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
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
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
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.