Fruit Cocktail Cake

Fruit Cocktail Cake is a delicious and classic dessert enjoyed for decades. This simple old-fashioned cake made with canned fruit cocktail is sure to be a favorite.

fruit cocktail cake slice on a plate.

History of Fruit Cocktail Cake

Fruit cocktail cakes have a particular place in American history. If you didn’t grow up between the late 1950s and the early 1980s, you probably never experienced the delight of coming home from school with a big slice of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail Cake waiting for you on the kitchen counter.

The moist, slightly sticky cake topped with a cinnamon-sugar topping was the perfect snack after a day of studying.

Whether this Fruit Cocktail Cake recipe brings all those memories flooding back, or if you’ve never even heard of the cake before, try this cake once. It’s sure to become a new family favorite.

Why Fruit Cocktail Cakes Became So Popular

To fully appreciate the obsession with Fruit Cocktail Cakes, it is essential to realize that fresh fruit was somewhat of a luxury until recently. Although today we can get just about any fruit we want whenever we want it, that wasn’t possible before overnight shipping.

Fruits were seasonal, and exotic fruits like pineapples, mangos, and even grapefruits were quite expensive.

All that changed when commercial canning came along. It wasn’t long before canned fruit was available year-round in every supermarket in America. But although canned fruit was available to buy, it was still somewhat of a luxury.

That’s when a canny executive at Del Monte thought of how the company could profit from bruised fruit. His solution was to cut out the bad parts and dice up the rest. They could then sell the mixture as a fruit cocktail at a discount by combining these off-cuts from various fruits and canning them in syrup.

American families loved the new affordable fruit. Creative homemakers came up with all sorts of ways to use it, and women’s magazines of the day began publishing recipes featuring fruit cocktail.

One of the most popular was the Fruit Cocktail Cake, both for how simple it was to make and the “healthy” fruit in the recipe.

While we may not consider an old fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake a healthy cake by today’s standards, it is still as easy-to-make and delicious as ever.

fruit cocktail cake slice on a cake server with the cake behind it.

There’s a Regulation for Fruit Cocktail

Believe it or not, the government wants a say about what’s in your fruit cocktail. The FDA created 21 CFR § 145.135 to regulate not just which fruits must be included but also their percentages.

Legally, all fruit cocktails must contain between:

  • 30 to 50 percent peaches
  • 25 to 45 percent pears
  • 6 to 16 percent pineapples
  • 6 to 16 percent grapes
  • 2 to 6 percent cherries

Of course, if you prefer a different mix of fruits, you can still buy them in a can, but don’t expect them to be labeled as a fruit cocktail. Try using one of the following canned fruit mixtures in the recipe instead of a fruit cocktail:

  • Citrus Salad: A mixture of red and white grapefruit and orange pieces.
  • Tropical Fruit Salad: All your favorite tropical fruits like mango, papaya, passion fruit, and pineapple.
  • Extra-Cherry Fruit Salad: Fruit cocktail with an extra helping of everyone’s favorite: cherries!

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Egg
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Fruit cocktail
  • Brown sugar
  • Pecans
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Butter
fruit cocktail cake ingredients.

How to Make Fruit Cocktail Cake

  1. Place egg, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl. Beat until smooth.
egg, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl.
blended egg, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl.
  1. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and fruit cocktail. Stir until combined.
fruit cocktail, flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
fruit cocktail cake batter in a mixing bowl.
  1. Pour the batter into a greased 8×8-inch pan and spread it out evenly.
  2. Sprinkle brown sugar, 1/2 cup pecans, and cinnamon on the batter.
  3. Scatter dots of butter on top.
fruit cocktail cake batter in a pan.
fruit cocktail cake before baking.
  1. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
freshly baked fruit cocktail cake in a pan.

Tips for Making and Storing an Old Fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake

You may need to add simple syrup. The only liquid in the cake batter comes from the syrup in the fruit cocktail can. Not all brands use the same amount. If you notice that the batter is a little dry, add enough simple syrup to moisten. Don’t add too much, the batter should be on the thick side.

  • To make simple syrup, combine equal portions of sugar and water in a sauce pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature before using it in the cake.

Go nuts. Try adding 1/2 cup of crushed pecans to the cake batter. Or substitute walnuts for the pecans.

Make a glaze. Many older Fruit Cocktail Cake recipes call for using a glaze instead of adding the cinnamon-sugar topping like in this recipe.

  • To make this glaze, combine 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 2/3 of a cup of evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of crushed walnuts or pecans, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter melts, and the glaze thickens slightly.

Can you freeze fruit cocktail cake?

You can freeze the cake for up to two months. Wrap it in plastic and then put the plastic-wrapped cake in a freezer bag.

Defrost the cake overnight on the kitchen counter before eating.

fruit cocktail cake slice with a cherry on top.

Love to bake cakes? Try these recipes!

Popular Fruit Pies

Check out more of my easy cake recipes and family favorite recipes here on CopyKat!

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Recipe source: My great-grandmother, Minnie McDowell. Jefferson City, Mo. 1966

a slice of fruit cocktail cake on a plate.

Fruit Cocktail Cake

This vintage recipe uses a can of fruit cocktail for its special flavor. 
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cake Recipes, Fruit cocktail, Fruit Cocktail Cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 404kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 16-ounce can fruit cocktail
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces
  • grease for the pan

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan.
  • Beat the egg, vanilla, and sugar together.
  • Then add the flour, baking soda, salt, and fruit cocktail. Stir to combine.
  • Pour the batter into the greased 8×8-inch baking pan.
  • Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans.
  • Then sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with butter.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.

Notes

Source Minnie McDowell. Jefferson City, Mo. 1966. This recipe comes from my great-grandmother, and it goes great with some Cool Whip.

Nutrition

Calories: 404kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 150mg | Sodium: 250mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 61g | Vitamin A: 375IU | Vitamin C: 1.4mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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