Here’s What Happened When We Made This 1950 Recipe for “Magic Tomato Soup Cake”
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This tomato soup cake has to be one of the more unusual recipes we've come across!
I think vintage desserts like this tomato soup cake are a fascinating snapshot of the past. Decades before recipes could go viral on TikTok, they were discovered the old-fashioned way: by home cooks who clipped recipes from the newspaper or a magazine to share with friends and neighbors.
This retro recipe first appeared in community cookbooks in the 1920s. It didn’t take Campbell’s Soup long to see that the cake was popular, so they began promoting the recipe in ads for tomato soup. This tomato soup cake continued to grow in popularity over the decades and saw its peak around the 1950s. I decided to give this retro recipe a try!
Why Does This Cake Use Tomato Soup?
During the Great Depression and World War II, home cooks had to find ways to make rationed ingredients last longer. Ingredients like oil, mayonnaise and tomato soup were used in place of butter, milk and eggs to create moist and flavorful cakes. (This wacky cake is make without butter, milk or eggs!)
How to Make Magic Tomato Soup Cake
I based my cake on this vintage recipe. It calls for a loaf pan, but a loaf just doesn’t feel like cake, so I used an 8″ square cake pan instead. The recipe makes 9 servings.
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 10.75-ounce can of tomato soup
- Optional: 1/3 cup raisins and 1/3 cup chopped nuts
Tools You’ll Need
Step 1: Sift the dry ingredients
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom and sides of your cake pan with nonstick spray.
Pour the cake flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Sift the ingredients together three times. (We love this charming direction from the original recipe, and sifting does ensure that everything is blended and smooth. This is how to sift if you don’t have a sifter.)
Step 2: Blend the butter, sugar and egg
Place the softened butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Blend them together on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides once. Add in the egg. Blend the mixture for about 5 minutes on medium-high speed until it’s light in color with lots of air incorporated.
Step 3: Add the dry mixture and the soup
Pour about half of the dry mixture into the bowl and run the mixer on low speed for just a few seconds. Then pour in the whole can of tomato soup and run the mixer for a few seconds more.
Pour in the remaining dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in.
Step 4: Time to bake
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Use a rubber spatula to spread it into the corners and even out the top. Place the pan in your hot oven, and bake the cake for 35-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with just a crumb or two. Place the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Serve
Nancy Mock for Taste of Home
After 10 minutes, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Allow it to cool completely. You can frost the cake if you want—I used a simple buttercream with a little cinnamon added in. A cream cheese frosting would also be a great choice, or the cake can also be simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
Store leftover cake covered tightly at room temperature for up to five days.
Here’s What I Thought
If you like spice cake or an old-fashioned carrot cake, then you’ll definitely enjoy this one—and I did, too! Tomato soup really does keep the cake moist, and the blend of spices is lovely. The soup also gives the cake an interesting pinkish-orange color, which made it all the more intriguing when I dared my family to guess the mystery ingredient in this dessert. (They were stunned when I finally told them!) A layer of frosting is delicious on this cake, but I also found that the slices tasted good plain. The cake would be tasty with raisins, golden raisins or chopped walnuts stirred into the batter.
Before I cut into the cake, I wondered, would I be able to taste the tomato soup? And the answer is, a little! Although my family said they could only taste the spice, I caught just the faintest flavor of tomato. It still tasted amazing, though.
The original recipe for this cake has no eggs and it definitely reflects the frugality of a Depression-era dessert. I tried this recipe as written, and even though it turned out moist, it was also very heavy and dense. Plus there was a little too much clove for my taste. When I made a second cake using the modified recipe above, with butter, an egg and a pinch of baking powder, the cake turned out much lighter. The spices are more balanced as well.