grapefruit and pecan sheet cake

Servings 20
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the cake:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Ruby Red grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup roughly chopped roasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Ruby Red grapefruit juice
  • 2 teaspoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F and grease and flour a 9×13 pan or a 15x10x1-inch jellyroll pan.

  2. In a small pan on low heat, melt the butter with the Ruby Red grapefruit juice and water.

  3. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the pecans and grapefruit zest. Pour in the melted butter, along with the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until a smooth batter is formed.

  4. Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking it at 20 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. (If using a jellyroll pan, it should take about 20 minutes, so check it at 15 minutes.)

  5. As the cake cools, prepare the frosting. Cream together the cream cheese, butter, grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, vanilla extract. Stir in the sugar and blend until smooth. Once the cake is cool to the touch (about an hour or so), frost the cake.

  1. How yummy! I think I'll need to celebrate so I can partake in this cake. Happy Birthday Texas indeed. As a somewhat close neighbor to Texas, it's the polite thing to do!

  2. Lisa Fain


  3. Anonymous

    I celebrate Texas Independence Day by eating Mexican food. But to be honest, I celebrate most days by eating Mexican food. You can take the girl out of San Antonio, but you can't take the San Antonio out of the girl.
    Valerie in Austin

  4. ileana

    I just returned from Austin – what a great time! Also drove down to Driftwood for brisket, sausage, and ribs at Salt Lick. Yum.

    Does the cake change the flavor of the grapefruit? I'm not usually a fan of that fruit, but I wonder if it mellows out in the cake… looks good!

  5. -Bethany-

    This is genius.

  6. Lisa Fain

    Valerie–I have to admit, I eat a lot Tex-Mex myself!

    Ileana–If you're not a fan of grapefruit, you might not like this as it's tangy. But it's also sweet and kind of mellow.

    Bethany–Thank you!

  7. Michelle Stiles

    To a great state full of pride. There will be collard greens and cornbread in this Washington house to celebrate!

  8. Lisa Fain

    Michelle–A fine way to mark the occasion!

  9. Anonymous

    I love that grapefruit takes center stage in this cake for once and not lemon/lime! One question though…Is it 8T. of butter or 2 sticks (16 T.)?

  10. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Thanks for catching that! It's 16 tablespoons, 2 sticks!

  11. Karen Elizabeth

    Headed to HEB! This sounds so good and so TEXAS! Thank you……

  12. Lisa Fain

    Karen Elizabeth–Hope you enjoy it!

  13. marthameetslucy

    I will celebrate Texas as long as I am eating this cake. And while I still live in California, its been a not so secret dream of mine to live in Texas at some point. Its gotten worse since I started watching Friday Night Lights.

  14. Lisa Fain

    Marthameetslucy–Hope you get to achieve your dream!

  15. From a Pacific Northwest resident that has been to and through the Great State of Texas many times, Happy Birthday!! I spent a long, HOT weekend in San Antonio and loved the Riverwalk. I think Austin would be my city of choice though. Houston is too much of everything and Dallas also.
    Finally got your cookbook and love it. I know this cake is going to be great. Thank you.

  16. SeattleDee

    Mmmmm, this sounds so good I might get over removing cocoa from any recipe. Citrus adds a mellow tang to everything, and who can resist pecans? I'll try this in cupcake form, the better to share with assorted and scattered friends.

  17. Happy Birthday Texas! I've only been to Texas once, but it was a great trip, seeing the Alamo was fun for a history buff.

    Grapefruit is my absolute favorite fruit, can't wait to try this out. And yes, I'll be sure to look for Texan Ruby Reds 🙂

  18. The Cozy Herbivore

    That sounds great– love the addition of the grapefruit. Happy birthday, Texas!

  19. I lived in Texas a long time ago, and if I'm not mistaken, isn't San Jacinto Day a holiday in Texas? It was a running joke of my mom's after we moved to Kentucky that there was something wrong about not having San Jacinto Day off.

  20. Stacey!

    In addition to this gorgeous cake, I'll be making Rio Ruby Red grapefruit margaritas! Thanks for the amazing recipe, as always!

  21. Anonymous

    is Washington in Texas where the sign says: :Big men walked here!"?
    I visited there and was impressed with that quote!

  22. Lisa Fain

    Pat–I love the Riverwalk! San Antonio is a wonderful place for a vacation.

    SeattleDee–I love the cupcake idea! Perfect for sharing.

    k.m.–Sure, I'm biased but Ruby Red's are the best! So sweet and tangy.

    The Cozy Herbivore–Grapefruits season is almost over so I'm trying to eat as much as I can!

