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.
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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!
I’m absolutely ecstatic that they’re opening a Cake Bake location at a Disney property! I’ve followed their social media for years as a pink-loving former pastry chef, and actually travelled all the way from Atlanta to Indy twice now to dine in at the Carmel location.
The first time I went during Christmas last year for their afternoon tea and everything was phenomenal; they added edible gold glitter to almost everything and the the portions were very generous. It was $65 per person (less for children) and I was stuffed by the time we were done. They also had an option to add champagne or a cocktail from their regular menu for an additional fee. The second visit was the weekend before Easter and we ordered off the regular menu. I had a slice of one of the best quiches I’ve ever had and a cup of soup and was so full that I couldn’t finish! Their raspberry champagne cake is absolutely decadent, and the Marie Antoinette macaron sandwich is delicious and gorgeous to look at.
The decor and service was impeccable both times, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this new Disney location differs
I am interested in the afternoon tea. Do you think it will be ADR? or walk-in?
I’d fully expect it to be an ADR, and probably a pretty popular one. Everyone we know in Indy loves this place—it’s going to be hugely popular with the core WDW demo.
To me, the bakery entrance sure looks a lot like the Boardwalk Deli a few stores down.
Excited at the idea of another place in WDW doing an afternoon tea service. The Grand Floridian’s service was lovely (if overpriced).
Hi Tom! I wonder if Disney ever considered adding something directly from the boardwalks that “the Boardwalk” is supposed to be an idealized version of? The boardwalk feels like its meant to be an idealized version of your Cape May’s, Atlantic City’s of yesteryear, so why not add an iconic brand name restaurant from those Boardwalks? Given the high number of Disney fans that flock here from those areas (New Jersey, New York, etc), I am sure people would love a good slice of Mack/Mancos, Kohrs ice cream, lemonade, etc.? And not just Disney’s version of those items, but the actual thing. Just a thought!
Imagine an Uncle Bill’s, Kohr Bros, or Peace Pie in WDW? That would be incredible!
The coffee shop is replacing a store location in BW (store already shut down). BWV are getting a refurb too, starting in 2023. Rooms already getting taken out of inventory. It should be a hard refurb, last one was over 14 years ago.
Have you heard anything about Free Dining returning this year?
I fear I may have to cancel my Nov vacation with the crazy price increases lately and with no free dining as well.
I’m very happy that the rooms will be getting a refresh and that a coffee bar will be added. But like you, I worry about the fate of the lobby. It is my favorite lobby at WDW, simultaneously charming, beautiful, and quirky. Please leave it alone, Disney!
I will be staying at the Boardwalk Inn in May 2023. We are staying in a friend’s Timeshare and the unit is $3,000 for seven days. Is it cheaper to go on your own or stay in a timeshare? Thanks for your review?
We had planned to stay at Boardwalk Villas, but had to cancel the trip (for obvious reasons). Do you think it would be better to avoid staying here during the refurbishment and look to book elsewhere? It looked like the Polynesian was quite a mess for a while there during its renos.
We are at BoardWalk villas now, one of our homes. We love the convenient location. Let me say that we stayed at Rivera for a week, then 3 weeks at OKW before moving to BoardWalk so I might compare some points as these 3 properties are fresh in my mind. We’ve been here a week and have another couple of weeks here. We cook in our kitchen in the villa. First shocker when we moved in was the size of the refrigerator. Rivera and Old Key West both have full size refrigerators. BoardWalk villas is much smaller. Opening the dishwasher is tight as it knocks against a drawer knob. But all in all, it is adequate for our needs and we adjust. It is old but our BoardWalk view is really nice. Having more public rooms like Beach Club does would be nice. We have stayed in BoardWalk Inn when we do a last minute trip, concierge, in the 2 story garden area. That’s all that is left usually last minute. Quaint room set up with the bathroom on a different floor than the bedroom. Concierge is the best. BoardWalk needs a whole new kitchen area not a sprucing up. I loved the tub at Rivera with the bubble bottom. OKW did somewhat of a bathroom redo changing one sink area completely with new cabinets, very nice. One adequate sink and one small sink at BoardWalk could use that redo. It has been raining here this week so getting to the Community Center has not been easy. Love our covered balcony though. It’s the first time we have had that.
We stayed at the Yacht Club the first week in February. Our last day was spent on the BoardWalk. The BoardWalk Bakery had THE best sandwiches we ate all week. The Butter Butter and The Gobbler. (and an amazing snicker-doodle muffin!!!) Also the staff at the restaurant were extra nice and charming. We loved the public spaces of The BoardWalk Inn, the cozy/rich antique feel. We never have stayed here because the actual rooms seem stuffy-old-aunt-abandoned-guestroom. I hope that someday, when they get their make-over, they will be a bit more fine. and I wish all the guest rooms in all the hotels would get rid of the carpet.
Great article, as usual!
I think your idea of moving ESPN from Boardwalk to Disney Springs using the retired NBA Experience space is an excellent one! ESPN is awesome (and I’m not even a sports fan). I don’t see the smaller sports venues taking its place during football season or the big games.
Really looking forward to the Cake Bake Shoppe though. It looks amazing! It’ll fit right into the BW vibe.
As for themes for the BW Inn, I love the subtle Dumbo theme idea posted by another reader. A gentle nod to a nostalgic past…
We’ve never stayed at Boardwalk, but we love to visit while we’re staying at Beach Club. We’re always surprised by the lack of options for food there. We’d welcome anything new.
As for themes or IPs introduced into the rooms, classic Mickey and Minnie would be great, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing an old classic like Dumbo making a subtle appearance, and it would seem to fit right in with the carnival/boardwalk atmosphere!
The Boardwalk Inn has always been a favorite of ours, but during our most recent stay in November, it was very obvious that the rooms and hallways are in serious need of a refresh. They don’t need to be re-themed or reimagined, but they definitely need repairs. I’m happy to hear they recognize this need and are going to address it. We had decided to avoid BI until the rooms were refreshed, and it’s good to hear that this will be done in the near future.
I will be staying at the Boardwalk Inn in May 2023. We are staying in a friend’s Timeshare and the unit is $3,000 for seven days. Is it cheaper to go on your own or stay in a timeshare? Thanks for your review? Will the Boardwalk Inn be renovated by then? Thanks for your reply