Cake Bake Shop Restaurant Coming to BoardWalk Inn at Disney World

Walt Disney World is reimagining BoardWalk Inn and adding of Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers, a new table service restaurant and bakery replacing ESPN Club. This post shares details about what’s on the horizon, including construction photos of the dining spot. (Updated April 27, 2023.)

This follows reimaginings of Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Village Resorts, which brought with them a range of enhancements including character-inspired guest rooms (Incredibles and Moana, respectively). It also comes after lobby overhauls to a number of resorts, and as Walt Disney World embarks upon a similar project at the Grand Floridian Resort. Expect elements of those enhancements to appear at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, too.

In terms of what the project will entail, the announcement is fairly vague, with Disney stating that it’ll be making “a seaside splash at Disney’s BoardWalk!” 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.

Per Walt Disney World, the first of these major additions to debut will be storybook sweet treats and dreamy desserts at The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers, a new table service restaurant and bakery that’s sure to delight.

Expected to open in Late 2023, 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.

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.

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.

With those details out of the way, let’s take a look at construction progress on the Cake Bake Shop as of Spring 2023:

The most notable visible development we’ve seen in the last few months is the complete demolition of the tower of what was once the ESPN Club. Interestingly, this has been rebuilt rather than repurposed as the structure transforms into The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers. That makes sense given that the new structure will be mostly windows, whereas the former was entirely walls.

Additionally, there’s a new permit is 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.)

More work is likely happening this summer nearby along the promenade, as Trattoria al Forno and the BoardWalk Pizza Window will be closed for refurbishment June 11 to 17, 2023. This is a few doors down from the future Cake Bake Shop, and the locations in between are not closing, so this closure is likely unrelated.

During the refurbishment, Trattoria al Forno will serve a limited breakfast menu during those dates, but not in its own dining room. Instead, guests who do breakfast will be directed to the Flying Fish dining room.

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.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


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!

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