Brown Derby Cake

Brown Derby cake.

This past weekend we celebrated my wonderful mom’s birthday.

If you’ve ever met my brother, you’d know he’s a tough talker. He has a bit of a potty-mouth, he’s extremely smart, and he’s a bit conceited. So overall he sounds like a know-it-all with a smart mouth. He’s also a fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and continues to teach students training to go to national competitions. He can do ridiculous flips and wield a sword. He’s not one to be messed with.

But if you get to know him a little better, he’s not as tough as he seems to be.

After several mishaps and uncertainties with the first cake idea I had, I called him asking for suggestions.

“What kind of cake do you think I should make Mom?”

“Brown Derby” was his immediate response, quickly defended with, “It’s the only cake I know she likes.”

And he was right.

You see, when we were growing up, all of our birthday cakes consisted of a Brown Derby cake created by our local pastry shoppe. I’ve never seen a Brown Derby cake since that time but the thought of it brought back some wonderful memories. So with the help of Google, I came up with a version of our favorite childhood cake that pleased the entire family.

If you’ve never tried one of these babies, it’s essentially a chocolate cake filled with a fruit and whipped cream filling including strawberries, bananas, and peaches (as I remember it). I created mine with a rich devil’s food cake filled with fresh strawberries, fresh ripe bananas, canned peaches, and a handful of blueberries folded into a gelatinous whipped cream mixture (that in hindsight could simply have been the fruit and whipped cream without the extra ingredients/steps). It was a throwback to our childhood and my mom was pleased that we had remembered.

Happy birthday, Mommy!

Brown Derby Cake
cake adapted from Dorie’s Baking From My Home to Yours
filling adapted from Taste of Home

For cake:

  • 1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 c whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 4 oz semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped

For filling:

  • 1 package unflavored gelatin (~1 tbsp)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz fresh strawberries, sliced thinly
  • 1 15 oz can sliced peaches, drained
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced thinly
  • handful of fresh blueberries

For topping:

  • 1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c confectioner’s sugar, sifted (plus more to taste)

For cake: Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 1 round cake pan and 1 medium-sized mixing bowl (oven-safe!) with butter and a healthy dusting of flour or confectioner’s sugar. Line the round cake pan with parchment paper as well.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter on medium speed until soft. Add both sugars and continue beating for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla. At this point things may look curdled but keep on beating. On low speed, add melted chocolate. Then add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with the milk in 2 additions. Mix just until incorporated. Add in the boiling water which will thin down the luscious batter. Finally, stir in the chopped chocolate with a rubber spatula. Divide the cake evenly between the prepared pan and prepared bowl. Bake separately in the preheated oven. The round cake will take about 25-30 minutes. The bowl took me closer to an hour to set properly. When you insert a knife into the center of the cake, it should come out clean. Allow cake to cool for several minutes before running a knife/spatula around the sides, unmolding, and allowing to cool completely to room temperature.

For filling: (Again, as above, you can simply mix the fruit with whipped cream sweetened slightly with confectioner’s sugar if desired. This recipe gives a bit more solid filling with the addition of gelatin.) Stir gelatin in milk to soften. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff and add the sugar in slowly, mixing to combine. Heat the gelatin and milk mixture over very low heat for several minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. With the mixer on, pour the warmed mixture over the egg whites and mix well. Add in vanilla. Cool to warm before folding in prepared fruits.

In a separate bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks (you can use your dirty beaters). Fold in to fruit mixture.

For topping: Beat heavy cream in a clean bowl until stiff peaks. Add sugar to taste.

For assembly: Once cakes are cooled, level both cakes, reserving scraps (take a bit off even if your cakes came our perfectly which mine never ever do). Take round cake and place on stand. Top with as much filling as desired. (I only did one big fat layer of filling and used about 3/4 of it. In hindsight, you can cut the cake baked in the bowl into two layers and then have two layers of filling with three layers of cake. Just saying.) Top with cake baked in the bowl. Using a spatula, spread sweetened whipped topping all over cake. Finally, crumble scraps and press into whipped topping. If your scraps a little too moist, you can spread them over a baking sheet and dry them out a bit in a warmed oven.

Messy cakes are always the most delicious in my opinion!

What cake did you used to eat growing up?


  1. Happy birthday to you mom! I definitely agree that some of the most delicious cakes are messy as hell 8). I love the story of you recreating a childhood favorite your mom would get you, but for her now. My childhood birthday cakes were basically yellow cake from the box with white or cream cheese frosting from the can. Now I never touch the stuff, but I still have a bit o’ nostalgia over the taste when I encounter it.

  2. briarrose Said:

    What a thoughtful cake to make. I’m sure your mother loved it. 😉 I’ve never actually had a brown derby cake before, but it looks wonderful.

  3. ShawnsPlate Said:

    Happy Belated Birthday to your mom!

    I’d never heard of or seen a brown derby cake until your post. I don’t care about the mess, it looks and sounds incredibly good! I’m sure that I’ll give it a try soon.

    The favorite cake of my childhood is vanilla cake with caramel icing and toasted coconut.

  4. Sues Said:

    Awww I love re-making old childhood favorites from scratch 🙂 I’m glad your mom enjoyed it! It looks delicious 🙂

  5. Joanne Said:

    I ate a lot of cakes growing up. A. Lot. But I’ve never heard of a brown derby before! Seems like i’m missing out. Severely.

    This looks wonderful and it was SO sweet of you to do so much research about what kind of cake your mom would have wanted. Best daughter EVER!

  6. What a delicious cake to celebrate your mom’s birthday!

  7. julie Said:

    i’m definitely going to try this recipe. i LOVE the brown derby cake too and i can’t find it anymore. i see like quasi-doppelgangers, but not the real thing. yours looks authentic!

  8. Doreen Said:

    You can get this cake at the VIKING BAKERY in Denville, NJ I will be making this for my husbands birthday. He grew up with this cake, I have never had it before we drove from Vermont down to Denville, just to try it. AWESOME !!!

  9. DAT Said:

    I’m so glad I found this! We used to get this incredible cake at King’s Gourmet Deli in Boca Raton, FL for special occasions, but they’ve been closed for a few years. My 12 y/o daughter announced to me recently that for her 13th birthday in January, she wants this cake!! So, here I am trolling the internet looking for it….and, thanks to you, I’ve found it!!!
    My favorite cake is devil’s food with 7 minute frosting or Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting…but I’ll take the Brown Derby any day!!

  10. Sandra Said:

    Thank you for posting this recipe. My daughter remembers her grandfather(my dad) bringing this cake home from the Ritz Bakery in Manasquan NJ. She tried to order it from her bakery in SC, but they had never heard of it. We will be baking this during strawberry season this year. Maybe we can create some fantastic memories for my grandson too!

  11. J-Dawg Said:

    Made this for my wife last year, and it was a hit. (She remembered it from a bakery in her youth, I think — back in Jersey.) She requested it again for her birthday on Friday. I just use a cake mix and the simple version of the filling, and it’s still quite good.

  12. Sharlene,

    I was recently introduced to this cake and it was delicious. You’re right, it is a bit messy but that makes it all the better.

    It is so much fun recreating childhood memories in the kitchen. My favorite cake growing up was my mom’s Black Forest. Oddly enough, I’ve never tried to make it.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe and some of your memories.


  13. agnes dallos Said:

    You can buy the Brown derby cake at the Yellow cottage in Branchville, NJ but you have to call them to make sure you get one, you can buy a whole cake for 20.00 or a half of cake I think for 10.00.

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