Gumdrop cake is a vintage recipe that was given to me from my sister-in-law years ago. Today, it might be considered a colourful fun cake to make for a baby shower or a child’s party, but during the 1930’s in the Maritimes, it was considered an economical, yet festive, alternative to more expensive traditional fruitcake.
While this recipe was created during economic hardship, I am quite sure that most children living in the 30’s were grateful that some things like mixed glazed fruit or peel, currants, and citron were too expensive for the family budget. What ten-year-old wouldn’t rather have cake containing fruity tasting gumdrops?
No wonder Gumdrop Cake became a Canadian favourite and created many fond childhood memories. I myself remember being at various wedding receptions as a young girl and politely refusing the little squares of fruitcake with the sweet almond paste that were passed around to the guests. Some poor grandma likely spent many hours, a few months in advance, carefully making those cakes. They no doubt wrapped them carefully in cheesecloth, which was often soaked in rum or brandy, and then stored them away in airtight containers until they were needed for an event, or as a treat with tea for guests.
I first ate Gumdrop Cake when I was about ten, and right away I loved the vibrant colours and the rich buttery taste. The recipe that I use is one that contains pineapple instead of applesauce and raisins, which are common in other recipes. While I do think the raisins make the cake more resemble fruitcake, I prefer to leave them out. Most Gumdrop Cake recipes recommend omitting the black licorice-flavored gumdrops. No doubt the cake was originally baked in loaf pans, but I love the look of the larger cake.
You will notice in the photos that I have two different versions of the icing. One cake has a two coloured icing, with the reddish/purple colour coming from three Bing cherries I added to the icing.
I hope you enjoy this tasty cake with an interesting past! You will find it to be rich, dense, colourful and fun to make. Be careful not to overbake or the cake will be dry! When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, it’s done.
Try it with a sip of brandy or sherry, in remembrance of all those dear grandmas who slaved for hours over their prized fruitcakes.
Here is a video from Real Simple that shows how to make the gumdrop flowers.
Colourful Gumdrop Cake
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1 cup crushed pineapple drained
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 pound gumdrops omit the black ones cut into smaller pieces
- 1 teaspoon lemon flavouring
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/4 cups all- purposed flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- LEMON ICING:
- 4 tablespoons butter room temperature
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
- CHERRY ICING using 1 cup of the lemon icing above add the following
- 3 pitted cherries
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch tube or bundt pan.
Using scissors, cut each gumdrop into four pieces. You may need to rinse the scissors under hot water if they get too sticky. Toss gumdrops with 1/4 cup of the flour. This keeps them from sticking together. Set aside.
In a large bowl ( I use my Kitchen aid mixer) cream butter and sugar. One at a time add eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Add pineapple and flavourings.
Combine remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately add flour and milk to creamed mixture, but do not overbeat.
Fold in floured gumdrops. Pour into greased 10 inch tube pan.
Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached to it from the center of the cake.
Cool in pan on rack, at least 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool. Ice cake (optional).
Gumdrop cake freezes very well.
Tip: When slicing the cake, using a knife rinsed under hot water helps to cut through the gumdrops.
Blend butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla, icing sugar and milk together in a medium sized bowl. Beat until smooth using a hand held blender or whisk (if using a whisk, blend the butter and cream cheese first). Divide the icing into two bowls. You should have approximately 1 cup for each bowl.
To one bowl of lemon icing add 3 pitted bing cherries (I used frozen cherries thawed in the microwave for a few seconds), 1/2 cup extra icing sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon almond flavouring. Blend until smooth. Strain icing to remove bits of cherry skin .
Drizzle cherry icing on the cake, letting it pool in some areas on the bottom of cake. I find using a small plastic container with a small pouring spout (like for honey or mustard) helps with more even spreading. You can also use a spoon. Allow to harden at least 15 minutes or more. Next, drizzle the lemon icing over the cherry. Let harden.
If the icing becomes too hard before using it, place it in the microwave for a couple of seconds.