Mylbra Tilley was one of those “aunts” (no relation), who flitted in and out of our house on a whim. My mother, who didn’t veer far from recipe basics, sometimes took cues from Mylbra, who scoured the newspaper and friends’ suggestions for new recipes.
In fact, her homemade fruitcake, inspired by a newspaper clipping, shouted “Christmas” for years at our house. Rather than the store-bought doorstop-cakes from the grocery store, this one was delicious.
I can still see her battered old 1964 Dodge chugging up the street to introduce us to our baked holiday surprise. “Ho ho ho!” she’d call from the back door.
Lucky us! The red-and-green flecked dessert lay before us in gooey repose. Mylbra had already tested the recipe on the Republican Women’s Club, so it was a winner, she said.
This particular example was extra Christmas-y, with extra red and green sugar on top, as if this dessert needed extra sweetening. It was already laden with coconut and butter and brown sugar and pecans and fruit cocktail.
Mom removed the lid and proceeded to cut a sample-sized piece.
“Add whipped cream and voila!” Mylbra said.
We agreed it was a fruitcake to love. Mom filed the recipe away in her blue Watkins Cookbook to become a holiday staple.
I suspect this recipe could accommodate a fix of rum, but it’s a moist cake, so you would definitely want to drain the fruit cocktail accordingly. That would make this dessert even more festive.
Christmas Fruit Cocktail Cake
- 2 cups unsifted cake flour (though I use any flour)
- 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 can (16 oz.) fruit cocktail; do not drain
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
- Red and green food coloring
- Prepared whipped cream or topping
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix flour with 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, baking soda and salt. Add eggs and fruit cocktail. Blend well. Pour into greased 13 x 9” pan.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and nuts. Bake about 45 minutes. Then combine butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the milk in a pan. Bring to a boil and boil two minutes. Remove from heat, stir in coconut. Pour over hot cake. Allow cake to cool about 15 minutes.
Mix remaining sugar in food coloring, half each in red and green. Sprinkle over top of cake. Serve while still warm with whipped cream topping.