  23. Lisa Fain

    Janus–San Jacinto Day is April 21, and it's also a big celebration, especially in San Antonio.

    Stacey–A perfect pair!

    Anon–I don't know about that, but it would make sense.

  24. kkayfuller

    Love grapefruit this way. I go around each segment with a serrated steak knife before I put the sugar on top. That way I can eat it soooo much faster!

  25. Lisa Fain

    kkayfuller–That's an excellent eating strategy!

  26. Fourth generation North Texan here, and we always celebrate San Jacinto Day, not March 2. This cake sounds yummy, though. I'll be making it in April.

  27. Well, I feel like a bad Texan not realising it's our Independence Day. But I just logged on to get your carnitas recipe (love it) because that's dinner tonight. Will raise a toast to what I think is the greatest State! The cake looks delicious, but have given up dessert for Lent so will bookmark that one 🙂

  28. Lisa Fain

    Laura–I like to celebrate both!

    Robin–I'll join you in that toast! As for the cake, it will be just as good after Easter.

  29. Tasty Eats At Home

    Love this! I wont have time to bake a cake today, but I'm definitely keeping this cake idea in mind. 🙂

  30. Celeste

    I adore citrus in baked goods, and it's really rare to find ones using grapefruit. This sounds lovely and I'm going to remember it for next time I need to carry in a dessert.

  31. Anonymous

    Yum….what an original idea! Happy Birthday my amazing state!!!! I'll see you soon.

  32. jnharsanyi

    I too am a homesick Texan, in the Washington DC metro area. On this morning's news, in honor of Texas Independence Day, they highlighted a restaurant called Hill Country Barbecue, which I will now have to immediately patronize. But there is one in NYC as well. Have you been?

  33. Carolyn Walters

    I am a homesick Texan in California. I love making homemade Chilli & skillet cornbread. JR's Texas BBQ Brisket is the best in Sacramento. Happy Birthday Texas!

  34. Anonymous

    I'm in Washington DC and having a Texas Independence Day party tonight – I think I'm going to make this for sure!

  35. tx-kimberly

    I'm a homesick Texan displaced in NM. Happy Birthday Texas! Today is TX Independence Day marking the formation of the Republic of Texas. San Jacinto Day marks the final battle in which Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana in an 18 minute battle. I sent e-cards to all my Texas friends and relatives and tonight we will celebrate with a traditional Texas meal (BBQ, lol) and cake!!

  36. Lisa, I can't wait to try this cake. It sounds so delicious and tangy! I do have a question, though – what altitude are you at when baking? I am in Houston at sea level and sometimes have difficulty with baked good recipies if I don't know ahead of time to make the necessary adjustments.

  37. Lisa Fain

    Tasty Eats at Home–Enjoy!

    Celeste–I heard someone say that grapefruit was going to be trendy in 2012. Though it's always been popular in Texas!

    jnharsanyi–I've been to the one in NYC and it's good. You try it.

    Carolyn Walters–Good to know about JR's!

    tx-kimberly–Indeed it is! I like to celebrate both!

    April–I'm in NYC, which ranges between 426 feet above sea level to sea level. I have no idea what the sea level of my apartment is, though.

  38. talida

    What a great cake! Enjoy celebrating Texas Independence Day, Lisa! 🙂

  39. christopher

    Howdy Lisa! And happy Texas Independence Day from one home sick Texan to another. I'm now living in San Francisco (via NYC) and your recipes have been a life changer – saver? – for me and my husband. Our apartment was recently featured on Apartment Therapy where I gave a shout out to your fabulous site. Thanks for all you do!

  40. Amanda

    I found your blog today while looking for recipes to celebrate this great holiday. I am a homesick Texan as well living in california. I am so excited about this find. Im starting with your queso recipe. Can't wait to try more! Happy Texas Independence day.

  41. I made this cake last night. I used the 9×13 pan, and it looked very much like yours. I liked the flavor a lot.. It kinda resembled a spice cake with a punch of citrus in the background…Next time i think i'm gonna try the 15x10x1 pan… Like a normal sheet cake… and then maybe try thinning out the cream cheese frosting with the grapefruit juice a little more to a glaze like a traditional sheet cake… whatcha think??? or should i thin with water???

  42. Lisa Fain

    Christopher–You're very welcome. Thank you for the mention!

    Talida–Happy Texas Independence Day to you!

    Amanda–Welcome! I hope you enjoy the queso!

    Dawn–I think it would taste better with grapefruit juice than water.

  43. Bethany

    I made this cake last night. Thank you!! Even my picky (grown) son said that it was really good. And it is! It is even better today. I've *ahem* had three little pieces already.

