Grapefruit Cake at Disney-MGM Studios' Brown Derby

This recipe is for the Grapefruit Cake served at Disney/ MGM Studios' Brown Derby restaurant, which is patterned after the legendary Hollywood Brown Derby. The recipe, a menu classic, was developed after a request from gossip columnist Louella Parsons, who loved desserts and dieted constantly. She informed owner Bob Cobb she was not coming back if he didn't come up with a nonfattening dessert. Cobb's idea to "put grapefruit on something, because everyone knows it's slimming" was the origin of this menu addition. Obviously it's not a fat-free sweet, but apparently it appeased Parsons at the time.

Yield: 8 servings.


1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup each: vegetable oil, water
3 Tblsp grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
16-oz. can grapefruit sections, drained well

Cream-cheese frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp each: lemon juice, freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 drops yellow food coloring


1. For frosting, beat cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and zest. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until blended. Add food coloring as desired.

2. Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with wax paper. Lightly grease paper.

3. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4. Whisk egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice and zest until smooth. Whisk in flour mixture.

5. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar just to stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture, until just blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the cake springs back whentouched lightly in the center. Invert cake, still in pan, and cool on wire rack. Run a spatula or a table knife around the edge of the cake. Carefully remove cake from pan. With serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally.

6. Spread frosting on bottom half of cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer of cake and frost top and sides. Garnish with remaining grapefruit sections.

The '''Brown Derby''' was a landmark restaurant in [[Los Angeles, California|Los Angeles]] frequented by celebrities during the [[Golden Age of Hollywood]]. It was an example of [[novelty architecture]], known for being physically shaped like a brown [[derby hat]]. It was the first restaurant to serve [[chiffon cake]], a soon-to-be famous recipe invented by insurance salesman Harry Baker and later picked up by [[Betty Crocker]]. It is the home of hundreds of caricatures of celebrities.

The single greatest legacy recipe of the Brown Derby is the [[Cobb Salad]]. It was invented by and named after Bob Cobb, one of the owners of the Brown Derby. According to Bob's wife Sally, Bob basically raided the fridge late one night at the restaurant and chopped up some left-overs for his dinner. Some of his Hollywood friends, including [[Jack Warner]], [[Sid Grauman]], [[Wilson Mizner]], and [[Gene Fowler]] stopped by the restaurant that night and, curious about Bob's creation, joined him. They then began to ask for it on later visits, and the rest was history.

It was named after the Brown Derby Restaurant located in [[Malverne]], [[New York]], which operated as a popular [[vaudeville]] hang-out. It had been owned by [[Frank Britton Wenzel]]. This restaurant closed in [[2001]].

The first Brown Derby, also known as the '''Little Hat''', was opened in February [[1926]] across the street from the [[Ambassador Hotel]]. The Derby was often the site of [[afterparty|afterparties]] following bashes at the Ambassador Hotel's [[The Ambassador Hotel#The Cocoanut Grove|Cocoanut Grove]] [[nightclub]]. This was the only Derby that was actually built in the shape of a hat. In 1937, it was moved one block up the street.

A second Brown Derby opened at 1628 Vine Street, near [[Hollywood and Vine]] on [[Valentine's Day]], [[1929]]. In 1942 [[MGM]] film star [[Ruth Hussey]] first met her talent agent husband [[Bob Longenecker]] at lunch there. Other Derbies were later built in [[Beverly Hills]] (across from the [[Beverly-Wilshire Hotel]] on Wilshire and Rodeo) and in [[East Hollywood]] (also known as [[Los Feliz]]) at Los Feliz Boulevard and Hillhurst. The Los Feliz Derby had a "car café" which emulated the then-new "[[drive-in]]" trend.

The Hollywood Derby closed in [[1985]], shortly followed by the original location's closure. The shell of the Brown Derby was restored and placed on top of the strip mall that took its spot at 3377 [[Wilshire Boulevard]]. It is now painted orange and home to Cafe SheeRi.

The Los Feliz Derby is now a nightclub called [ The Derby]. In the late 1990s, it was one of the centers of the resurgence of [[swing dancing]], offering live swing dance bands seven nights a week and launching the careers of modern swing bands such as [[Big Bad Voodoo Daddy]] and [ Johnny Crawford] and his band often played there as well. Today, the Derby offers a variety of entertainment throughout the week, and swing dancing with live bands is still featured on Sunday nights and special occasions.

In June of 2004, the Derby and adjacent lots were purchased by Hillhurst/Los Feliz LLC, a subsidiary of Adler Reality Investments Inc. The building faced demolition to make room for a condominium complex. An independent coalition called "Save The Derby" fought to prevent the Derby from being demolished by getting it recognized as an official historical landmark. On May 19, 2006, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to designate the entire structure an official Historic Cultural Monument of the City of Los Angeles.

There is a re-created Hollywood Brown Derby at the [[Disney-MGM Studios]] at the [[Walt Disney World Resort]] in [[Florida]].

"Brown Derby" is also the name of a dessert served by the fast food franchise Wimpy. It consisted of a ball of ice cream, and a warmed chocolate doughnut.

In one of the Hollywood episodes of "[[I Love Lucy]]", Lucy ([[Lucille Ball]]), Ethel ([[Vivian Vance]]), and Fred ([[William Frawley]]) have lunch at the Brown Derby. During the misadventure, the trio dines in a booth neighbored by [[Eve Arden]] on one side and [[William Holden]] on the other. This leads to the famous disaster scene in which Lucy inadvertently causes a waiter to dump a plate of food on Holden.

Neo-swing band [[Cherry Poppin' Daddies]] have a song titled "Brown Derby Jump" on their album ''[[Zoot Suit Riot (album)|Zoot Suit Riot]]''.

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