Some of my favorite cookbooks are not slick hardbound volumes full of colorful photos. Some of them are old, well-used booklets of simple recipes that were put together decades ago for church and school groups with recipes from neighborhood mothers and wives. The colorful books are still wonderful, of course, but there is nothing like seeing some of the recipes that were popular – for better and for worse – just a half century or so ago. I like the entertainment value in some of the “bad” recipes and the nostalgia of the great ones – and I would put Tomato Soup Cake in the latter category. If you have a cookbook like the one I described, I can almost guarantee that a version of this recipe is in there.
Tomato soup cake was, and is, a secret ingredient cake. This means that while tomato soup is one of the main ingredients in the cake, you can’t really taste it in the finished product. Versions of this recipe appeared, at various times, on the backs of cans of tomato soup. Condensed tomato soup is what most of the older recipes called for. I never have condensed tomato soup in my pantry, so I’ve adapted my own version of the classic tomato soup cake to use tomato juice or V8 juice instead (I usually use V8 juice; both work equally well).
Tomato juice seems like a strange ingredient compared to other cakes, but what you end up with is a sweet and moist spice cake that has a great flavors from all of the cinnamon, allspice and cloves in the recipe. It does not taste like tomato soup or tomato juice at all, although it is reminiscent of a carrot cake or pumpkin bread. You can definitely feel good about getting at least one serving of veggies when you eat a slice! Cream cheese frosting is a good match for spice cakes, and just a little bit makes a very nice topping for the finished cake.
Tomato Juice Spice Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup tomato juice or V8 juice
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8 or 9-inch square cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in spices, egg, vanilla extract and almond extract until well blended. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the tomato juice, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Mix only until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool in the pan before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
approx 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick and fluffy. Add an additional tablespoon or two of confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin to spread easily.