Updated: Aug 27
I Get It, Tomatoes in Cake Sounds Offputting!
I wrote in an earlier article We Bake to Remember Loved Ones, and mentioned my departed mother’s favorite cake. I grew up hearing it called Mystery Cake, Campbell Soup Cake, Spice Cake, and very infrequently Tomato Soup Cake. I’m guessing it is called all of these names in an effort not to dissuade people from trying this tasty delight.
Tomato Soup Cake
Reading up on the history of this cake, I read the same comments over and over. It was the tomato that received all of the negative press. It is essential to note this recipe was created in the Depression-era (20’s and 30’s). Milk and butter were in short supply, and the condensed tomato soup was a simple replacement. Another innovative person was coming up with alternative uses for the much-loved tomato (I am not a fan). It wasn’t long before the tomato soup recipe started to appear in handwritten community cookbooks.
This Tomato Soup Cake made a resurgence during WWII when rationing was put into play. This same condensed soup proved an excellent alternative to butter and eggs at the time. The popularity of this dessert started to flourish once Campbell’s started to promote it on their can labels. The first company-developed tomato soup cake recipe was developed in 1940. In the ’60s, the formula became less regional and more widespread, and the popularity grew.
My mother was born in 1948, so I guess her mother had this recipe in the cookbook. One of many regrets would be not getting more history on some of these family loves. It was very well known in my household both my grandmother and mother loved this dessert. The two of them would accept no substitute on their birthdays.
So, back to the cake. Does it taste like tomato? I can report the tomato soup helps to preserve the moisture within the cake. Given the “spice” portion, you can’t taste the tomato. This is very much a spice cake and very often compared to a carrot cake. Once completed, it is best when frosted with vanilla cream cheese frosting. If you are game, you can pull the recipe directly off of Campbell’s website here or seek out one of the “many” altered recipes online. Add raisins, walnuts, apple’s and so on to punch it up. Enjoy!