Four-Layer Grapefruit Cake

A cream cheese frosting, redolent with grapefruit zest, tops this take on a legendary cake from Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby restaurant.

This is a riff on a legendary cake from the Brown Derby restaurant, an icon of the Golden Age of Hollywood (also, reputably, where the Cobb salad was invented). Be sure to thoroughly scrub the grapefruits under warm water before zesting, to remove any wax or other materials.

Mass-a-Peel: How to Pair Grapefruit
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated white grapefruit zest
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 batch grapefruit cream cheese frosting (below)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, ¾ cup sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks, grapefruit juice, zest, oil and yogurt, then gently fold into flour mixture until smooth and well blended, being careful not to overmix. In a third bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until white and foamy. Gradually add remaining ½ cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.

Working quickly, with a large silicone spatula, gently fold egg whites into batter (it’s O.K. if some small streaks of egg white remain). Transfer batter to cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry but with some crumbs stuck to it.

Leave cakes to cool on a rack. When cool enough to handle, run a spatula or knife around the edges to loosen, and remove cakes. If tops are uneven, level with a serrated knife.

Cut each cake in half horizontally to make four layers. Frost with a very thin layer of frosting between layers and a thicker one on top; frosting the sides is optional. Serves 8-10.

Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed white grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated white grapefruit zest
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream, very cold
Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting Directions

In large bowl, use electric mixer to beat cream cheese until very light and fluffy. In small bowl, mix juice, zest and sugar until very smooth, then gradually fold into cream cheese. In another bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form, then add to cream cheese mixture, beating until it’s fluffy and stiff peaks form.

Pair It

Lovo 2014 “Fior d’Arancio” Moscato Giallo, Colli Euganei, Veneto, Italy

“This sweet, sparkling wine will both complement and contrast this dessert,” says Juan Gomez, MS, wine director of The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida. “Its natural acidity enhances the fresh citrus notes of the grapefruit while cutting through the velvety and creamy textures, while the wine’s luscious ripe fruit complements the rich frosting.”

Published on December 29, 2016
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.


The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories