Posted by: Erica Retrochef | April 17, 2009

Gumdrop Cake

I owe all of you an apology; I have been sitting on this post for a little over a week, waiting for just one or two photos to be added while I messed around with thermodynamics homework instead. (Did you know you can construct your own tables of thermodynamics saturation properties even if you only know a few experimentally determined points on the curve? It’s true! Only a few nasty partial differential equations required…)

Alright, sorry — less geek, more cake!

I’m actually not the first blogger to try to make this. Looking for a retro cake recipe for Buzz’s birthday, I stumbled across a pretty cool blog: Culinary Types. T.W. Barritt has cooked a variety of vintage cake recipes, including Election Cake, Watermelon Cake (extremely cute), and Gumdrop Cake. The latter recipe originally came from The Old Foodie‘s 2008 cake week.

The Gumdrop Cake seems to have burst onto the culinary scene in America and Canada in the 1940’s, and was promoted as a novel alternative to traditional Christmas Cake. This version is from the Lilly Wallace New American Cook Book of 1946.

Gumdrop Cake.
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup milk
¾ cup raisins
1 pound gumdrops, black ones removed, chopped finely.

Cream butter, while adding sugar and beaten eggs. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together over chopped candy and raisins. Dredge well. Add vanilla to milk and add flour mixture and milk, to first mixture alternately. Bake in a large greased loaf tin in a slow oven (275 to 300 degrees F) [140-150 degrees C] 1 ½ hours.

Cutting the gumdrops into little pieces is boring. I sat watching TV and using kitchen shears to cut each one into quarters, and it took almost an hour to get through a bag of gumdrops; the scissors kept getting glued up with sugar and gelatin. The result was good (teeny weeny gumdrop bits are better in the cake), but I’m not sure it was worth the time investment.

beautiful rainbow gumdroppy goodness

And after the gumdrop chopping, they got mixed in with flour… and I realized after the fact it would have been better to have been dropping the bits into the flour as I went, rather than mixing the big sticky mountain in all at once. Oh well, I’d already wasted that much time on cutting up gumdrops, why not waste more time dredging? (Again, the results were good… just took a while to get there.)

Cut down on sticky icky by adding flour

And then after baking for an hour and a half, I was feeling pretty impatient — and so I tried to flip the cake out onto the cooling rack without actually checking that it was cooked through.

oops it is not quite done

It wasn’t.

Luckily, cake of this consistency has a pretty dense crumb, and it can handle being scraped off the counter, dumped back in the pan, and baked a while longer… it just ended up being a little lumpy on top.

chock full of gumdroppy goodness

This does indeed look very much like a fruitcake, with candy rather than candied fruit (unfortunately removing the option of pretending fruitcake is nutritious). And from the description, that definitely seems to be the intent. The kids absolutely love it, and Buzz likes it a lot. Personally, I find it a little TOO sweet and chewy; I think it’s the squishy gumdrop consistency that’s really not doing it for me. Plus all the preparatory work made it a very involved project, a little too much effort for the result. Next time, I’ll skip the gumdrops and just stick with candied fruit bits — something everyone in the family likes, including me.


  1. Kudos for your effort Erica. I should have such patience and stamina. I’m just going to have to save this recipe link for Gum Drop Day which is February 15th. I for one find it most encouraging!

    Thanks for sharing…

  2. It makes a pretty good fruitcake. Making the batter and putting in candied fruit instead of the gumdrops would work even better, I suppose. The only real weakness of the gumdrops compared with traditional crystallized fruit is that the drops have such a chewy texture, which is somewhat less desirable. The sweetness seemed less of an issue to me; candied cherries are practically as sweet as gumdrops themselves.

    Actually, we used “spice” gum drops in this recipe. I had never heard of them, but apparently they have more cinnamon, anise, mint, etc. flavors that conventional gum drops. Unaware of their existence, I just grabbed a bag of gum drops at the store. And I didn’t see anything wrong with having the more exotic candies in my cake, so we went ahead and used them.

  3. Just a note on the gum drops: my mom buys the ones found at baking stores that have better flavors and cuts them up into pieces. Those go in her fruitcake along with loads of fruit and nuts. They’re not a bad addition for a little bit more sweetness. I can’t imagine all gumdrops being good though!

  4. […] quick internet search found that others have make the 1940s era Gum Drop Cake. And there are plenty of modern version recipes as well. Some hints before you begin: cut the gum […]

  5. This would probably appeal to a five-year-old. But then, I think it sounds yummy and I’m not five.

  6. My mother has made gumdrop cake every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I’ve actually got a large piece of it sitting in my kitchen right now. I’m from the southwest of Nova Scotia, Canada and it is a tradition in our family and I’m assuming others in the area. I was shocked to see you covering this particular cake as I thought it was extremely regional; friends of mine from other parts of the province haven’t the slightest clue what I’m talking about and usually wrinkle their noses at the concept.

    I’m curious if you’ve ever run across a recipe for a Jello sandwich in any of your mid-century cookbooks? This weekend I had the pleasure of sampling one at an event in my hometown. First time I’ve ever seen or eaten one. I suspect there were onions in it along with cream cheese spread; shockingly not bad.

  7. Next time dip your scissors into flour then the gumdrops! It goes quicker, less frustration!

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