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The Brown Derby's Grapefruit Cake Recipe

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Photos by Ryan Kellman
Photos by Ryan Kellman

The grapefruit cake is one of those unlikely recipes that only needs one bite to sell a person on it completely. You really can taste the grapefruit in it, making it almost, strangely enough, refreshing. But never fear, it's also as sweet as you'd want a cake to be.

The cake, which seemed to disappear from Los Angeles culinary culture for a few decades, was a beloved dessert at the legendary Brown Derby, Hollywood comfort food hotspot we wrote about here.

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Fresh or canned (and well drained) fruit both work here, so it's an anytime recipe even for a locavore. We're making this cake for Mother's Day, along with the Brown Derby Cobb salad.

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Grapefruit Cake
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsps grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting
2 - 6oz packages cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 cup powdered sugar
6 to 8 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 -1 lb can grapefruit sections, or fresh grapefruit in segments

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice and lemon rind. Beat until very smooth.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry.

Gradually poor egg yolk mixture over whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir mixture. Pour into an ungreased pan.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched with finger.

Invert pan on cake rack until cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With serrated knife, gently cut layer in half.

Let cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice and rind.

Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until well-blended. Add coloring.

Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 teaspoons. Blend into frosting.

Spread frosting on top of bottom half of cake. Tap with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer. Frost top and sides, and garnish with remaining grapefruit pieces.

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Special thanks to Kevin Van.

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