Saturday Snacks’ 1st Birthday: Let’s Make Hollywood Brown Derby’s Iconic Grapefruit Cake!


In the immortal words of the great Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run...". Friends, two days ago, I had to fold 'em and run from the original recipe that I had planned (and went through the steps of preparing) for today's Saturday Snacks installment. You see, it's our first birthday today and we simply ARE NOT MESSING AROUND. We have no time/patience/long suffering for a recipe that promises big things and results in far, far less than that. It's our party and we'll make a cake if we want to, thank you so very much. Into every trash can a little *bad* cake must fall. C'est la vie.

Never fear, though: we're going to celebrate with a recipe that was this close to being the one that I initially made this weekend (should've just gone with that thought, I know). As today is Saturday Snacks' first birthday, I felt that you and I needed a cake. And what better, more iconic cake to make than Hollywood Brown Derby's Grapefruit Cake?!

This time-honored dessert will be just the thing to help us celebrate today. It has appeared on the menu at Disney's Hollywood Studios' Hollywood Brown Derby in different forms over the years. And today, we'll invite a bit of that timeless Disney magic into our kitchens.

If you're new here at Saturday Snacks, welcome. Our virtual kitchen table is big enough for everyone, and we meet here each weekend to stir up some fun and deliciousness. If you'd like to catch up on the last year of Saturday Snacks adventures, click here.

I've mentioned in the past on the DIS Unplugged that the Saturday Snacks series was begun as a way to review the various Disney snacks and treats being offered throughout property. A month after I began Saturday Snacks, Walt Disney World closed due to the pandemic. What we initially thought would be a two-week closure grew into quite more than that, and it became quickly apparent that reviewing snacks that the Disney chefs made would be impossible. I would need to make the Disney snacks myself, and it turns out that it was a way for us to connect to just a bit of the Magic. Thus, Saturday Snacks, in its current form, was born. I take Disney recipes, and I make ‘em. I’m not a professional chef by a long shot, but I’m willing to try just about anything. Fast forward one year later, and here we are. It’s hard to believe.

When life gives you lemons, and in this case, grapefruit, we make grapefruit cake. The recipe for Hollywood Brown Derby's grapefruit cake stems from the original restaurant in Los Angeles in the heyday of Hollywood's glitz and glamour. The recipe itself has had a few different iterations; today, we’ll be sticking with the version found in Cooking with Mickey and the Chefs of Walt Disney World Resort.

The switcheroo of recipes had me making an early morning run to the grocery store to get a few things that were needed. I already had cake flour in the pantry left over from the Boardwalk Bakery’s Crumbcakes (heads up: if you try the crumbcakes, we discovered the need to leave the cornstarch out of the mix...ahem), but I needed to grab a lemon for both its zest and juice, a can of grapefruit segments, and a bottle of grapefruit juice.

The dessert is made by dividing one 9-inch round cake. My first step was to lightly grease the cake pan, line the bottom with wax paper, and then lightly grease the wax paper as well.

The easiest way to ensure that your wax paper is the correct size is to simply place your cake pan on the wax paper and trace around it. Cut just inside the tracing for a pretty spot-on fit.

Now is also the perfect time to finely grate your lemon zest and squeeze the lemon afterward to get the required one teaspoon of juice out of it. The lemon zest and juice of one lemon are more than enough for the recipe, so no worries. Set the zest and juice aside and preheat the oven to 350°.

Grab a large bowl out of the cabinet and toss in 1 1/2 cups of sifted cake flour, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and a half teaspoon of salt. Give everything a good stir of a whisk to make sure that things are sifted and any lumps are broken up. Technically, the recipe tells us to sift the ingredients together, and I really gave the sifting a good try, but my sifter was a bit too fine and it was taking a bit too long. My favorite whisk came to the rescue. With a few swishes, everything was looking great and was thoroughly combined.

This is the perfect time to go ahead and crack those three eggs and separate the whites from the yolks.

