Monday, September 17, 2007

Conversation Cake.

Today, September 17th ….

Today I have for you another little bit of Retro Cake trivia (are you reading this, Patron Saint of Retro Cakes?) from an almost Retro Recipe source – the radio. In spite of the obvious advantages of a highly visual medium such as TV in providing cookery infotainment, radio recipe programs just refuse to die.

There is, in the USA, a long running food/cookery/household hint program called Ask Heloise Radio Show. The current Heloise is the daughter of the originator, who started off with a newspaper column in the Honolulu Advertiser in1959. On September 17th 1959 Heloise the First gave a recipe for Tomato Soup Conversation Cake, which used as its title suggests, one can of tomato soup – and which no doubt (as Heloise I pointed out) has the potential for being a conversation starter, should you need one for your little tea-party.

The recipe was not a new idea in 1959 - without the ‘conversation’ in the title the idea has been around since the 1920’s. It seems to have first appeared in a Campbell’s recipe booklet – and if anyone can provide the original recipe I will happily post it. Variations on the theme have been in and out of fashion in the decades since then: most have spices, some have dried fruit and/or nuts, and it can be made in the style of a Chiffon-cake type if that is your preference. I have come across a recipe with only three ingredients – 1 package of spice-cake mix, 1 can (10 ½ oz) of condensed tomato soup, and ¼ cup water – which is more of a set of assembling instructions than a recipe I think.

The version I give you today is from a newspaper article of 1935. The columnist begins by saying:

“For some reason editors throughout the country report a deluge of requests for ‘tomato soup cake.’ It sounds weird to the uninitiated, but try some and understand that such popularity must be deserved!”

Tomato Soup Cake.
Cream 1 cup butter and one cup sugar until smooth, then add one beaten egg and mix thoroughly. Dissolve one teaspoon soda in one can tomato soup, and alternate with 1 ¾ cups flour which has been sifted with two tea-spoons cloves, one teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly and stir in one cup sliced pasteurized dates and one cup chopped walnut meats. Place in greased and floured shallow loaf pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool and ‘frost’ with a cream cheese frosting.

It might be one way to give your children more vegetables, and your adults some extra lycopenes (the cancer-protective ingredient that makes tomatoes red), should you need some cake-justification. Either way, please relax and enjoy, for tomorrow is a very serious story.

Tomorrow’s Story …

No honey for the children.

Quotation for the Day …

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. Jim Davis (he who produces “Garfield”).


Anonymous said...

I wonder how tomato soup cake would taste with a side of potato chip cookies, which apparently are quite popular even now. (There's a recipe in "The Best American Recipes 2001-2002" for them.) Add some caramel-popcorn ice cream and Budweiser beer sorbet and you've got a balanced meal.

Or so my friend Barry Fig tells me.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I'm listening! Indeed, both my mother and grandmother made tomato soup cake, and I believe I made it once during my formative baking years. We were reared on soup-can-cookery on suburban Long Island. I remember it being quite moist. The book "Fashionable Food" by Sylvia Lovegren calls it "Mystery Cake" and dates it from Campbell's in 1925. The recipe includes raisins and nutmeg and the author connects it to the aspic tradition! Now, here we are in 2007, still having a conversation about all this!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I just dug out a Campbell's Soup recipe book from 1950 that belonged to my paternal grandmother. The "desserts" section has three recipes: Steamed Fig Pudding with Foamy Sauce, Tomato Soup Cake, and Apple Sauce Spice Shortcake with Foamy Sauce. All three have Campbell's Tomato Soup as the "secret" ingredient. The caption at the top of the page says: "What! Soup in cake and pudding! Yes, ma'am! It gives rich color, helps keep them moist and fresh and makes them very goo to eat indeed."

Joanna said...

I must have had a very sheltered childhood - plenty of tomato soup, but no tomato soup cake. But, then, my mother used to buy Heinz ...


Anonymous said...

Here's my mother's hand written recipe from her cookbook she assembled as a new bride in 1934.
2 Tbsp Butter
1 C sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can tomato soup
Cream butter and sugar, add egg. Alternate dry ingredients with soup and beat well. Bake at 350 F for 20 min.
Ice with Cream Cheese frosting
3 oz, cream cheese
1/4 milk or water
2 1/4 C 4x sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat all ingredients well.
This cake was my birthday cake for all the years I lived at home. Now it's still a family favorite and my mother, 93 and quite senile, still remembers it and asks for "my tomato soup cake."
Linda Ferris