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Similar to the war-era classic, this tomato cake uses garden fresh tomatoes in place of the canned 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.
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.
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.
If you have doubts, I challenge you to try this fresh tomato cake today!
- 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
- 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.