Tomato Cake

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Similar to the war-era classic, this tomato cake uses garden fresh tomatoes in place of the canned soup. 

Tomato cake is easy to make using fresh tomatoes rather than tomato soup.

It seems like I always end up making a cake when life is feeling uncertain. I wrote about it when I made a spiced pear cake and then again at length for my black forest cake. (Which you should definitely make ASAP if you still have cherries around.) And here I am again, offering up one of the few things I can in hopes to make your day better, to soothe some of your pain, to perhaps soothe some of my own.

I don’t feel I have any particular words of wisdom to offer these days. It’s hard to offer solutions for something you do not understand, something you try to forget exists in this world.

But I hope I can listen. I hope I can let my voice not overpower yours. I hope I can offer my hand and some comfort. Maybe over a pot of coffee, and this cake.

Tomato cake is just like that old classic, but using fresh tomatoes.

We use cake to celebrate, but also to lift us up. The simplicity of cake, its inherent sweetness, reminds us that there is still joy in life, even when we are troubled. It reminds us that we can make do with what we have, and we need less than we think.

This particular cake originated sometime in the Great Depression, when so many in the country were trying to make do. It was a way to have a much-needed treat in an era when frivolous items like cake were difficult to come by. Thanks to rationing during the depression and the subsequent war, dairy and eggs were hard to come by, and the tomato soup helped cover some of those ingredients. (You still needed butter and eggs; just not as much.)

Variations on the basic recipe were created throughout the 1950s and 60s. In 1960, one of the variations created by Campbell’s soup became the first recipe to appear on soup labels. This simple addition to a product so many were already buying likely helped bring the cake to the kitchens of our parents and grandparents.

I don’t have any specific memories of eating tomato soup cake, but somehow it was always in the back of my mind. It’s one of those cakes that everyone just knows, even if my husband claims I was being mean to him for making tomato cake.

For my version of tomato cake, I dispensed with the soup and instead turned to the fresh tomatoes of summer. During my last canning session I was explaining to the kids about tomatoes being fruit, and suddenly remembered tomato cake. From what, I don’t know, but I’m glad that spark was lit.

Similar to the war-era classic, this tomato cake uses garden fresh tomatoes in place of the canned soup.

The amount of tomatoes you’ll need depends a bit on the size of your tomatoes and how juicy they might be. I used two large slicing tomatoes, about 1 pound weight in total. You need 2 cups of tomato liquid, plus 2-3 tablespoons for the glaze. Leftover tomato juice can be used to add to pasta sauce or just about anything you like.

You can peel the tomatoes if you like, but it’s not necessary as the tomato skins are blended completely, and any remaining bits melt into the cake as it bakes.

And no, my tomato cake does not taste like tomatoes. The citric acid in the tomatoes helps to balance the sweetness in the cake and enhance the spices. The resulting cake is wonderfully light and ideal for a weeknight treat.

Tomato cake is a classic. No one can ever guess the secret ingredient.

If you have doubts, I challenge you to try this fresh tomato cake today!

Similar to the war-era classic, this tomato cake uses garden fresh tomatoes in place of the canned soup.

Tomato Cake

This classic tomato cake uses fresh tomatoes rather than tomato soup. It's a wonderful spice cake everyone loves.
4.36 from 57 votes
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 387 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a 10-cup bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  • Core tomatoes and quarter. Purée in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Measure out two cups and set aside, reserving remainder.
  • In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter until creamed and fluffy.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.
  • Alternate adding flour mixture and tomato purée to the batter, starting and ending with the flour. Be sure to incorporate fully before doing the next addition.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack and cool completely.
  • To make the glaze, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2-3 tablespoons leftover tomato juice until completely smooth. Add more sugar or liquid as necessary. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 387 kcalCarbohydrates: 60 gProtein: 4 gSaturated Fat: 9 gCholesterol: 69 mgSodium: 483 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 39 g
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14 Comments

  1. I know I have heard about tomato cake before but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it or even a recipe for it. I love that you used real tomatoes instead of the condensed tomato soup! I would definitely try this.

    1. @Kaylin I think it fell out of favor, but maybe it will make a comeback? It’s a nice change from all those zucchini desserts in the summer 🙂 Let me know if you try it; I would love to hear your thoughts!

  2. I’ve made this cake twice, first time it was underbaked but still enjoyed by all despite a stodgy bottom. Second time was perfect, it is light and moist with subtle spices, and I decided to not bother with the icing as the cake is quite sweet. I couldn’t get hold of ground cardomom so added 1/4 tsp nutmeg and an extra 1/2tsp cinnamon. This is definitely a new favourite in our house.

  3. Made this cake for a tomato tasting event. It was a big hit. Best way to eat tomatoes ever. I will now be making it for other events as well.
    I made it as written except for no cardamon, since I didn’t have any in the house. Added about 1/4 teaspoon minced dehydrated ginger and 1 tablespoon molasses. The cake has excellent flavor and is very moist.

    1. Hi Sarah! I have not tried this, but if it is a 1-for-1 kind of gluten-free substitute, it should work. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out!

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