Not a lot of people know that I used to live in New Jersey. In fact, I spent the first half of my childhood in Parsippany. We lived half an hour from the city (New York City, that is), and life was great. For every special occasion, my family and I would go to a local bakery in the Short Hills area and order a brown derby cake. Brown derby cakes must be a Jersey thing because nobody around here has ever heard of them. A brown derby cake is a devil’s food cake with a whipped cream and fruit filling. The cake is frosted with whipped cream and covered in devil’s food cake crumbs. It’s called a brown derby cake because the domed shape is supposed to resemble a derby hat.
I had the most difficult time finding a brown derby cake recipe for Addison’s 2nd birthday. I came across two recipes, and neither piqued my interest. (Side note – apparently there is a place in California called the Brown Derby that makes a grapefruit cake. Most of my search resulted in recipes for this.)
Finally, I came across a YouTube video by someone calling themselves the Crumb Boss. I was intrigued and thought I’d check it out. Crumb Boss is a bakery owner/pastry chef in New Jersey, so I figured that her recipe was trustworthy and tried it out.
I’m so glad I tried the Crumb Boss’ recipe! This cake gives me great memories of my old stomping grounds. The cake is not too dense and is paired nicely with the whipped cream and fruit filling. The outer cake crumbs help the cake from being over the top with whipped cream (I am not usually a fan of whipped cream). My parents were overjoyed when I told them that I was looking for a brown derby cake recipe, and they loved it! Addison, the birthday girl, even enjoyed a slice!
The cake did seem a bit on the dry side when we cut into it to eat, even though I had stored it in the refrigerator overnight (for one night). I may try a different version of devil’s food cake next time or serve it on the same day to prevent overdrying. Otherwise, this cake was a pretty good imitation of what we used to buy in New Jersey!
Addison, my mom and I (photo courtesy of my brother–he uses a professional Nikon camera)
Brown derby cake
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces butter softened
- 2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 5 eggs
- 6 ounces buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream filling and frosting
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar or to taste if you like sweeter or less sugar
- Gelatin mixture directions below; I used 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar instead
Brown derby cake filling
- Strawberries hulled and sliced
- Canned peaches drained (can use pre-bought or homemade peach pie filling)
- 1 banana sliced
Make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. While the butter is creaming, sift all dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, salt) in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- Add eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time. Then add half the dry ingredients. Mix well.
- Add half the buttermilk and then the remainder of the dry ingredients. Finally, add the rest of the buttermilk and then the vanilla extract.
- Bake in three 8-inch round pans for 35 minutes or until center is springy. (I used three 10-inch pans and baked for 25 minutes).
Make the whipped cream filling and frosting
- If using gelatin, "bloom" 1 Tablespoon of gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water for 5 minutes.
- While gelatin is "blooming," whip the cream in a stand mixer (or a handheld one). Slowly add the confectioners sugar and cream of tartar (if using) until you reach stiff peaks.
- Melt 1 TBSP of the gelatin mixture in the microwave on low for about 10 seconds or until melted. Add the mixture to the whipped cream to help it stabilize. (Again, I did not use gelatin so I skipped this step.)
Assemble the cake
- Put one layer of the chocolate cake down on a cake pedestal or a cake board. Build a whipped cream "wall" around the circumference of the cake. Do this twice so you have two layers of whipped cream. Crumb Boss uses a large star tip, but any tip will do.
- Fill the inside of the cake with peaches, strawberries and bananas.
- Add more whipped cream to the top of the cake so your cake now looks like a pyramid on the top.
- Take the second layer of cake and crumble it so you have a lot of small crumbs and set aside. (I added a second layer of cake, whipped cream and fruit filling and crumbled the third layer instead.)
- With the final layer of cake, cut a wedge out of it so it looks like Pac-Man. Fold the Pac-Man layer into a cone and set it on top of the cake. (I ran out of whipped cream so I skipped this step. Instead, I crumbled this layer and used it as the exterior crumb for the cake.)
- Using an offset spatula, smooth out the whipped cream all around the top and the sides of the cake. To get a perfectly smooth surface, use a parchment cut into the shape of a triangle and using one swift motion, drag the parchment from the bottom to the top of the cake and over to the other side. (I did not do this step.)
- Add the cake crumbs over the cake and garnish with additional strawberries if desired.
I didn't know you used to live in NJ! Also, if you checked my blog you would have seen my recipe for this…I made it for my MIL last year (and hadn't heard of it before that…and kept finding grapefruit recipes, too!). Looks great!
Thanks, Melissa! I did see your recipe and LOVE Hershey's perfectly chocolate cake but knew that it would be too moist for the texture I wanted to achieve so I went with a different cake base. I'm so happy that someone else has heard of this cake other than me! Yours turned out beautifully!
