I make this cake every year for my husband’s birthday. He’s not a sweet eater (awesome, more for me), but he loves this cake as much as I do, and what is a birthday without a birthday cake?
This is a recreation of the Grapefruit Cake that was served at the Hollywood Brown Derby during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Legend has it, a powerful gossip columnist complained to the restaurant’s owner, Robert Cobb, that all of the desserts on the menu were too fattening. So he told his chef to put grapefruit on something, since grapefruit is known to be slimming.
Now, is the cake delicious? Yes. Light and refreshing? Yes. Healthy? Welllllllll, with the layers of decadent cream cheese frosting it’s definitely not the most healthy cake out there.
While the original Brown Derby restaurant no longer exists, there is a replica restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Disney World. They serve this cake along with other legendary dishes from the original restaurant including the Cobb Salad. I try to stop by every time I’m there. Not only is it like stepping back into time, but it is a very nice break from the heat and crowds. But, if a trip to Disney World isn’t in your immediate future, you can still make this cake at home and pretend. 😉
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
Grapefruit, well drained
Dehydrated grapefruit wedges (optional)
- First things first. If you decide to decorate your cake with dehydrated grapefruit wedges, you are going to want to dehydrate your wedges the day before you bake your cake. This is an easy (albeit time consuming) way to give your cake that extra bit of pizzazz. Preheat your oven to 170°F. Cut your grapefruit into thin (about 1/4 inch) slices, then cut those slices in half. Spread your grapefruit on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. It should take about 9 hours to fully dehydrate. I flipped my slices every 3 hours to help them dehydrate evenly.
- Time for the cake. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom with wax paper, and then lightly grease the paper. (Note: The cake will fit into one 9-inch cake pan, I prefer using two so that I don’t have to cut the cake in half. I always make a mess of it when I try. If you are more coordinated than myself, feel free to stick to one pan.)
- In a large bowl, sift together your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix together your egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Mix in your flour mixture.
- Grab another medium bowl. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks start to form.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture until just blended. When I was first making this recipe, this is where I always got tripped up. I either over mixed it or under mixed it. You separate the eggs and beat the whites to get lots and lots of air into your cake batter, which will make your cake light and fluffy. So when mixing the egg whites with the rest of your batter, you want to do your best to keep all that air in there. Folding it in helps keep all that air from escaping. Never stir it in!
- Bake the cake for 12-15 minutes (25-30 if you used one pan). Insert a toothpick into the middle of your cake. Your cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
- Make that frosting! In a medium bowl, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Add in your lemon zest and lemon juice. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar.
- Cover your bottom layer of cake with frosting. Top it with well drained grapefruit sections.
- Cover with the second layer of cake and frost the top and sides.
- Decorate and enjoy!
I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. Let me know in the comments how it turned out for you!