Tomato Soup Cake: A Healthier, Vintage Dessert Recipe

Tomato Soup Cake: A Healthier, Vintage Dessert Recipe

Tomato soup cake emerged during the Great Depression, a period marked by economic hardship. Home cooks sought to make the most of limited resources, leading to inventive recipes like this one. The cake’s primary ingredient, canned tomato soup, was affordable and readily available, making it an ideal choice for families struggling to stretch their food budgets. The use of tomato soup allowed bakers to add moisture and color to the cake without expensive items like eggs and butter.

Popularization and Variations

After its creation, tomato soup cake gained popularity through community cookbooks and word of mouth. By the mid-20th century, it became a staple in American households, appearing at potlucks, church gatherings, and family reunions. The basic recipe involves cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but many variations exist. Some versions include raisins or nuts for added texture. Others incorporate a cream cheese frosting, enhancing the cake’s flavor with a tangy contrast.

Key Ingredients and Substitutions

Why Tomato Soup?

Tomato soup gives this cake its distinct moistness and rich color. Canned tomato soup serves as an economical substitute for milk or water in traditional cake recipes, making it an ideal choice for budget-friendly baking. You’ll notice a subtle tang that balances the sweetness of the cake. The natural acidity of tomato soup also reacts with baking soda, aiding in the cake’s rise and creating a softer texture.

  • Flour: All-purpose flour is common, but you can use whole wheat flour for added fiber.
  • Sweeteners: Granulated sugar is classic, but brown sugar intensifies the moistness and flavor.
  • Fats: Instead of shortening or margarine, opt for unsalted butter or coconut oil for a richer taste.
  • Egg Substitutes: Applesauce, mashed bananas, or flaxseed meal can replace eggs, ideal for vegan versions.
  • Spices: Stick to cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, yet ginger or allspice can add an interesting twist.
  • Add-ins: Optional raisins, chopped nuts, or chocolate chips can be mixed in for extra texture.
  • Frosting: Cream cheese frosting pairs well, but a simple powdered sugar glaze or buttercream can work wonders.

Step-by-Step Recipe

Preparing the Batter

Begin by gathering all necessary ingredients. You need one can (10.75 ounces) of condensed tomato soup, one cup of granulated sugar, half a cup of softened unsalted butter, two cups of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon, half a teaspoon of ground cloves, half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, half a cup of water, one cup of raisins, and one cup of chopped nuts.

  1. Mixing Wet Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the condensed tomato soup and water. Mix until smooth.
  2. Creaming Butter and Sugar: In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the tomato soup mixture and blend well.
  3. Preparing Dry Ingredients: In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  4. Combining Ingredients: Gradually add the dry ingredients to the soup mixture, mixing until well combined. Fold in the raisins and chopped nuts.

Baking and Cooling

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or use two 9-inch round cake pans for layered cake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).

  1. Baking: Place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes if using a 9×13-inch pan, or 25-30 minutes for the round pans. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake; it should come out clean.
  2. Cooling: Remove the cake from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

These specific steps ensure your tomato soup cake achieves a moist, flavorful texture and a rich spice aroma.

Nutritional Information

Health Benefits of Ingredients

Tomato soup cake includes a mix of ingredients offering various health benefits. Tomatoes, the primary component, are rich in antioxidants, particularly lycopene, which supports heart health. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves present in the recipe provide anti-inflammatory properties. Whole wheat flour, often used in some variations, adds fiber, which aids in digestion. Nuts and raisins enhance the cake’s nutritional profile by introducing healthy fats, protein, and vitamins. Using less sugar compared to conventional cakes can result in a lower glycemic index, making it a comparatively healthier dessert option.

Comparing Calories and Nutrients

Tomato soup cake typically has fewer calories than traditional cakes. A standard serving size of tomato soup cake (approximately 100g) contains around 250 calories, whereas a similar serving of chocolate cake can reach up to 350 calories. The reduced use of eggs and butter lowers the overall fat content. Here’s a comparison of basic nutritional values:

NutrientTomato Soup Cake (100g)Chocolate Cake (100g)
Total Fat8g15g

Lower fat and sugar content make tomato soup cake a less indulgent but healthier treat.

Serving Suggestions

Best Pairings

Pair tomato soup cake with beverages and sides that enhance its unique flavor profile. Hot drinks like coffee and tea accentuate the warm spices, while a glass of cold milk balances the cake’s sweetness. For a more indulgent option, consider serving it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream to add a creamy contrast to the moist cake. Fresh fruit like strawberries or raspberries can also provide a refreshing, tart complement.

Creative Presentation Ideas

Present tomato soup cake in ways that elevate its appeal. Dust the top with powdered sugar for a simple yet elegant finish. Alternatively, drizzle a light glaze made of powdered sugar and milk for an extra touch of sweetness. Serve individual slices on decorative plates, garnished with mint leaves or edible flowers to add a pop of color. For gatherings, consider baking the cake in a bundt pan or as cupcakes, then top each cupcake with a swirl of cream cheese frosting and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Tomato soup cake stands out as a delightful blend of history and innovation. Its unique flavor profile and nutritional benefits make it a favorite for modern gatherings. Whether you’re hosting a party or simply craving a healthier dessert, this cake never disappoints. Pair it with your favorite beverage or a scoop of ice cream for an unforgettable treat. Embrace the charm and versatility of tomato soup cake and enjoy a slice of this timeless classic.

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