Tomato Soup Cake

Sunday 27 September 2020

You know it is autumn when the temperatures start to dip and the kitchen starts to smell like sugar and spice and all things nice.  Cinnamon. Cloves. Nutmeg.  Yep, a Tomato Soup cake is in the oven! 

Tomato Soup Cake?  What the heck? Say what?  Today I am tipping my hat to this fabulously retro recipe which dates back to days of old. I got the recipe from my Canadian MIL.  I am sure she got it from a tin of tomato soup!

People are always really surprised when you give them a slice of this delicious cake and are told what kind of cake it is!  You can almost guarantee their eye brows will rise in question.  Almost like they have heard you wrong.

Nope, you tell them. It is Tomato Soup Cake.  And then you can see them kind of nervously dipping their forks into it.  Not quite sure of what to expect.

They raise their fork to their mouth and you can almost see them cringing.  They are not sure what to expect but it can't be good right? 

WRONG!  They are almost always pleasantly surprised and have no problem digging their forks into the cake for a second bite. This is love at first bite, every time.

Tomato Soup Cake is a spicy sweet classic that has been gracing tables across North America for a great many years, back to the 1930's and the great depression.  This simple spice cake is also known as Mystery Cake. 

The secret ingredient, a tin of condensed tomato soup, has kept people guessing to no avail as to just what it is. You cannot taste any tomato soup in it. It just tastes nice and spicy.

Tomato Soup Cake

 I can only guess some really brave housewife happened upon the idea of using tomato soup to help cut back on butter and eggs which were really scarce at the time, along with wages.  There is some, but not a lot.

What a wonderful way to think outside of the box! How very innovative.  Whoever it was, I thank them very much!

In all truth it was probably a dietitian working for one of the soup companies who came up with it as a way to sell more tinnd soup. It doesn't really matter. The end result is one very delicious cake! 

I had never heard of it before my MIL gave me the recipe. It was not something my mother had ever made.  The first year I was married my MIL gave me a little handwritten notebook filled with all of her tried and true recipes. This was one of them.

I confess, I, too, was quite sceptical when I first saw it.  It was my ex husbands favourite cake however and so what was a good wife to do. Eager to please, I baked it for him. 

It smells heavenly when it is baking.  All spicy and warm, like autumn.  Your house will smell amazing.

To me, this is the smell of Home Sweet Home. Homecoming. Changing leaves. A briskness in the wind. Crisp and cooler mornings.  The smell of spice and woodsmoke.  

This tender and moist, spicy cake is to be honest, simply wonderful. It is very similar to my Applesauce Spice Cake both in looks and in flavour.  They both smell fabulous when baking.

The applesauce cake is not quite as dark in colour.  Both recipes are a nod to the ingenuity of the cooks and bakers of days gone by, when nothing was ever laid to waste and every scrap was used. 

I have added a cream cheese icing to my MIL's recipe. Hers was always plain.  Where she used to bake hers in a square pan, I like to bake it in a loaf tin. I think it turns out much moister baked in a loaf tin.

The cream cheese icing really adds a special touch I think.  A certain richness. I have had to fiddle a lot with my cream cheese icing since moving here to the UK.  Cream cheese here is wetter I think. It took me a very long time to get it to work out properly.

It is a fine balance between butter and cream cheese, and I do find it takes me a lot more icing sugar to get it to the right consistency here, which does result in more icing, but you can freeze the extra. Or keep it in the refrigerator for a short time if you know you are going to be using it up soonish.

Tomato Soup Cake

You can leave it plain if you wish, or just make a vanilla butter cream.  Plain it is lovely toasted lightly and spread with butter. 

Yes, I do know how to add extra calories to just about everything.  What can I say?  Guilty as charged.I guess I just know how to put the good in taste.  And my hips don't lie. They are the proof of the pudding.

Tomato Soup Cake

This spicy moist cake is studded with sweet sticky raisins. You can leave them out if you want, but if you are a raisin lover, I highly recommend you leave them in. You could use chopped dates in their place if you wanted to, or even both.

Same with the walnuts.  Leave them in and do toast them first if you can. It does make a difference. You could probably use pecans in their place, but I have just always used walnuts. Where I come from if a recipe calls for nuts, its usually walnuts.

Tomato Soup Cake

I really hope you will bake this.  Don't tell your family what it is until after they have fallen in love with it and then watch for the surprised look on their faces.

This has been a family pleaser for about 90 years now I reckon. There is something to be said about the staying power of a recipe such as this. Like the music of the Beatles and Spaghetti Bolognaise, may it never go out of style.

Tomato Soup Cake

Tomato Soup Cake
Yield: 1 (8 by 4-inch) loaf
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 10 Mincook time: 45 Mintotal time: 55 Min
This sweet and spicy classic loaf cake is studded with sticky raisins and crunchy toasted nuts. A cream cheese frosting is its crowning glory. You know its autumn when one of these is in the oven!