Into a medium bowl, place the three egg yolks, a quarter cup vegetable oil, a quarter cup of water, 3 tablespoons of grapefruit juice, and half a teaspoon of the lemon zest. Rinse off your whisk and give everything in the wet ingredients bowl a swish until it’s completely combined.

The recipe calls for us to keep whisking until things are smooth, which for me, I took a few minutes. Just keep whisking. Eventually, the mixture takes on a thicker consistency and will become a bit foamy on top.

Once the egg yolk mixture takes on a smoother texture, add in the flour mixture just a bit at a time and whisk to combine. Our whisk is getting a workout today, and I’m really not mad about it. I love getting to use that whisk. It's the little things, right? When the flour is completely worked in, set the bowl aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the three egg whites and a quarter teaspoon of cream of tartar. Turn your mixer on medium high and let the good times roll. It’ll take several minutes for the egg whites and cream of tartar to get to the point where they are beginning to form stiff peaks.

Once stiff peaks begin to form, grab a rubber spatula and fold the egg white mixture into the flour and egg yolk mixture. If you've watched Schitt’s Creek, you know that folding an ingredient in can be a bit of a tricky maneuver to fully understand. Basically, you and I need to gently work the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture by gingerly turning over one spoonful at a time. You want to be gentle; it’ll seem like it’ll never get combined when you’re in the middle of doing it, but never fear: it will. Just keep folding.

Once everything is thoroughly combined, pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and place it into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when you lightly press it. And give yourself a BIG high five. You’ve just made a chiffon cake. Way to go!

Chiffon cakes are made using oil rather than butter, and feature the folding in of stiff egg whites. The oil and the egg whites allow the cake to be a lighter, more airy cake. Instead of a dense and firm cake, you and I are left with something that has a bit of heft without the weight. And, spoiler alert, it’ll pair perfectly with the cream cheese frosting you’re about to make.

When I tested my cake at 20 minutes, it was clear that it was going to need that extra five just in case. After 25 minutes, a gloriously golden cake emerged. The top of the cake had a lovely sheen to it, and I couldn't wait to take a bite with all of the citrus goodness that had gone into it. The recipe calls for us to invert the cake while still in the pan onto a cooling rack, so I gently flipped the pan over and let the cake cool just like that.

While the cake is cooling, toss the two softened packages of cream cheese into a medium bowl and, using a hand mixer, beat them on high speed until they are a bit smoother and fluffier. Once things get nice and smooth, toss in one teaspoon each of lemon juice and lemon zest. You can also begin to add in one cup of sifted powdered sugar a bit at a time. Continue to beat everything until the ingredients are completely combined and the frosting is smooth. And revel in the lovely citrus scent wafting from the bowl.

Add six drops of yellow food coloring if you’d like. This step is completely optional, but I went ahead and added it to be as close to the original recipe as possible.

We now come to the part of the recipe that had been looming large in the distance from the word go: dividing the cake in half. Once the cake has cooled, take a spatula or knife and gently run it around the side of the pan to release the cake. Once the cake is out of the pan, peel off the wax paper, and place it on the cooling rack. I found that it was easier to cut the cake if it was a bit higher up and I could get right down next to it.

Grab a serrated knife and find the middle (height-wise) of the cake. Keeping your knife as flat and level as possible, begin using a sawing motion to cut the cake in half. You can do it. You’ve got this. If I can do it, anyone can. Take it slow and turn the cake as you go.

I cannot tell you how proud I was of myself for being able to actually cut the cake in half and have the end results be fairly level. I could have stopped the whole shebang right then and there and been happy as a clam. But it’s our birthday, so we must forge ahead. There’s cream cheese frosting to be eaten, you know.

This is the point at which that can of grapefruit segments that you purchased comes into play. Pop the top and drain off the liquid. Place the grapefruit segments on a plate lined with paper towels to allow them to dry a bit before using them in your cake. I believe that this is the first time in all my days that I have ever purchased a can of grapefruit segments. There’s a first for everything.

