This super easy fruit cocktail cake comes together quickly and is a lightly fruity, extra soft and moist cake that everybody loves!
If you had told me when I was 8 that one day I’d bake a can of fruit cocktail into a cake and actually like it I never would’ve believed you.
The mushy, unidentifiable fruit-in-a-can never appealed to me when I was a kid. But for some reason, after finding a from-scratch version in one of my grandma’s ancient cookbooks, I knew my life would be incomplete without a fruit cocktail cake in it.
You guys? My gut is never wrong. I knew in my bones I needed to bake this cake (but an easy, cake mix version) and OH MY STARS it’s heaven on a plate.
Lightly fruity, super soft, and covered in my favorite whipped cream frosting it’s a non-chocolate dessert that even chocoholics like me swoon over.
Why you’ll love this fruit cocktail cake:
- It’s really easy to make
- You only need a handful of ingredients to make it
- No stand mixer needed!
How to make fruit cocktail cake
You only need five ingredients for your fruit cocktail cake
- Yellow (or white!) cake mix
- vegetable oil
- fruit cocktail
- coconut (optional!)
- Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, and fruit cocktail WITH juices in bowl
- Beat until smooth
- Add coconut (see note below) and fold in with a rubber spatula
- Scrape into a baking dish and bake for about half an hour
Note: I added coconut to my cake because I like the little bit of moisture and chew it provides. If you don’t like coconut you can leave it out and your cake will still be delicious.
You can also toast the coconut if you want a deeper flavor. See below for instructions on how to toast it.
Baker’s tip: Be sure your cake is fully cooled before you frost it. If you try to frost the cake while it’s still even a tiny bit warm your whipped cream frosting will completely deflate.
How to make whipped cream frosting
This is my very favorite way to frost fruity cakes. The whipped cream is stabilized with a little bit of cream cheese, which adds a bit of a tang that pairs really well with the sweet cake.
You can absolutely leave the cream cheese out, but your whipped cream won’t hold its shape as long; with the cream cheese it should hold its shape for about 24 hours.
- Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat until smooth
- Gradually beat in heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks; beat in vanilla
- Spread over the cooled cake
- Top with toasted coconut (or un-toasted coconut, or no coconut)
Then you’re ready to slice and serve!
I don’t suggest frosting your cake until a few hours before you intend to serve it. If necessary, you can store your unfrosted cake in the fridge overnight (covered with plastic wrap).
Baker’s tip: For the best whipped cream be sure you chill your bowl and beaters before whipping your heavy cream. Also be sure that you use a product labeled “heavy cream” or “heavy whipping cream.” Don’t use whipping cream because it won’t hold its shape well.
How to toast coconut
Toasting the coconut you sprinkle over the cake is totally optional, as is adding coconut to this cake at all. Feel free to omit it if you prefer.
- Spread your coconut out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet or two. The coconut needs to be in a single layer to ensure it browns evenly.
- Pop your coconut in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take it out of the oven and stir it with a spatula. Return the coconut to the oven, stirring every 2 minutes, until it reaches your desired level of toasty-ness.
Remove the coconut from the baking sheet to stop the cooking and cool completely before using in or on your cake.
Baker’s tip: If you don’t have a rimmed baking sheet you can toast your coconut in a casserole dish. Just do it in batches so you always have a single layer of coconut in the bottom of the dish.
The most important thing to remember when toasting coconut is WATCH IT CAREFULLY.
Coconut goes from beautifully golden brown to disgustingly burned really quickly so after the first few minutes your coconut is in the oven, park yourself in the kitchen and watch the oven almost constantly.
What is fruit cocktail?
Are you ready? Fruit cocktail is just a fancy name for, wait for it, fruit salad.
In the 19th century, fruit salads were often made either with creamy ingredients (think Waldorf salad) or with a little bit (or a lot) of booze added. The versions with alcohol were served as more of an aperitif than as a side at a summer picnic.
Commercial canning came into being in the early 20th century and Del Monte began canning “fruit cocktail” as a way to use up damaged fruit that couldn’t be used for other purposes.
Of course, prohibition made adding alcohol to the “cocktail” impossible but the name stuck. I’m unclear as to whether Del Monte would have added alcohol were it not forbidden in the US but I like to think they would have.
In 1927 (per Harvard Magazine) American fruit canners (AKA Big Can, I would imagine) agreed to a standardized definition of fruit cocktail as we know it today. To be labeled fruit cocktail it must contain a mixture of peaches, pears, grapes, and cherries.
Can you imagine if the tradition of adding alcohol to fruit cocktail had continued? My best guess is that it wouldn’t have become the American lunchbox staple that it is today. But I guess you never know. . .
I suggest serving a slice of fruit cocktail cake alongside a margarita—or your drink of choice—and pretending you’re living your best life back in 1897. If that doesn’t sound like a lovely evening then I don’t know what does!
Did you make this fruit cocktail cake? Fantastic! Let me know what you think with a comment and a rating below. And post a pic on Insta–tag @theitsybitsykitchen so I can see your gorgeous creations!
This fruit cocktail cake is an easy, retro dessert that comes together quickly. It's lightly fruity and covered in delicious whipped cream frosting--it's sure to be a hit!
- 1 (15.25-ouncbox white or yellow cake mix*
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 15-ounccan fruit cocktail (do NOT drain
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup very cold heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut**
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13- by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, and fruit cocktail WITH juices in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the coconut.
Scrape into the prepared baking dish and bake 28 to 34 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Set on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
When the cake is cool, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy.
With mixer on low, gradually beat in the heavy cream until fully combined. Turn mixer to high and beat until the frosting holds stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla to combine.
Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle the coconut over the top. Slice and serve.
Uneaten cake can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months.
- *I used Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake mix
- **To toast your coconut (an optional step) spread it into an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. Continue toasting, stirring every 2 minutes, until coconut reaches desired level of toasty-ness. WATCH IT CLOSELY during this process. Cool completely before sprinkling on the cake.
- If you don’t like coconut feel free to leave it out of both the cake and the frosting.
- Be sure your cake is fully cooled before you frost it. If you try to frost the cake while it’s still even a tiny bit warm your whipped cream frosting will completely deflate.
- For the best whipped cream, chill your bowl and beaters before whipping your heavy cream. Also be sure that you use a product labeled “heavy cream” or “heavy whipping cream.” Don’t use whipping cream because it won’t hold its shape well.