Old fashioned fruit cocktail cake pairs a moist and fluffy cake with sweet and tart fruit all topped with a luscious, nutty frosting. It’s a classic American dessert that everyone will love.
The best part about old fashioned fruit cocktail cake is that it’s perfect for nearly any occasion. Take it to potlucks, holiday parties, or even special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
It’s also such a convenient dessert — there’s no need to run to the grocery store or reach for a box cake mix. This simple recipe makes it incredibly easy to bake this delicious cake from scratch.
The next time you’re looking for an easy cake recipe, try this old fashioned fruit cocktail cake.
Why You’ll Love Old Fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake
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There are so many reasons to love this sweet, moist cake.
- Crowd-pleaser – This delicious dessert is sure to please everyone’s palates.
- Convenient – All you need are some simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand.
- Easy – Both novice and experienced bakers can easily whip up this cake.
- Tasty – It’s moist and delicious, with a sweet and tart flavor from the fruit cocktail.
You likely have most of these ingredients in your pantry and fridge already.
Fruit Cocktail Cake
- All-purpose flour – All-purpose flour is used to give the cake its structure and texture. It also helps to absorb the moisture from the fruit cocktail, preventing the cake from becoming soggy.
- Baking soda – This leavening agent helps to make the cake rise. It also reacts with the acids in the fruit cocktail, creating a light and airy cake.
- Canned fruit cocktail in heavy syrup – Fruit cocktail adds sweetness and moisture to the cake.
- Granulated sugar – White sugar granules are the perfect size to dissolve quickly when mixing.
- Eggs – Eggs add richness and moisture to the cake and help to bind the ingredients together.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract helps to enhance the flavor of the fruit cocktail.
- Evaporated milk – Evaporated milk is used to make the frosting creamy and smooth.
- Sugar – Sugar helps to thicken the frosting and give it a smooth texture.
- Unsalted butter – Butter helps to make the frosting rich and flavorful.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract adds flavor to the frosting and helps to bring out the flavor of the coconut and pecans.
- Sweetened shredded coconut – Coconut adds texture and flavor to the frosting — it also makes for a pretty presentation.
- Chopped pecans – Pecans add texture and nutty flavor to the frosting.
How To Make Homemade Fruit Cocktail Cake
This may be one of the easiest cakes you’ll ever make!
Make the cake:
- Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and fruit cocktail with syrup in a large bowl using an electric mixer.
- Mix until well blended.
- Pour cake batter into a cake pan prepared with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place pan in preheated oven and bake until it passes the toothpick test.
- Place the pan with the hot cake on a wire rack.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
Prepare the frosting:
- Add the evaporated milk, sugar, butter, and vanilla to a medium saucepan.
- Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer briefly until thickened.
- Add the coconut flakes and pecans to the sugar mixture.
- Poke holes into the cooled cake using the end of a large spoon.
- Pour the hot coconut pecan sauce over the cake.
- Use a spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake.
- Let the frosting cool to room temperature before serving.
- To serve, top the cake with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.
What to Serve with Old Fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake
This easy dessert is best served with equally easy pairings — we like to serve this sweet cake with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or a healthy dollop of homemade whipped cream. Their creamy texture pairs perfectly with the moist cake.
For a lighter alternative, and a pop of color, try adding fresh berries or serve a fruit salad on the side. You can also wash it all down with a cup of coffee — whip up a dalgona coffee or shake up an espresso martini for the adults.
Variations on this Easy Fruit Cocktail Cake Recipe
Stray from tradition and make some swaps to create your own version of this perfect dessert.
- Fruit cocktail – Use a different fruit cocktail in your cake like cherry or mandarin orange.
- Nuts – Add other nuts to your cake, like chopped walnuts or almonds.
- Frosting – Use another type of frosting on your cake, like chocolate frosting or cream cheese frosting.
- Toppings – Add different toppings to your cake, like fresh fruit, whipped cream, or chocolate chips.
- Boxed cake mix – While the recipe is super simple, if you already have it on hand, you can use a yellow cake mix.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Keep this cake fresh longer by keeping it stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Make ahead: Make the cake ahead of time and frost shortly before serving.
Refrigerator: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, or store slices in airtight food storage containers, for up to 3 days.
Freezer: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Freeze the cake for up to 3 months.
Common Questions About Old Fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake
Old fashioned fruit cocktail cake is a classic American dessert that is made with a moist yellow cake batter and a sweet fruit cocktail filling. Pineapple upside down cake is another classic American dessert that is made with a buttery brown sugar crust and a pineapple filling.
The main difference between the two cakes is the type of fruit filling that is used. Old fashioned fruit cocktail cake uses a variety of fruits, such as cherries, pineapple, and grapes, while pineapple upside down cake uses only pineapple.
Yes, you can use a different type of fruit cocktail in old fashioned fruit cocktail cake. You can try using cherry cocktail, tropical fruit cocktail, and mandarin orange cocktail.
Just be sure to use a fruit cocktail that is packed in heavy syrup. That helps to keep the cake moist.
Yes, you can make old fashioned fruit cocktail cake ahead of time. The cake can be baked and cooled completely, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
The cake can also be frozen for up to 3 months. To thaw the cake, place it in the refrigerator overnight. The cake can also be thawed on the counter for a few hours.
More Creative Cakes
Old Fashioned Fruit Cocktail Cake
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 15.25 ounce can fruit cocktail in heavy syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 stick
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and fruit cocktail with the syrup.
- Combine and pour into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and set aside.
Prepare the frosting:
- While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, sugar, butter, and vanilla.
- Over medium heat, melt the butter and heat until most of the sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in the coconut and pecans. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat.
- With a large handled spoon, use the handle to poke holes in the cake.
- Gently pour the hot frosting over the cake.
- Spread the frosting into an even layer.
- Let cool. Cut and serve. Top with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!
This was so good! There’s something very nostalgic about it, I just loved it.
This was so good! Moist and fluffy, and that icing is GOLD. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!
This is definitely a favorite for a potluck or family gathering, as it’s a total crowd-pleaser without requiring too much effort on my part. It’s a win-win!
I’ve never had a cake like this before, but it looks incredible! I might leave out the coconut when I make it and add some extra pecans, so I’ll have to see how that turns out. Thanks for the recipe!
Just perfect when you crave a simple rustic cake. Easy to make and everyone loves