Place the bottom half of your cake onto a plate and cover it with cream cheese frosting. The recipe doesn’t exactly say how much frosting, but you can layer on a generous amount and still have plenty for the top and sides of the cake. Spread the frosting out evenly.

The recipe that we're using today calls for us to now lay out several of the grapefruit segments on top of the frosting that we have just added to the bottom. Subsequent versions of the recipe call for the segments to be chopped up and added to the frosting (and still other versions have us adding chopped up segments to only half of the frosting), but I decided to stick with the version of the recipe that I had in the cookbook, so I kept the segments whole. When I make the cake again, I will be chopping up the segments and adding them to the half of the frosting that covers the bottom layer of the cake. While the end result was quite good, I think that having the grapefruit sprinkled throughout the middle will lend a more consistent grapefruit flavor. And, I believe it will be a hair closer to the version that is currently being served at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

Place the top of the cake onto the bottom layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. I don’t know what it is about me and frosting the sides of cakes, but I am fairly convinced that I am just not good at it. It’s just hard to get the icing to stick to the side sometimes. Thankfully, the cream cheese frosting behaved beautifully, and as long as I took things slowly and just a little bit at a time, everything came out a-okay. Whew.

The recipe calls for us to top the whole thing off with the remaining grapefruit segments. Once you’ve got all those little babies on top, stand back and admire what you’ve done. You just made a cake. A first birthday cake. And a FANCY first birthday cake at that!

If the taste of grapefruit isn’t your thing and you’re a bit nervous about making this cake, don’t be. While grapefruit is definitely a part of the recipe, I found that the lemon taste is more at the forefront, and combines with that dreamy cream cheese to make one glorious cake.

Because it’s a chiffon cake, it’s light instead of being heavy and overbearing. You can wolf down a piece of this cake without batting an eye. Trust me. I speak from experience.

As I mentioned earlier, I will definitely break up the grapefruit segments that cover the bottom layer of the cake and incorporate them into the icing when I next make this cake. The whole segments are fine, but they can be a bit tough to cut. And while those bites have a lot of grapefruit going on, there are others that don’t. I would like to have more of a consistent grapefruit flavor throughout the entire thing.

Friends, this one’s a winner. I will be making this one again. It’s fancy, has roots in history, and has Disney magic written all over it. What’s not to love?

In the end, Hollywood Brown Derby’s Grapefruit Cake is the perfect dessert for our first birthday. How could we not do anything but re-create the signature dessert from one of Walt Disney World‘s most iconic restaurants to mark one year of Saturday Snacks?

I could easily get quite blubbery and teary-eyed thinking over the last year of meeting here with you on Saturday mornings. What was supposed to be a series based on my reviews of Walt Disney World snacks turned into a shared weekly experience. You and I have invited a little Disney magic into our kitchens one weekend at a time. Has every recipe turned out perfectly? No, not by a long shot (for reference: THE SNACK WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED). But was every recipe an adventure? Absolutely. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thank you so, so much for being a part of the Saturday Snacks community. Whether this is your first time reading a Saturday Snacks article, or your 43rd, you’re a part of the team. We’ve done this together, and it’s been a blast. There are so many recipes yet to be made, and I can’t wait to continue meeting with you around our virtual kitchen table every Saturday morning as we make them.

Whatever your weekend holds, I hope that it's filled with a bit of laughter, a bit of rest, and a whole lot of something sweet. Happy birthday, friends.

Ready to whip up an iconic Walt Disney World dessert? The recipe is below:

Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated 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 finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
  • 1 can (16 ounces) grapefruit sections, drained well
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch by 2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and lightly grease the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice and lemon zest until smooth. Whisk in the flour mixture.
  4. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar just to stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. Invert the cake, still in the pan, and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Run a spatula or a table knife around the edge of the cake. Carefully remove the cake from the pan. With a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally.
  7. Spread the Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting on the bottom half of the cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover with the second layer of the cake and frost the top and the sides.
  8. Serve the cake garnished with remaining grapefruit sections.

Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 6 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat until well blended. Add the food coloring, if desired.