Brown Derby Grapefruit Cupcakes

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Grapefruit Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood was famous for a variety of reasons: it was the “it” hangout for celebrities back in the day (Clark Gable, Lucille Ball…), the iconic dome shaped architecture that resembled a man’s Derby hat, the supposed birthplace of the Cobb salad… and last (but not least) the origin of the legendary Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake!  Although the original Brown Derby restaurants no longer exist, apparently, you can still find this cake at the replica Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant run by Disney at their Hollywood studios in Orlando, Florida.

I had 3 homegrown organic grapefruit globes sitting on my kitchen counter… begging to be turned into something other than grapefruit marmalade.  What a perfect time to test out the Brown Derby Grapefruit cake recipe!  But… I was not in a cake-assembly & frosting mood… so I decided to turn this into a cupcake recipe.  The cupcakes turned out really cute… I garnished each one with a grapefruit section.  For this recipe, I used the zest of the 3 grapefruits, the juice of one, and sections cut out from the remaining 2 grapefruits.  A change from the Disney Hollywood Studios recipe:  I used grapefruit zest and juice instead of lemon, and omitted the crushed grapefruit sections from the original frosting recipe.

Brown Derby Grapefruit Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 c. cake flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 tsp grapefruit zest
  • 3 T. grapefruit juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 tsp. grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. grapefruit zest
  • 3 drops yellow food color

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.


2.  Mix water, oil, zest, grapefruit juice, and egg yolks in a measuring cup.

3.  Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites.

4.  Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

5.  Mix the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture with a wire whisk.

6.  Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter.

7.  Fold the second 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter.

8.  Fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.  It’s ok to still have some ribbons of white.

9.  Pour the batter into paper lined cupcake wells.  You should get about 17-18 cupcakes.

10.  Bake the cupcakes about 20 minutes.  Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

11.  While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.  Mix the cream cheese, grapefruit juice, and zest.

12.  Add the powdered sugar, and beat until fluffy.  (Keep it on low speed at first, the turn up the speed.)  Add the food coloring, if desired.  Spoon the frosting into a gallon sized ziploc bag fitted with a large star tip.  (Or you can just snip off the edge of the bag for a simple piping design).

13.  Frost the cupcakes, and decorate with slices of grapefruit if desired.  (I fitted a large ziploc bag with a star tip, and piped the frosting in a swirl pattern over the tops.)