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Happy 4th Of July!! Retro Recipe-Fruit Cocktail Cake A Review

Fruit Cocktail Cake

Fruit Cocktail Cake

I am not sure exactly of the origins of this cake it appeared in the 1950’s, some say it hails from the South. I found this cake while researching some recipes,I saw a cake in James McNair’s “Cakes” it’s called plantation cake and in the headnote he describes a fruit cocktail cake that is so wonderful he reworked the recipe keeping the basics of the cake very similar. So I decided I wanted to find out what a fruit cocktail cake was, I surmised that it contains fruit cocktail (duh) so I looked up some recipes and found some that were handed down from Moms and Grandma’s all basically the same, a yellow sheet cake containing fruit cocktail and a sweetened condensed milk icing poured over the cake while it’s hot. All contain shredded coconut, some pecans some macadamia nuts. This cake is moist, sweet (even though I reduced the sugar) and fruity. This would make a great cake to take to a potluck, it’s baked in a 9×13 pan and it’s so rich one small square is enough so it feeds a lot of people. I combined recipes I found on the several different sites and the plantation cake from James McNair, so this is my version of a fruit cocktail cake. I probably could have made my own fruit cocktail but why do that, nothing wrong with canned fruit every now and then, as a matter of fact I have really fond memories of eating fruit cocktail, I loved it as a kid. I even remember ambrosia, at almost any function someone brought it, I used to love picking the fruit cocktail out of the creamy stuff. This bad boy is on it’s way to an annual 4th of July BBQ. An all American dessert to celebrate Independence Day! NOTE: The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups sugar for the cake, because I used fruit cocktail which is sweet I reduced the sugar to 1 1/4 cup, I used fruit cocktail in its own juices. Next time I make this cake I think I will use pineapple as Mr. McNair suggests. It’s good, but pineapple has more flavor in my opinion than fruit cocktail. Another option would be making your own fruit cocktail in a flavorful simple syrup. This cake is easy to make, no mixer required, it comes together in a flash.

Verdict: I cut the cake into pieces to bring with me to the BBQ, tasted it and I am not in love with it. The texture bothers me and in my opinion it’s not flavorful enough, maybe it was the canned fruit which I rarely if ever use, who knows, but I think Mr. McNair was most likely on the right track when he added pineapple instead of fruit cocktail. The cake has no fat added, I guess the fruit cocktail with the juice is supposed to add moisture, well it did but the cake itself is a bit chewy and not light like a cake should be in my opinion. Question, has anyone ever tried the fruit cocktail cake before? If you did what did you think about it. I would also think about adding yogurt or sour cream to the cake.

Makes a 9×13 cake

Topping

1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature

Cake

20 oz fruit cocktail with juice

3 cups flour

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbs baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 eggs at room temperature lightly beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

Icing

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

2 tbs butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 rectangular baking pan and set aside.

Make your topping, combine nuts, brown sugar and butter and crumble with your hands. Set aside.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. add the rest of the ingredients for the cake  and whisk to mix well.

Pour batter into prepared pan and crumble the topping evenly on the cake. Bake until tester comes out clean approximately 45 minutes.

Make the icing, heat a skillet over medium heat add the coconut and toast until it starts to turn a golden brown.  Set aside to cool. Alternately you can put the coconut on a sheet of foil and place in the 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Either in a heat proof measuring cup or small saucepan heat the condensed milk and butter until its pourable and butter is melted. Pour over the cake while it’s hot, sprinkle with the coconut. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Piece of Cake

Piece of Cake

56 Comments Post a comment
  1. The first to like? Wow! In your photograph the sliced piece looks delicious. You are an expert (in my opinion) recipe developer so I imagine your opinion is dead on. I think you are correct about using the can fruit cocktail. If I picture this cake with fresh fruit it seems like it would be very flavorful. And the “no fat” is a plus as long as it is moist! Happy Independence Day! 🙂

    July 4, 2013
    • Thank you so much, against my better judgement I used canned fruit, not a good move unless it’s canned pineapple which usually works for me. Yes, the cake is very heavy, I agree the no fat thing is good but because they don’t have you whipping the eggs and no fat it makes for a heavy cake and honestly I am not a fan of sweetened condensed milk either, I wanted to give it a chance, oh well, live and learn. Have a wonderful day!

      July 4, 2013
  2. PSsquared #

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. The pictures make it look pretty, though. 🙂

    July 4, 2013
  3. Happy 4th of July! 😀

    July 4, 2013
  4. Happy 4th of July. 😉 This cake sounds interesting and yummy – I haven’t come across a recipe like this before.