  • 1/4 cup (60g) butter
  • 1 cup (195g) sugar
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz)(295g) tin of condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 tsp  bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 cups (210 g) sifted all purpose (plain)flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (50g) raisins
  • 1/3 cup (40g) toasted walnuts (coarsely broken)
For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 2 1/2 TBS butter, at room temperature
  • 4 TBS cream cheese, at room temperature
  • few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (130g) icing sugar sifted (or enough to give you the consistency needed) (In the UK it may take considerably more)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter an 8 by 4 inch loaf tin and line with baking paper. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.  Beat in the tomato soup.
  3. Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder and spices.  Add to the creamed mixture and mix together just to combine.  Fold in the raisins and nuts.
  4. Spread in the loaf tin and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until well risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (Here in the UK, mine took an additional 10 minutes.)
  5. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then tip out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. When the cake has cooled make the frosting. Beat everything together until smooth, adding enough icing sugar to give you a smooth, thickish yet spreadable frosting. Spread over the top of the cake. 
  7. Cut into thick  slices to serve.
Did you make this recipe?
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Tomato Soup Cake  How are you coping with all of the changes in Blogger? I am having a heck of a time myself. I have never been one much for writing code etc. Like a car, I just want to get behind the wheel and turn the key.  This sure is different!  I suppose in time it will become old hat! Things are not quite looking the same on my home page, but I am hopeful that they will sort themselves out in due time.

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  1. Ok...I confess...I have never ever heard of this and I am a North American native....but it is too bizarre sounding not to give a whirl to LOL. I held out in protest to the changes to blogger and simply click on the "rever to legacy blogger" or whatever it was that it said....until they snatched that option right out from under me. The post I did a few days ago was my first with the new version and must say it wasn't as horrible as I had heard some say it was. But, then again, I was on my pc....not things may be more challenging there.....they always seem to be anyway.

    1. I kept doing the revert to legacy blogger and like you, it was snatched away from me. I am a person that doesn't really adapt well to change! I am truly a dinosaur! I just hope I don't become extinct! haha I hope you will try this cake Robin! Its lovely! xoxo

  2. Oh the memories. My mom made this cake and I remember laughing with her the first time she made it saying, imagine tomato soup in the cake and cream cheese in the icing. We had just immigrated to Canada from England in 1956 and someone gave her this recipe. I have it somewhere in my recipes.

    1. Its a great cake Linda! As unbelievable as that sounds! xoxo

  3. What a yummy memory you have given me. My mother made this often. Good food is always in fashion.

    1. You are right about that Katy. Good food is always in fashion for sure! xoxo

  4. The tomato soup cake originated with the Campbell’s soup company in the USA, there is no country called North America I might add.

    1. First of all I did not call North America a country. I simply mentioned this cake being enjoyed at tables across North America, which encompasses both Canada and the US. This is a fact.

      Further,I share this with you from kitchn:

      "A Cake to Combat the Depression"

      Although today’s recipe iterations don’t always reflect its original frugality, tomato soup cake has roots in Depression-era cooking. Recipes for the cake, sometimes called “Mystery Cake” because of its secret ingredient, first appeared in community cookbooks in the 1920s and 1930s. And these prototype tomato soup cakes were very simple: single-layer pan cakes or loaf cakes with scant quantities of dairy in the ingredient lists.

      MaryJane Robbins, a baking specialist and blogger for King Arthur Flour, helped develop the current King Arthur version based on her family’s recipe, handwritten by her mother and kept in a cookbook her great-aunt began compiling in 1932. “When I wrote the recipe for the site, I bumped up the amount of butter,” she admits. Her original recipe called for just two tablespoons of butter and one egg, and she remembers using the rest of a half-stick of butter to make a simple icing to top the cake.

      It didn’t take long for Campbell’s Soup to develop its own version and to start using it to promote their own goods. According to official Campbell Soup Company records, the first company-developed tomato soup cake recipe came out in 1940 as a British-style steamed pudding. (A brief timeline: Campbell’s Tomato Soup itself was introduced to the public in 1897, but the Campbell’s test kitchens didn’t officially open until 1941. Hence the decades of housewives crowd-sourcing and developing their own cake recipes.)

      The steamed pudding recipe also called for scant amounts of fat — one tablespoon butter, one tablespoon lard — but as butter rationing fell by the wayside after World War II, tomato soup cake recipes got a little more lavish to match the nation’s new prosperity (not to mention the growing American obsession with culinary convenience). Nancie McDermott, author of Southern Cakes, notes that in the postwar era, advertising started targeting female homemakers (think of Mad Men‘s marketing campaigns) and — as today — weekly newspaper food sections featured recipes, which helped influence and drive the knowledge of home cooking.

      So as you can clearly see, Campbell's Soup did not jump onto the bandwagon until much later and their first recipe was a "steamed pudding."

      I do try to check my facts before posting, just so you know.

  5. I must make this recipe. I'm happy to see that the recipe calls for a full can of soup. I once gave my sister a recipe for spiced carrots that called for 1/2 a can of tomato soup. When she asked me what she should do with the other half of the soup I said she can put it in the fridge and throw it out in two weeks or you can throw it out now. That made her laugh. Of course you don't throw it out, you eat it as soup! Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. LOL I am sure it did make her laugh. It made me laugh also! I have made those carrots before! I have a love/hate relationship with them! lol Love and hugs, xoxo

  6. Cakes are one of my favorite desserts of Me. Some cakes are traditionally make in special occasions such as at Christmas Eve. This Recipe is also that type. Some can be make with different toppings. Thank You For Your Recipe.

  7. I’m looking at this today, and to buy a tin of tomato’s soup today is way more expensive than eggs now, so how time changes . This is in Scotland, where prices have gone through the roof,due mostly to brexit.
    Fantastic how cooks can use what they have to make wonderful food. X

    1. I agree what was once considered to be economical is no longer so. Especially when it comes to meat! I hope you will want to try this cake. It is really delicious! xo


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