Whenever I visit my sisters in Florida, we make a point of visiting The Bubble Room in Captiva Island. Captiva is a slender thread of land that loops off the state's Gulf coast. Most of its residents are pretty posh, yet they'll line up for hours to eat at this unpretentious joint.

The décor is

kitschy-kitschy-cool, with scads of light-up Christmas ornaments, old movie stills and electric lights. The waiters - better known as "Bubble Scouts" - wear scouting uniforms. And the food is tasty: A typical favorite is The Eddie Fisherman, locally caught grouper topped with Ritz crackers and herbs, then baked in a brown paper bag.

But The Bubble Room (www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com) is best known for its cakes. They're about a foot high and made from scratch. Typical offerings include the coconut-studded White Christmas Cake, Rum Cake, Very Moist Chocolate Cake and a legendary Red Velvet Cake. Mabel prefers the Orange Crunch Cake, a ridiculously over-the-top confection with a crunchy, brown-sugar filling and bright-orange cream cheese frosting. A slice is larger than a canned ham and weighs more than a bowling ball.

Mabel will be in North Dakota this weekend, and her birthday is today. So rather than import an Orange Crunch Cake (for one thing, I couldn't afford the shipping), I've attempted to make my own. After some Internet and cookbook research, I think I've come up with a pretty close version of The Bubble Room's cake. Warning: If you think angel food cake a la mode is too rich and sweet, you do not want to try this cake.

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Sort-of-Like-The-Bubble-Room's Orange Crunch Cake


1½ cups fine graham cracker crumbs

1 cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter, melted

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted


1 (18¼-ounce) yellow cake mix, with pudding added

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

Zc cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons orange zest, grated


1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons butter

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon orange zest, grated

2 tablespoons orange juice

Orange gel food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Thoroughly combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Press evenly into bottom of pan. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

In a medium bowl, mix together cake mix, water, orange juice and oil until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in orange zest.

Pour mixture evenly over the crunchy crust.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until center of cake springs back when touched lightly.

Remove and place on baking rack. When cake is cool, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, beating until all is incorporated. (You can add less or more sugar, depending on the frosting consistency you prefer.) Stir in zest and juice. Beat in food coloring, if desired.

Swift writes a weekly column for The Forum. She can be reached at tsruse2001@yahoo.com.