This cake looks sooo good! I've never had a derby cake, must try now! 🙂 Yum!!
it definitely is a Jersey thing! I'm from there, too – and it we used to have it for special occasions at my Grandmothers house. Mostly I bake cupcakes… some friends even call me Kara Cupkake, lol – and I spend most of my free time at the rink, too –but for me it is the roller rink. Thanks for sharing your recipe – I'm going to try to make Brown Derby cupcakes, mmmm.Thanks again, have a good weekend!
Crumb Boss is Now calledhttps://www.facebook.com/WoodlandBakeryWonder desserts,recipes,Gretchen Price at Woodland Bakery.
Thanks for letting me know, Jennifer!
Thanks for posting, I look for this every year as my birthday approaches. This was my favorite dessert at a restaurant on Miami Beach, and it was my wedding cake (minus the crumbs), when we had our reception there 45 years ago. I am going with Kara's idea and making cupcakes next weekend.
A cupcake version sounds divine. That is so cool that you had Brown Derby cake as your wedding cake. I wish I could have done the same!
There’s a bakery in Sussex County NJ that sells them. Have once a year on grand daughter’s birthday. Special treat
I’m so jealous! I haven’t had a real, authentic brown derby cake in 35+ years!
What is the name of the bakery in sussex county that sells the brown derby? i used to by it at the Viking bakery in Denville but they closed. thanks!
Oh gosh, I can’t remember! I lived there before I was 10 so was very young.
Yellow cottage in Branchville NJ
Kathy, what is the name of the bakery in Sussex County NJ? Would like to order one for sister’s birthday!
The Yellow Cottage!!
Yes, Yellow Cottage Bakery! Awesome Brown Derby Cake (not a baker, so I just buy them
So glad I found your recipe from one NJ Girl to another thank you. I now live in the southwest and they just understand east coast food and Dessert
So glad I found your recipe from one NJ Girl to another thank you. I now live in the southwest and it’s hard to find our great foods from the east coast .
Awesome – you just made my day!!
The best cake for this is a homemade Devils Food cake. If I can ever find my recipe, it was one of the best ever.
My early 2000 searches for the Brown Derby also was for the grapefruit type. Hlad to see more or the type we grew up with. We enjoyed them for birthdays in CT and had a local bakery that made an awesome one!
I will have to try it with a devils food cake next time! Glad you were also able to enjoy the brown derby cake growing up!
We used to get brown derby cakes at a fantastic little bakery near/in Neptune, NJ and I haven’t seen any bakery with something like it in the 20+ years I’ve lived in Maryland. Thank you so much for the memories!!
If you find a bakery that sells the brown derby cakes, please let me know!!
They make them here and they’re awesome! Sussex Cty NJ
Im late with this but in Hackensack at B&W Bakery they make them!!!! And u can get the famous crumb cake while your there!
Ahhhhhh! Road trip!!!
I worked in a bakery in Edison NJ, La Bonbonair, as a teenager, this was my favorite cake of all time. I have not had this in probably 20 yrs and cannot wait to make it! Thanks to you and google.
I loooooove brown derby cake! We had it for every special occasion and I miss it terribly!
I worked in a bakery in Edison NJ, La Bon bonair, as a teenager, this was my favorite cake of all time. I have not had this in probably 30 yrs and cannot wait to make it! Thanks to you and google.
I used to get this cake for birthdays from Termini’s Bakery in South Philadelphia. It was assembled by using a plastic lined , with six inch overhang, large domed bowl with the cake cutouts to cover the outside and bottom surfaces with cake baked on a sheet tray. After lining the dome, fill with stabilized whipped cream. Add your fresh fruits, strawberry, banana, blackberries, kiwi and dried off canned peaches. Add another layer of cake to cover and then another filling of whipped cream and mixed fruit. Continue layering until you reach almost to the top of the bowl. Fit in your last layer of cake to seal it closed. Cover with the plastic wrap. Place In the refrigerator to set up for a few hours or overnight. Move plastic wrap aside. Lay on serving plate or board and unmold cake. Remove plastic wrap and dust with the fine cake crumbs you have left over. Even though these instructions are long winded, it is a really easy cake to make. Let me know if you make it and how it turned out.
Thank you so much for these tips, Terri!
That should have said use a chocolate cake recipe of your choice and also line the bowl on the inside…not outside. Sorry.
I get this cake every year for my wife’s birthday at Publix Grocery store, they are based in Florida but have stores in Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
I didn’t know that Publix sold these cakes!!
La Scala bakery in Toms River,NJ sells these cakes. We always buy on for our daughters birthday. It was her favorite.
I need to take a road trip there! Thanks for sharing, Barbara!
Grew up in NY. This is a version of my favorite cake. We called them Molly Brown cakes though!!
I haven’t heard of Molly Brown cakes but it’s good to know that they are the same thing!
I grew up in Parsippany too! In fact I was just there this past weekend and came home with a Brown Derby from Calandras bakery. I live in VA now. I was just thinking about how I could try to make this cake and came across your site. I look forward to trying it.
Hooray for Parsippany! I’m happy that you were able to find a brown derby cake – I miss them so much! Hopefully this version is a decent alternative to the real thing. 🙂