The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers is a new table service restaurant at Walt Disney World that’ll likely open in 2024. It’ll offer sit-down dining and a bakery, replacing ESPN Club at the BoardWalk. This post shares details about what’s on the horizon, including current construction photos. (Updated August 30, 2023.)
Per Walt Disney World, the Cake Bake Shop is one of many additions as part of a major reimagining of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. Over the next few years, Walt Disney World is adding and reimagining elements of the beloved turn-of-the-century promenade and inside the Deluxe Resort, including a charming new lobby design, nearby coffee bar, delectable dining options, refreshed guest rooms, and other special touches.
The Cake Bake Shop Restaurant will offer both savory and dessert menus, along with afternoon tea service, in a whimsical atmosphere that complements the magic of the idyllic charm of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn that guests know and love. This new concept will serve up storybook sweet treats and dreamy desserts, as The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers makes a “seaside splash” at Disney’s BoardWalk.
Since the original announcement, Walt Disney World has released new concept art for the Cake Bake Shop, and how its exterior will be redesigned as it takes shape from the closed ESPN Club. As shown in this concept art, there will be two entrances.
The existing entrance will become the bakery, and another will be added for the restaurant. In addition to that, large french doors will open to the outside, keeping the space light and airy–a stark contrast to the ESPN Club.
August 30, 2023 Update: The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers has updated its official website to remove the banner that it’s opening in 2023. The website now simply says that the Cake Bake Shop at Walt Disney World is “Coming Soon.”
This should be of absolutely no surprise to anyone who has watched construction “progress” (and I use that term very lightly) on the Cake Bake Shop over the course of the last year. This project has somehow moved even slower than CommuniCore Hall in EPCOT, as the structure of the former ESPN Club has been taken down to the studs, and the cupola atop the building has been entirely rebuilt.
In Disney Parks Official Opening Timelines vs. Predictions, we indicated that there was no chance that the Cake Bake Shop would open this year, and that the most likely target is now Summer 2024. Honestly, if the current pace is maintained, it wouldn’t surprise me if it opens in Late 2024 or even 2025.
Presumably, they’ll speed up the pace at some point, but it’s been anemic this entire year. The photos in this post are from this month, and honestly don’t look much different from the photos I took in June or July. At this point, I wouldn’t count on dining at the Cake Bake Shop on your 2024 Walt Disney World vacation if you’re visiting in the first half of the year.
I’m of two minds about this exterior concept art for the Cake Bake Shop. On the one hand, the bakery entrance reminds me of a faux storefront of a high end shop inside a ritzy mall. That’s not meant as a positive.
On the other hand, the restaurant side softens up the blocky and uninviting exterior of the former ESPN Club, which never looked quite right as compared to the rest of the BoardWalk. (It was simply more familiar to most fans, since it had always been there.) I don’t expect this to be a perfect fit, either, but it should be better than ESPN Club.
Additionally, a permit was filed for the “buildout of the Cake Bake Shop at Disney” with work to be completed by Johnson-Lancaster and Associates, a company that bills itself as the “proven food service equipment team.”
This permit is actually signed by Gwendolyn Rogers, which is rare direct involvement at this level of a project. You don’t see Bob Iger’s signature on Imagineering permits! (Obviously, the Cake Bake Shop is much smaller scale–but it’s nevertheless nice to see personal involvement. BoardWalk has been home to uninvested celebrity chef concepts in the past.)
With this new table service restaurant and sweet spot on the horizon, the BoardWalk Bakery has become BoardWalk Deli, a “new” sandwich shop for guests to enjoy a bite along the water’s edge. This joins other food and beverage locations, like BoardWalk Ice Cream.
Inside Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, light and airy touches will reinvigorate the lobby, lounge, and guest rooms. Just off the lobby, a new coffee bar with artisanal beverages and quick bites will be available to-go or in newly refreshed seating spaces inside or outdoors.
In a perfect world, Disney would relocate ESPN Club to former location of the short-lived NBA Experience, giving the company’s flagship sports brand an even larger location–and one that’s easier to access for locals. There’s a lot from NBA Experience that could presumably be reused and repurposed, with the venue becoming a hybrid interactive experience and sports bar.
I would not expect that to happen–that move is simply too logical. More likely, Walt Disney World is satisfied with the number of small sports bars in other resorts (and large third party ones at Disney Springs) and ESPN Club will fade away.
We are vaguely familiar with the Cake Bake Shop as it’s incredibly popular in Indianapolis, where we used to live. Neither of us have ever been there (it’s my understanding that it books up months in advance), but all of our friends and Sarah’s family rave about it. Locally, Gwendolyn Rogers is an aspirational success story.
In fact, between the time this news broke and we prepared to publish the story, Sarah has received multiple cake photo-filled text messages from family and friends, some of whom are not even Disney fans, who are excited about the news. Word travels fast in Indy, I guess.
The Cake Bake Shop’s second location in Carmel, Indiana is enormous, so that should explain how they’re going to fill a space as large as ESPN Club. (Above photo is not from the Cake Bake Shop–I was just reminiscing about my favorite Disney cakes and found that.)
Personally, I was hoping that would be turned into a themed escape room, but world-class cake shop is a nice consolation prize. I’m always looking for new and innovative excuses to eat cake, and this should fit the bill nicely.
Excited for the Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers or will you miss ESPN Club? Think this reimagining will work with the hotel theme, or is it unnecessary? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!