    July 4, 2013
    • Interesting yes, thank you so much. I love toying with retro recipes this one needs some work. Have a great day!

      July 4, 2013
  5. I always enjoy the experiments, even it they don’t meet my expectations. The piece you’ve cut actually looks really, really good. And it’s a cool idea. Maybe it would be fun now to rework it and see what you come up with using your amazing baking skills. That would be a fun post! Happy 4th to you and your family, Suzanne!

    July 4, 2013
    • I do too, experimenting with something to bring to a BBQ wasn’t such a great idea. I will re work it and re post. Thats a really good idea thank you. Have a great 4th of July celebration.

      July 4, 2013
  6. Fig & Quince #

    Have fun at the BBQ! Happy 4th of July!!!

    July 4, 2013
  7. It looks beautiful Suzanne, but I love your honesty about the cake. Skimming over the recipe, I would definitely see how it needs some fresh fruit purée or fat to make it lighter and more tender…just flour and eggs I can see how it would be chewy…especially from canned fruit. I’m not a fan of canned fruit. Was it just the cake chewy, because the coconut on top of course would lend to the chew factor? Happy 4th! 🙂

    July 4, 2013
    • Also, don’t know if you’ve ever tried it before, buckwheat flour lends a really tenderness to cakes and baked goods…you could try subbing 1/4 cup of the flour for that and see. That’s a small enough amount to not affect the flavor of the cake, I would think.

      July 4, 2013
      • I didn’t know that about buckwheat flour. I think thats a great idea. I actually love the flavor of buckwheat!!

        July 4, 2013
    • You are exactly right, the cake is missing something, it’s the cake itself that is chewy. Factor in only lightly beating the eggs, no fat and I am not surprised that is wasn’t terrific coupled with the canned fruit it makes for a cake that just isn’t that good. Happy 4th to you too! Well back to the drawing board.

      July 4, 2013
      • I’m sure you will figure it out…you are very talented. Honestly, experimentation is part of the whole process…I go back to the drawing board often on my own recipes, lol!

        July 4, 2013
  8. It looks delicious, unfortunately I don’t like coconut, but I remember my aunt making this about 30 years ago quite often for family functions. I’m sure I’d love it without the coconut… Happy 4th!

    July 4, 2013
    • Wow, so your Aunt made this a while ago. It kind of has family function written all over it. Thanks so much and happy 4th of July.

      July 4, 2013
  9. Happy 4th of July!

    July 4, 2013
  10. Suzanne this looks so delicious! Happy 4th of July to you

    July 4, 2013
  11. Happy 4th of July my friend, I would devour this 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    July 4, 2013
  12. Suzanne,
    Happy 4th of July! This cake looks most unusual! Would love to try it 🙂

    July 4, 2013
    • Thanks Julian, I honestly didn’t like it. Maybe it’s my personal preference because others loved it.

      July 4, 2013
  13. Bevi #

    It sure looks good! I bet sour cream would add a little something to the recipe, along with pineapple.

    July 4, 2013
    • Thanks Bevi, it was a big hit at the BBQ, go figure. I threw away half of it and only brought a few pieces thinking everyone would hate it. Oh well! I think you are right, sour cream would be good in the cake.

      July 4, 2013
  14. Have a great day! Hope it’s a good one!

    July 4, 2013
  15. I could quite happily eat fruit cocktail straight out of the can. Like the idea of including buckwheat, but I’ve never seen that for sale over here. And I agree with using pineapple as that would make such a difference. I’m so into canned pineapple at the moment I’m toying with using it in my yoghurt bread. Although, for it I may add coconut and macadamia to the crumb and pineapple on top. Will it rise??
    – Hope you’ve had a great Fourth of July. And I’m sure your cake was delicious – it certainly looks it. I know I would’ve enjoyed a slice or two.

    July 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much Johnny, I think the yoghurt bread with pineapple,coconut and macadamia sounds delicious!! I would gladly have given you a slice or two, everyone seemed to like it even if I didn’t..

      July 4, 2013
  16. I can’t express how much I appreciate hearing honest recipe reviews. I have had my share of taste “fails,” and each time I think, I’m not blogging about that! But it’s not a bad idea actually to express truth! I may have to give that a whirl. Anyway, sorry that it didn’t work out, it looks yummy. 🙂

    July 5, 2013
    • Thank you, yes it’s very disappointing when a recipe doesn’t turn out as expected and I almost didn’t post it but felt like I should. It’s impossible for every recipe to be perfect and taste great. Oddly, people at the BBQ seemed to like it, go figure. It’s a recipe I will not be making again and felt like it was a waste of ingredients but we live and learn. Thanks again.

