My goodness, but people do love their Fruit Cocktail Cake! The Goddess received dozens and dozens of responses, most all of them with the recipe below ... kind of. Recipes that have been in families for 40 years or more tend to get tweaked over time, so there were many variations. Many called for more sugar (the Goddess found this recipe to be tooth-achingly sweet already), and some for more fruit cocktail, sometimes drained. Some had nuts in the cake; some had nuts on top (this one has a little of each). Some had coconut and some did not.
Some skipped the brown sugar and nuts entirely. Some added a half-cup of vegetable oil. Some doubled all or some of the topping ingredients. Many called for forgotten measurements, such as a No. 303 can (approximately 17 ounces) of fruit cocktail, or long-lost ingredients, such as Kitchen-Klatter brand strawberry and pineapple flavorings. (That recipe, courtesy of Judy Harms, came from her mother’s Kitchen-Klatter cookbook, circa 1976.) Some added pineapple or chocolate chips. And a variation called Ugly Duckling Cake often started with a yellow cake mix.
The Goddess thoroughly enjoyed readers’ recollections of this cake. “This recipe came from ‘Favorite Recipes of the Deep South,’ which my mother gave me when I got married in 1969,” wrote Jane Downey. “I remember making this cake when I was a newlywed 35 years ago,” wrote Barbara Rainone of McDonough.
Ruth Watts of Roswell said that her Virginia-based family always served this cake on Thanksgiving. Gloria Doxtader of Dunwoody said her mother loved to serve it to her card club. Mary Meyer Dill of Atlanta said that she got two recipes for Fruit Cocktail Cake from her mother-in-law in St. Louis about 40 years ago.
“Delicious,” she wrote. “In fact, I think I will make one this weekend when my kids and grandkids come for supper. My husband will be thrilled!”
Paula Curl of Stone Mountain remembered loving it as a child, and she eventually received a copy of the recipe from her aunt Lola Papasan, now deceased, of Austin, Texas. Mary Hannum of Fayetteville got her copy from her aunt Mabel in the late 1950s.
“I think it may have come from the Wisconsin Extension Service, because her son-in-law was an ag agent and shared many wonderful recipes,” she said.
“This transplanted New Jersey Belle has been baking this deliciously dense and incredibly moist cake for going on 30 years now,” wrote Kathi Miller of Dallas, Ga. “The recipe ‘lives’ with many other of my family’s treasured recipes in a old wooden card file and was typed, many years ago, on a good old-fashioned typewriter.”
Mae Kovacich of Stone Mountain wins the prize for most variations, with this note: “Wishing to help a fellow reader, in this case Marie Evans of Smyrna, I checked my cookbook shelf for a cookbook I received as a wedding present 41 years ago. It is ‘Favorite Recipes From Church of God Ladies: Desserts’ and contains 21 (yes, 21) recipes for fruit cocktail cakes!” As a special favor to the Goddess, she scanned and e-mailed them all. Reading them was a fascinating lesson in diplomacy, as they are all essentially all the same recipe. Bless. Their. Hearts.
Many thanks to absolutely everyone who wrote in.
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