July 17, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Fruit Cocktail Cake

I will start by saying, boy, did this recipe surprise me!

I'm glad I didn't google "fruit cocktail cake" before I made this, because I would have seen that it was actually a pretty popular dessert back in the day and there are a lot of recipes for it online. I probably wouldn't have made it if I had known that. I'm so glad I made this, though, because it turned out to be one of the best cakes I've ever tasted (and I love cake!).

I wanted to make something that seemed unique, and when I was flipping through the heritage recipes, this one for "Fruit Cocktail Cake" caught my eye. I envisioned those old Weight Watchers recipes where they mixed all sorts of weird ingredients. I've never seen a cake with a can of fruit cocktail in it before, so I decided to try it out. I did not have high hopes for it actually tasting very good, but I was interested to try.

This recipe was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society via a handwritten recipe book from Edna Crispin. I'm not sure who passed the recipe book along to the Historical Society, but there are several recipes in the book that came from Edna's handwritten file.

Edna Crispin was born in 1899 and passed away in 1971. It was noted that her recipe file was from the 1930's. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any other information about her.

As always, I am typing out the recipe exactly as written (except for the printer-friendly version, where I write any clarifications). I didn't modify or change anything--just followed the recipe.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Fruit Cocktail Cake

2 eggs
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. Wesson oil
2 c. flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (No. 303) can fruit cocktail

Beat sugar and oil; add eggs, flour, salt and soda. It will be crumbly. Add cocktail and juice. Pour into greased, long, flat pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Angel Flake coconut over batter. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes.


3/4 c. sugar
1 stick oleo

Boil together 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup coconut and 1 cup nuts. Spread on cake while still warm.

My Notes:

The first thing that stuck out to me was the Wesson oil. I recognized the brand and I wanted to check that it was an actual product back in the 1930's--and sure enough, it was. The same with the canned fruit cocktail--I pictured that to be a product of the 1950's or so. This recipe called for specific brands--the Wesson oil and Angel Flake coconut. Not sure if it really matters (probably not!) but I wanted to follow the recipe as written.

I had to look up the size of a No. 303 can and here is what I found:  A #303 can is equivalent to 2 cups or 16-17 oz. I wasn't sure whether to buy the fruit cocktail in syrup or juice, but in reading the recipe, it says to add cocktail and juice to batter. I guess "juice" could have meant the liquid the cocktail was in--syrup or juice--but I decided to go with the juice.

I got over my aversion to oleo (margarine) when I started this recipe series--so many of the early 1900's recipes call for oleo instead of butter. When the recipe states "oleo", I use it. I don't know if it would make a difference or not to use butter.

It did not specify what type of nuts, but I used pecans.

The batter started out looking pretty good--it actually looked like thin cookie dough.

After adding the can of fruit cocktail, I definitely thought it looked kind of gross. I told Jerry to come look at this salsa con queso I made. Haha! That's definitely what it looked like. 

I used a cookie sheet with high sides because the recipe called for a long, flat pan. I baked it for 35 minutes and when the timer went off, I was sure I burned it--I couldn't believe how dark it got in the oven! I thought I'd ruined it. But at a closer look, I realized that it was probably supposed to look like that.

I let the cake cool for a little while and then I made the icing. Judging from the ingredients, I was picturing it like a German chocolate cake frosting. But there was nothing to thicken it... so, this is what the icing looked like before I put it on the cake:

It was only then that I realized that the cake would absorb the liquidy icing (you're supposed to put it on there while it's still warm).

I was dying to try a piece, but I let it cool for a while. Then... holy smokes, it was SO GOOD. I texted Jerry at work right away and told him it's the best cake I've ever had.

If I didn't make it myself, I wouldn't have guessed there was fruit cocktail in the cake. It kind of blends in and you don't get the texture of the fruit at all. The cake is super moist because of the icing getting soaked in. I like that the cake isn't really tall--as you know, I like a pretty good frosting to cake ratio ;) 

The cake wasn't very heavy, either--I think it makes a great light dessert! I am definitely going to be making this again. And again. And again.

1 comment:

  1. I strongly dislike fruit cocktail, but I love this cake. My mom made it a lot esp for family potlucks when I was growing up. I had forgotten all about it. I need to make this and see if I still like it as much as I did back then. :)


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