Do everyone’s parents have a random stack of old cookbooks from various churches and clubs they belonged to way back in the day? You know the ones that were made on a typewriter and assembled by hand. And you flip through them and see where your parents or grandparents have made notations of the recipes they’ve tried, the changes they made to them, and the ones that were made once and that was enough?
The one I stumbled across last week was for a nurses’ auxiliary in Pennsylvania. By the look of it, I would date it at some point in the mid 70’s. The cover is creased and the pages are browned with age.
Out of curiosity, I was flipping through it this morning when I came across a very peculiar recipe- Tomato Soup Cake. A quick google search informed me that this was a legit thing back in the Depression era when women learned to replace milk and eggs with a can of tomato soup. It seemed just disgusting enough that I couldn’t pass it by. What would a tomato soup cake taste like? Was this Ms. O’Kane on to something? Have I been missing out on an incredible delicacy for years out of sheer ignorance?!?!
So I went to the store and bought a can of soup… tomato soup.. FOR MY CAKE…
I got home and quickly assembled my ingredients.
I decided right off the bat to make two changes- swap out the crisco for some butter, and drop the raisins completely because raisins were just a bridge too far in my tomato cake.
Mixing up the butter and sugar got me off to a good start. I mean, that seems like a completely acceptable dessert right there, am I right??
Then I dug out my mom’s sifter. It’s the first time I’ve used a sifter since the mid-90’s but it’s kind of like riding a bike, you really don’t forget how to use it. I let the kids help me with that part because of the novelty-wow factor. They thought the sifter was awesome. We added all the dry ingredients except the spices.
This is where things got a bit dicey. I really had to talk myself into pouring a whole can of tomato soup onto my perfectly white, perfectly normal baking concoction. Everything about that seemed completely unnatural, and to make matters worse, it started to smell like ketchup. It wouldn’t be a lie if I told you I started breathing through my mouth at that point.
Next I added the spices- ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I regretted my decision as those smells began to mingle with the tomato aroma. But I had committed to this experiment, so I pressed on.
The batter moistened quickly with the tomato soup mixed in. At that point it both looked and smelled as if it had been eaten before and returned for an encore…
But then the strangest thing happened. As the batter took on a cake mix form, the smell of tomatoes went away and all I could smell was the pleasant aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon.
I poured the batter into the pan and placed it into the preheated over.
Curious as I was to the flavor of this experiment, I was not yet brave enough to try the batter. So I did the most sensible thing I could think of and invited the three children to try it for me. I was surprised when all three of them told me how delicious it was and I was even more surprised when I snuck a bite myself and agreed with them. It wasn’t terrible at all.
I set the timer for 40 minutes and went to work on my computer to pass the time. As I sat there, the house began to fill with the aroma of a freshly made cake.
When the timer went off, I carefully removed the cake from the oven.
And when it cooled off, I got it onto a plate. From the recipes I had seen online, tomato soup cake tastes the best with cream cheese frosting, so I melted some down and drizzled it over the top of the cake and let it cool.
The only thing left was to wait for dessert time! The kids rushed through their dinner so they could get a piece of cake. When I finally cut into it, I was surprised at how soft and moist the cake was. It was denser than a traditional box cake. When I took my first bite I discovered that I couldn’t taste the tomato in it at all! It tasted exactly like a spice cake with cream cheese frosting! I was shocked!
All in all, I would say that the great experiment was a success!! The whole family enjoyed it and the kids asked for seconds. I’m not sure that this will become a regular staple in our home, but I’d definitely make it again.
Now I want to go through all the old cookbooks and find more crazy recipes to make and feed to my family. If you see any, feel free to pass them on my way! And if you ever want to invite me to a potluck, I’ll bring the tomato soup cake!!