Tomato Soup Cake

A Depression-era cake with a curiously delicious yet unexpected ingredient.

Home cooks have been getting creative in the kitchen for generations, using what they have on hand to craft delicious concoctions. The tomato soup cake is one of those creations, and trust us, the unexpected combination of condensed tomato soup and the flavors of a simple spice cake makes a treat much more delicious than you’d imagine.

The first iterations of this unique cake come from community cookbooks from the 1920s and 1930s, when frugality was key. The original cakes of this kind were no more than basic sheet cakes, and the soup served as a way to make the cake moist despite using very little oil or dairy products.

Campbell’s developed their first version of the cake in 1940, a Steamed Fruit & Nut Pudding made with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and, of course, a secret ingredient—Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup. After World War II rationing was no longer an issue, the recipe evolved and became more decadent, with more layers and rich frosting like we know and love today. In 1949, the tomato soup cake recipe was featured in the New York Times, and in 1960 it was the first recipe to appear on a soup label and made its way into kitchens across America.

Tomato Soup Cake
Makes 1 (13×9-inch) cake
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1½ teaspoons apple pie spice
  • 1 (10¾-ounce) can condensed tomato soup*
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 2 large egg whites, pasteurized
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with baking spray with flour. Line with parchment paper, letting excess extend over sides of pan; spray again.
For cake:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and pie spice. In another large bowl, beat soup, sugars, shortening, eggs, and milk with a mixer at medium-low speed until fully combined. Add flour mixture, beating on low speed just until combined. Fold in raisins, if using. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  2. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan. Using the excess parchment as handles, remove cake from pan and place on a serving platter.
For frosting:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a mixer at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Slowly add corn syrup while beating, continuing to beat until smooth and glossy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla just until combined. Spread frosting onto cooled cake.
Try your hand at baking this oh-so-easy cake, and you’ll see for yourself why this one-of-a-kind cake has stood the test of time.

*We used Campbell’s.