      July 5, 2013
  17. Happy belated 4th of July! I like honest opinions too. I have made many things that I deem a failure and I too will blog about some of them. At least the people at the bbq liked it 😀

    July 5, 2013
    • Same to you! I have many failures, like 2 weeks ago I attempted macarons, didn’t even embarrass myself by blogging about that one. I do think the cake improved yesterday over time, maybe it took some time for it to meld flavors, who knows,or maybe it was just too hot and people were suffering from brain damage from the sun. Thanks so much for the kind words, I am in good company knowing I am not the only one with failed recipes.

      July 5, 2013
  18. This cake would be a perfect candidate for coconut oil wouldn’t it? Especially with pineapple instead of fruit cocktail. I can imagine that would work really well with your gorgeous-looking coconut topping. I love retro cakes – I’m desperately trying to find the recipe for a chocolate cake an aunt of mine used to make – it was heavenly…

    July 5, 2013
    • Yes, thats a wonderful idea. The cake would be amazing made with coconut oil and pineapple. It makes me want to try to re work that cake with your suggestion. How much coconut oil would you add? I am thinking maybe 1/3 cup?

      July 5, 2013
      • I’m not too familiar with cups but I think that probably sounds about right. I loves cakes made with coconut oil because it makes them so light and the coconut flavour isn’t overpowering…

        July 5, 2013
  19. Well it surely LOOKS good!! I’ve never even heard of this cake before, but I bet you could tweak the recipe into something you’d be happy with. I love anything with coconut, so I don’t know if I’d complain about it anyway the cake turned out! haha!

    July 5, 2013
    • Thanks, I do too, love coconut and thought this would be great but I am also pretty picky about texture and I didn’t like the cake texture. You are right I could totally tweak the recipe. I would get rid of the fruit cocktail, add pineapple as James McNair did, Take the advice of Healthy Epicurean and add coconut oil to the cake, ditch the sweetened condensed milk and opt for a light whipped cream frosting with lots of toasted coconut, hmmmmmm…. it’s a different cake but oh well, that’s the way I would like it.

      July 5, 2013
  20. Hmmmm….sort of reminds me of Hummingbird Cake in a way. It’s too bad it didn’t have more flavor and the texture was off. I think sour cream would be a great addition – it may help the consistency. Also, maybe some pinces of cinnamon or nutmeg? I do love any cake that you can just stir up without a mixer.

    July 5, 2013
    • Hmmmm.. never heard of a hummingbird cake, will have to look that up. I loved the easy prep but the results in my opinion were less than desirable. I agree about the sour cream. Thanks so much.

      July 5, 2013
  21. That looks great! I hope you had a lovely Fourth of July!

    July 6, 2013
  22. I’m always impressed with the shredded coconut you’re able to find in america haha ! This fruit cocktail cake is really amazing ! It looks delicious and perfectly light for a summer BBQ ! I love it ! It’s a really perfect idea to have used fruit cocktail juice ! Je tire mon chapeau 🙂

    July 6, 2013
  23. Thank you so much. Honestly, I would much rather have made your delicious gateau with the berries and cream. YUM! How did the exams go?

    July 6, 2013
  24. Happy 4th of July!- 2 slices please.

    July 7, 2013
  25. I must be older than all your other readers because I DO remember this cake. My mom made it all the time. I remember it being really moist but a little mushy. I agree with the fresh fruit suggestions– peaches right now. yummm. Love your blog– for the recipes and your lively writing. thanks!

    July 7, 2013
    • I think it became really popular in the 60’s and into the 70’s. My Mom never made it but she did make other recipes from that time in history. I agree fresh peaches would be delicious. Thank you so much.

      July 8, 2013
  26. I love finding old “heirloom” recipes! Yours looks wonderful, and I do have to agree that adding fresh pineapple would be a great solution. Thanks for sharing! This was a new recipe for me!

    July 8, 2013
    • Fresh fruit would improve it greatly and also I would not do the canned sweetened milk either if I made it again. Thanks so much.

      July 8, 2013
  27. Liz #

    bizarre! but also strangely fun and comforting. good find 🙂

    July 12, 2013
    • It is bizarre but a good example of recipes that were popular in the 50’s and 60’s. Thank you so much.

      July 12, 2013

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