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Tuesday, July 12, 2005 

The Brown Derby (1926 - 1985)

Mention the Brown Derby, and images of Hollywood's Golden Age spring to mind.

It was one of the most valued "seen and be seen" venues in the city. The stars made the Brown Derby their second home. At one point, the Vine Street location stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The most prominent customers, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Jean Harlow, William Powell and Joan Crawford sat in booths on the desirable north side beneath caricatures of themselves drawn originally by artist Eddie Vitch, who sketched in exchange for meals.

The stories are legendary: Clark Gable proposed to Carole Lombard at the Brown Derby, and Lucille Ball and Jack Haley fought a duel with flying dinner rolls, a classic food fight that ended in a truce.

I remember watching the stars head to the Ambassador for their soirees after awards ceremonys...and I actually did get to eat in the Hollywood Brown Derby before it was closed. Of course it didn't have that same "aura" as when it was the toast of hollywood, but I could feel the history in the booths.

There were numerous locations....(Hollywood, Los Feliz) the first and most recognizable one being the brown bowler shaped building on Wilshire Boulevard. (pictured above) Built in 1926, it stood right across the street from the Ambassador Hotel (built in 1921) and the infamous night club, the Cocoanut Grove. It was also not far from the Bullocks Wilshire Building, one of the most beautiful art deco buildings in the United States.

Although The Derby was known for being the birthplace of "
the Cobb Salad", this Grapefruit cake was a popular luncheon dessert and has a cult following in the Los Angeles area.


1-1/2 cups sifted cake Flour
3/4 cup granulated Sugar
1-1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
3 Eggs, separated
3 Tbsp Grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp grated Lemon peel
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice and lemon peel. Beat until very smooth. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir mixture. Pour into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly with finger. Invert cake on cake rack and cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With a serrated knife, gently cut layer in half.

Grapefruit Cream-Cheese Frosting
2 3oz packages Cream-cheese
2 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp grated Lemon peel
3/4 cup Powdered sugar, sifted
6-8 drops Yellow food coloring
Grapefruit sections, well-drained

Let cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice and rind. Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until blended. Add coloring. Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 tsps. Blend into frosting. Spread frosting on bottom half of cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer. Frost top and sides, garnish with remaining grapefruit.

sounds so intriguing!!! i will definitely try it next time i have a grapefruit on hand! it's one of my favorite flavors!


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