  44. Shelley

    Just wanted to mention that the current edition of Southwest Review has an article called…Tasting Texas.

    Even writers want to read about food!

    Maybe especially writers.

  45. Anonymous

    Used to drive down to the Valley just so we could pick up BAGS of the ruby red, as it never made it very far north. Also we would go across the border to Reynosa and buy silver jewelry, huge crepe paper flowers, pottery, beautifully embroidered dresses, and the cajeta! Oh, the cajeta in the little round paper boxes. That was real treasure for me.

    Ruby reds are the best! Never thought to use it in a cake…


  46. Christine

    Happy Birthday Texas indeed! We couldn't decide where to eat on Independance Day. At first we thought Polvos but I considered it wrong to have Mexican on Texas Independance Day. Strangely we ended up with Vietnamese, at Austin's new hotspot Elizabeth St Cafe. Delish!

    Your pecan sheet cake also looks delish!!

  47. Rocky Mountain Woman

    What a great idea for a party! I'm not from Texas, but I may have to have a Texas B-Day party next year anyway!

  48. This looks delicious! I am a homesick Texan as well (in Chicago) and was just thinking about Texas grapefruit today.

  49. Shelley

    My dad has a pecan tree, so I'm sending them this recipe! And since Texas is the setting of my work, may I add my Happy Birthday to that one-of-a-kind state.

  50. That cake sounds amazing! I've never tried grapefruit in a cake, but I can see how it would be absolutely delicious. Yum!


    I am also a homesick texan (living in Spain)! This looks amazing!!

  52. Anonymous

    Love your recipes and your blog! I too am a homesick Texan- living in Chicago.


  53. Ann from The Turquoise Table

    The more I read your blog the more homesick I get for Texas. Adding grapefruit to your cake recipe is a great twist. Unfortunately, I have observed that while the stores here in Albuquerque, NM do sell the Texas ruby red grapefruits they are not as delicious. I think Texas keeps the best and sends the smaller more bitter ones to New Mexico! We really miss having the grapefruits especially at breakfast time. My kids miss squeezing all the juice out into their glasses after they've eaten the meat of the fruit. I look forward to trying your recipe one day and serving it to my girlfriends here in town. Thanks!

  54. Danielle

    This homesick Texan in western new York just baked this cake tonight and it's fantastic! Love the brightness of the grapefruit. I actually plan to use more zest and juice next time to make it even more pronounced. Thanks for everything you do, Lisa!

  55. Danielle

    Also, I ended up using only 3 cups of confectioner's sugar in the frosting (thought I had enough on hand!). For those maybe looking to cut back on the sugar, 3 cups is perfect…it was still plenty sweet!

  56. Mmm, I made this last year when you posted it and had to come back for the recipe again because we decided it should be a Texas Independence Day tradition. This cake is so delicious, we finished it off in no time flat. The only problem is finding Ruby Red's up here on the East Coast…

  57. Lisa Fain

    Tara–It is hard to find them, but if you have a Whole Foods near you, they usually stock them being a Texas company and all. And I'm so glad it's become a tradition for you!

  58. Anonymous

    It's also rodeo time! And the trail riders rode through downtown Houston on their way to cookouts and performances by stars of the music world and of rodeo events. It was Go Texan Day! Reaction of one 11 year old sums it up though:

    "My favorite long, tall Texan on Go Texan Day. 'Ummm, momma, I'm a Texan every day.'"

  59. Finally tried this recipe after holding on to it for a long time! Delicious! The grapefruit is bright and fresh and goes beautifully with the pecan. I didn't use all 4 cups of confectioners sugar in the frosting either. The frosting is a little loose, but it's hot here in El Paso! Thank you for sharing.

  60. Susan Hall

    Just wanted you to know that we have made this cake twice now and enjoy it very much. We recently got a new ice cream maker and I am planning on using these flavors in an upcoming batch…going to add grapefruit juice and zest to a basic vanilla base, add some cinnamon and a bunch of toasted glazed pecans. Thanks again for such a wonderful recipe!

  61. Love this! Your Ruby Red Grapefruit Sugar Cookies are THE BEST so I can just imagine how awesome this cake will taste! Going to see if I can find some Ruby Reds here in Ohio…the season is too short, if you ask me. ?

    • Lisa Fain

      Rosa–Thank you! And I agree the season is too short. Though I can still find them in New York so hopefully they’re still available in Ohio, too.

      • Found some Ruby Reds! Just took this cake out of the oven and it looks and smells divine!!! Already snuck a taste of the frosting…oh my heavens!!!

  62. Paul Edward Hodo

    “God bless you Texas, and keep you brave and strong
    That you may grow in power and worth
    Throughout the ages long!”

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