I've been looking at this recipe in one form or another for at least forty years. It never appealed to me until this morning where I found my day on the over-scheduled side, yet I still wanted to have a dessert for Shabbos. No, we're not religious, unless you count the strict adherence to a Friday evening dessert a form of religious devotion. There's usually a challah as well. But not this week, because my head is about to explode. Anyway, the cookbook promised this cake was so easy, "A child could make it", and I thought, "Great, I have one of those!" so I gave him a pinny, and sent him off to the kitchen to bake a cake. And he did.
I can't believe we never made this before. People, listen to me (are you listening?) this cake is wonderful. Ordinarially, if a cake doesn't have milk, or oil, or butter I'd expect it to be inedible, but the syrup from the fruit cocktail more than makes up for the absent moisture from fat. There's a ton (I'm not exaggerating) of sugar in the cake, but in reading through the recipe, I made what I believe to be a good decision reducing the white sugar by half-trust me, it is still sweet. Very, very, sweet. You could also reduce the brown sugar as well without any harm done (I will next time we make it).
While it isn't exactly "dump and stir", you won't need a mixer for this. Two bowls, and a wooden spoon ought to do it. Danny thought it was too easy, so tomorrow I'm having him make puff paste (no, not really, he'll be off banding birds because it is Saturday, and that's what he does on Saturday. Don't be put off as I was all these years by the seemingly boring ingredients-this is a cake worth making. Due to nut allergies we substituted quick cooking oats in the topping for the nuts, and it worked perfectly. It makes a small 9 inch square pan of cake, so you can't get into too much trouble should you devour it in an evening.
From A World of Baking, Casella 1968
1 large egg
1 cup sugar (we used 1/2)
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 16 ounce (or there abouts) tin of fruit cocktail in heavy syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, or if allergic, 1/2 cup quick oats or coconut
Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, beat the egg and sugar together. Add flour and bicarb. Add fruit cocktail with syrup. Blend. Pour into prepared pan.
Mix brown sugar with nuts or oats, and sprinkle over top of cake. Bake about 30 minutes, or until it tests done. Cool in pan.