The truth is, I never liked the canned fruit cocktail salad that is traditionally served during the holidays in the Philippines. The version of Speedy’s family — with loads of peaches — was a lot better than what we had when I was a child but, still…
I can’t count the times I wondered where the dessert originated from. I assumed that because it was popular during my parents’ generation that it was an offshoot of the canned food craze that came with the Americans and the G.I.s during the second world war. My assumption is correct but only in part. In Southern United States, there is a fruit salad called Ambrosia which is quite similar to the Filipino fruit salad. It stands to reason that the Filipino fruit salad is a local adaptation of the Ambrosia.
It wasn’t until we started making fresh fruit salad that I truly developed an affinity with this dessert. We also revised the 1:1 ratio between cream and sweetened condensed milk to one part sweetened condensed milk to two parts cream. Not only is the texture of fresh fruits so much better, their varying degrees of sweetness and the subtle tang of some of them combined with the reduced amount of sweetened condensed milk make the dessert less cloying.
This year, our fruit salad more closely resembles the Ambrosia salad of the U.S. South. There are fruits, of course, and the dressing is a combination of cream cheese and whipped cream sweetened with confectioner’s sugar. I served the fruit salad as a trifle with alternating layers of fruit and dressing topped with grated dark chocolate.
How many pieces of each fruit is not specified below as it is the total volume of all the fruits that you want to pay attention to so that you get a nice proportion between fruits and dressing. You will need about eight cups of fruits (measure after cutting).
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup whipping cream, well chilled
- confectioner's (powdered) sugar, to taste
- Cut the fruits into whatever size and shape you like.
- To prevent the bananas and apples from darkening, toss with with two tablespoons of lemon juice.
- Using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, mix the cream cheese until fluffy. Scrape off the mixing bowl and transfer to a clean bowl.
- Pour the chilled cream into the mixer's bowl. Swap the whisk for the paddle and whip the cream until double in volume. Add the remaining lemon juice and a cup of confectioner's sugar, and mix until smooth. Add the cream cheese in two or three batches and mix until the dressing is well blended. Taste and add more confectioner's sugar until you get the balance that pleases you.
- You can just toss the fruits with the dressing or you can assemble the dessert in glasses with alternating layers of fruits and dressing. You may optionally sprinkle grated chocolate on top before serving.