From My Mother’s Recipe Box: Fruit Cocktail Torte


When I think of summer, I think of picnics. And when I think of picnics, I think of the occasions back in the 1970s when my grandma would make two birthday cakes in September: one for my sister and one for me. Our birthdays are three days apart. Each was a sheet cake made in an aluminum 9×13 pan with a lid that slid on for transporting. My grandma, aunts, and cousins would meet our family at a state park halfway between their homes and ours where we would feast on potato salad, sandwiches, pickled eggs, and birthday cake.

This recipe reminded me of those days because it’s a sheet cake that could be easily baked in a pan that travels well. Plus, I had completely forgotten about fruit cocktail in a can. Did you know its original purpose in the 1920s was to find a use for “imperfectly shaped pears and peaches sorted out of the regular canning operation”? It also helped find a market for a surplus of seedless grapes. Apparently, you can still find it in the grocery store today. One brand is Del Monte.

Fruit Cocktail Torte recipe

Fruit Cocktail Torte recipe

I was fascinated to learn that in 1977 the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service published an 18-page Grading Manual for Canned Fruit Cocktail. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about grade standards, specifications, and procedures for producing fruit cocktail in a can.

If you’re wondering what a #2 or #303 can is (as mentioned in the recipe above), see page 17 of the Grading Manual. Apparently, it refers to the size of the can, in this case more than 15.5 ounces.

Nothing says retro like a can of fruit cocktail baked in a sheet cake!

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8 responses to “From My Mother’s Recipe Box: Fruit Cocktail Torte

  1. I was really tempted to try this recipe, which made my baby boomer heart beat faster. Del Monte fruit cocktail was a staple at our house, where we always had dessert after dinner, often canned fruit. Sadly, Del Monte, now a part of gigantic conglomerate RJ Reynolds, now sources much of its fruit from China. The processing plants may still be right next to those California fields, but the fruit is your typical arsenic- and lead-laced from the unregulated food industries of China. Just like apple juice. The friendly Motts I drank as a kid? Chinese apples all the way. The fruit and juice aisle of the grocery store these days might as well be labeled “Asian foods.”

    • Excellent point, Pamela. It’s so sad that our food system has come to this. I wonder if there’s high fructose corn syrup mixed in with the Chinese fruit, too? Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your knowledge on this topic!

  2. Marcia, some Del Monte canned fruit (including fruit cocktail…) have both sugar and corn syrup. Some organic foods company could probably make a nice little profit with organic fruit cocktail made with sugar only. I confess, I’d buy it in a second–and I’d make this cake! 🙂

    • Yes, I think a profit could be made there! Love how you think! Maybe later this summer you could try a homemade fruit cocktail when the peaches and pears are ripe?

      • That’s a great idea, Marcia! I’m gonna try it! I looked online and found some very easy recipes (fruit + simple syrup) and one that added basil and lemon juice to the simple syrup, which sounds delicious! I’ll let you know how it goes.

      • Marcia Davis

        Please do let me know how it turns out! Have fun!

  3. blast from the past! Thanks, Marcia.

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