Tomato soup and cake probably don't seem like they go too well together, right? The former pairs impeccably with grilled cheese sandwiches, whereas the latter is commonly associated with birthday parties and weddings. In the early 20th Century, a supposedly odd concoction emerged, surprising taste buds and winning hearts across the nation. This curious creation was none other than — you guessed it — tomato soup cake.
The history of this sweet and savory dessert can be traced back to the Great Depression and World War II when many families were struck with financial adversity. While the true inventor of tomato soup cake remains unclear, it was during this time that the Campbell's Soup Company decided to take advantage of one of its bestselling products. A resourceful response to ingredient shortages, the cake ingeniously harnessed tomato soup's versatile base. The thrifty yet delicious dessert soon became a kitchen legend, finding a well-deserved spot on dining tables.
According to cookbooks from Campbell's and King Arthur Baking Company, all you need are the ingredients for a homemade spice cake (a boxed mix will do fine, too, as it also contains cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves), a can of tomato soup, margarine or butter, soda, eggs, and a little imagination. The natural acidity and emulsifying power of tomato soup add a unique depth, a subtle earthiness, and a moist crumb, yielding an unpretentious cake packed with character in every bite. The cake is also traditionally crowned with a luscious layer of chocolate or cream cheese frosting.
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So, why, after all this time, has tomato soup cake prevailed as an American favorite? Well, it's a bit of an enigma — a combination of nostalgia and a hint of rebellion. In the land of apple pies, cheeseburgers, and chocolate cakes, it was a deviation from the ordinary. It demonstrates the art of making the most of what's available, a value cherished by many generations. The cake's humble roots and affordability make it accessible to everyone, appealing to the masses during times of economic hardship and beyond. Campbell's even claims that, to this very day, the test kitchen still receives a slew of requests for the iconic recipe.
Even celebrated novelist and poet Sylvia Plath was known to have a special affection for the treat. The earnest author and home baker found solace in the unexpected harmony of flavors, much like her words have found resonance in readers' souls. Plath's love for tomato soup cake merely added to its mystique, making it a symbol of creative exploration.
Tomato soup cake exemplifies the spirit of experimentation. It's a reminder that edible wonders can be born from the most unlikely ingredients. Its allure lies in its ability to prove that even the seemingly strangest medleys can become beloved classics through the passage of time. Perhaps that's why, in the grand tapestry of American cuisine, this peculiar pastry continues to hold a cherished place, offering a charming escape from the mundane.
Read the original article on Mashed.