Monday 19 September 2011

Tomato Soup Cake Challenge: Vera vs. Gwen

Recently, I came across not one, but two recipes for the caker classic Tomato Soup Cake. Both recipes were on the same page in the same cookbook, From Our...Kitchens…To Yours, produced by the Melfort Block Parents Association. (The ellipses are a little weird, but bear with me.)

One recipe was credited to a woman named Vera. The other to a woman named Gwen. Did both of these women know one another? (Melfort, Saskatchewan has a population of 6000 according to its website, so it’s likely.) Were Vera and Gwen aware that they submitted the same recipe? If not, were they hurt/angry/embarrassed? I couldn't help but imagine a confrontation following the book's release.

“You said you were doing a zucchini cake, Gwen!”

“Well, it's not like you own the copyright to Tomato Soup Cake, Vera!”

I had to figure out which recipe produced the best cake. So, after making both, I conducted a taste test among my colleagues. Which woman would reign supreme?

In the end, it was pretty close with only a few votes separating the winner from the loser. Vera ultimately walked away the champ. Tasters found her moister and softer, with just the right amount of nuts. Gwen, on the other hand, was a little drier and denser, although some found her a little spicier.

I’m posting each recipe because, when it comes to Tomato Soup Cake, there are no losers.

First Place: Vera’s Tomato Soup Cake
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 can tomato soup
1 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

Heat oven to 350°. Cream sugar and margarine or butter. Add lightly beaten egg and beat well. Add soup and soda. Combine raisins and nuts to sifted dry ingredients and add in small amounts. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

Second Place: Gwen’s Tomato Soup Cake
2 cups flour
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 can tomato soup
1 cup raisins
½ cup walnuts
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Heat oven to 375°. Cream butter and add sugar. Dissolve the baking soda in the tomato soup. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and add alternately with the tomato soup to the creamed mixture. Add raisins and walnuts. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Source: From Our...Kitchens…To Yours, Melfort Block Parents Association, Melfort, Saskatchewan (I'm sorry, but the illustration of the kid creeps me out. He looks like a mini Michael Myers.)


  1. If I was a lost kid and had to go to a block parent's house for help, I would run away screaming if they tried to serve me tomato soup cake. As an adult though, looking at these cakes now, I think they sure look tasty...

  2. These cakes don't LOOK tasty. They ARE tasty. Unfortunately, Tomato Soup Cake suffers the same issues as Dump Cake - delicious treats with unfortunate names. If it was called Spice Cake, no one would bat an eyelash.

    Sigh. Chalk it up to another lesson in "What NOT to Name Your Food 101."

  3. Just needs a layer of cream cheese frosting on top, and it's perfection on a plate.

  4. You could put a layer of cream cheese frosting on just about anything (Tomato Soup Cake, Carrot Cake, earthworms) and I'd eat it.

  5. Hi Brian, I heard your interview on CBC, so now I have to try this spice cake. Ha!

  6. My maternal Baba, who is Ukrainian and a 'Church Lady', hailed from Transcona (this part of Winnipeg is about as Caker as you can get!). She also made a Tomato Soup Cake. Her version has a crumb top. Over the years, I have made it for my now-grown children and they still love it. It is one of several recipes that appear around the holiday table that they fondly call 'Church Basement Cooking' or 'White-Trash Cooking' (no actual offence intended).

    Here is the recipe:

    Tomato Soup Cake
    2 cups white flour
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup butter
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspooon ground nutmeg
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 cup dried currants
    1 cup chopped walnut pieces
    1 can tomato soup
    1 egg, slightly beaten

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 8x8 baking pan and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour and sugar mixture. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture for the crumb topping. To the remaining flour mixture in the bowl, add the baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, currants and walnuts. Mix thoroughly. Add the egg and tomato soup to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Spread the batter into the prepared 8x8 baking pan. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the surface of the cake. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Yum!

    1. Hi Janice. I LOVE the term "Church Basement Cooking." Someone suggested topping the Tomato Soup Cake with a cream cheese frosting, which would be great, but I think your crumb topping would be a delicious addition, as well. Thanks for this recipe! I might need to have a new competition now: Vera vs. Gwen vs. Janice. It would be the ultimate Tomato Soup Cake throw down!

  7. Why does Vera's cake have a grid pattern on top?

    1. Vera got turned out onto a wire rack. But I think it might've given her a competitive edge. She looked a little fancier than Gwen.