Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Thursday, March 5, 2009

-Another wartime, budget recipe from the archives. A delicious spice cake that uses condensed tomato soup. Flavorful and intriguing!-

I know what most of you are thinking. You read the title and silently said to yourself, "The hell...?"
This reaction doesn't surprise me, but a few days ago it did. When I told people I was doing a tomato soup cupcake, everyone seemed shocked and taken aback. Apparently, few people outside of the south have heard of this.

Tomato soup cake is pretty common in southern cooking, and was a popular option in the 40's and 50's for low income families. The reason is that this recipe requires just the bare essentials you probably have in your pantry and very litte of them. The soup provides the right amount of sugar and salt, and creates a unique spice cake. No one will ever guess the secret ingredient, and after you tell them, the shock on their face and the joy of the next new, adventurous bite is worth all the 5 minutes it took to make these little cupcakes.

The cream cheese frosting isn't exactly war time 1940's, but it does give this a nice bit of flavor. Tomato soup cake was usually flavored with margarine (butter was hard to come by, though this recipe makes use of it, it was just head over heels better that way).

Tomato Soup Cupcakes
Makes about 12 cupcakes

What You'll Need...
1 (10.75) ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup of butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups of sifted self-rising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
crushed walnuts (optional)

What You'll Do...
1) Set the butter and egg out and let them come to room temperature. Set the over to 325 degrees F (165 C).

2) Combine the tomato soup and baking soda in a bowl and let it stand. Use a deep bowl as the mixture will rise.

3) Cream the butter, sugar, and spices in bowl. Add the egg and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the tomato soup and soda mixture. It will look funky, but don't worry.

4) Mix the flour and baking powder together, and then beat into the mixture until just combined.

5) Pour evenly into cupcake papers. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The cupcakes will be soft. Let them cool then cover with icing. Let them sit overnight in the fridge so the flavors can meld, or just take one in each hand and start eating.

6) Optional: Walnuts can be folded into the batter, or crumbled on top after being iced. The bitter and sweetness of the walnuts, plus the soft resistent crunch really add a pop to these cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

What You'll Need...
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup of butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of powdered sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. Beat them together until well combined.

2) Add the poweder sugar and then the vanilla. Add more podered sugar if you want for desired thickness. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.


  1. do you think you could make them with homemade tomato soup?

  2. Hey Sam, I suppose you could, I have tried once or twice and it didn't really raise. Plus, the addition of things like oregano, make the cake taste like it should just be a bread, not a cake, and throws the whole thing off. You might have better luck than me though.

  3. Wow, that's a new one on me. Gorgeous shot, though.

  4. It sounds really good to me..and it is a great shot. I may have to print and frame it!

  5. garrett,

    this is what Joy of Cooking refers to as "Mystery Cake"--and what happens to also be one of the recipes dumped from its 1997 revision (back again in this new 2006 incarnation).

    and sam,

    i think the canned soup is probably an essential ingredient in making this recipe's magic happen! ;-)

  6. This sounds oddly strange, but I would be willing to give it a try! I'll let you know if I do! That would be the best sneaky way to get my daughter to eat veggies, HA! Although, she DOES like Tomato soup!

  7. **Eyes Garrett with guarded suspicion** first I thought you had just tumbled from your "baking queen...non-stop flour force, armed with butter and a cup o' sugar" status and blown a gasket. BUT, now I'm intrigued and you have more than proved your status in the past. I have to try this now! Thanks for what is (for me anyway) a totally new idea!

  8. When I first read the post title I thought you'd gone a little too far in your savoury cake experimentation. ;)

    An interesting idea. I guess if the recipe has been around for that long it must be good!

  9. How cute is that cupcake? And Darling, how retro! ;-)

  10. This recipe was mentioned in the SFist! Holy friggin Jesus. Thanks Mary Ladd and SFist!

    Another witty gent is Garrett at Vanilla Garlic. He wins the prize for this week's weird idea that looks great and has a good explanation, in the form of his Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. These cupcakes reflect sensible cooking using pantry ingredients at hand, something our Southern based ists had to do in the 1940's and 50's. We feel the tomato soup's (you gotta go with the canned soup, so it feels REAL 1950's style, people!) nutritive value is likely diminished once cooked. Parents may not want to use the cupcakes as a way to get their kiddoodles to eat 5 A Day The Colorful Way. Instead, think of it as an introduction to savory baked goods.

  11. Hey Garrett,

    :) These look great. My Mom used to make Tomato Soup loaf cake all the time when I was growing up. For anyone who hasn't tried this type of cake - it's scrumptious! Really moist and delicious, and nobody will ever guess the secret ingredient.

    I plan on making these this weekend. Thanks for a fantastic recipe. I just found your blog, and can't wait to visit again.


    PS. Please check out my blogs too - I'd love your feedback...

  12. Sounds excellent--definately gotta try it.

  13. I made these this weekend. They were delicous! Everyone loved them - (until they found out what the secret ingredient was - i think it wierded people out). One thing - the receipe calls for one egg but the directions dont advise when to add it.....

  14. Cupid - Thanks I made the change. I never got that about these cupcakes, some people won't eat them after they find out the secret ingredient, suddenly it's bad? Wierdos. Luckilly most people don't care and fully enjoy them.

  15. its the first time i ever heard of a tomato cupcake and then i find out that its a retro thing.Gosh i really need to catch up with whats goin on.i think this cake would be amazing.come to think of it i know of the cream of onion soup bread/cake.thanks for sharing.

  16. These cupcakes have made me want to marry you. Or them. Or both.

  17. i tried these out about a week ago and added basil to the recipe. the basil was pretty subtle under the cinnamon flavor.

    i want to try them again with basil but without cinnamon and cloves.

    eat to live. live to eat.

  18. Hey Garrett,
    Just made these cupcakes today. I ran out of time for the icing and used store bought. My family was skeptical at first when I told them what I was going to make, but they devoured them!
    Thanks for a great recipe!

  19. oh wow! Some of my friends constantly bake and I only play the game when I find something unusual to put on the table. My last project: chocolate zucchini cake. Thanks for this recipe and I can't wait to try it!

  20. I made these last night. i have a few comments...
    for us aussies out there, baking soda is Bicarb.
    i found they needed a lot closer to 30 mins in the oven, but it may just be my oven... also i got 24 out of the batch, how big are your cupcakes Garrett??

    I have brought them to work today, and so far no-one has guessed what they are, but a few have asked for the recipe! Thanx for sharing Garrett!

  21. I'm all about baking weird-sounding stuff, so I think I'll have to give these a try. If only you would have posted this a few days earlier, it would have been a perfect item to bake and serve at our office soup lunch pot-luck that we're having tomorrow. I'd be all like, "I brought soup for the lunch... it's in the cupcakes!" And they'd all be like, "Whaaaa...?"
    BTW, I love that photo. It's perfect that the coloring in the candle looks just like a bowl of condensed tomato soup. You crafty devil!

  22. Interesting and unique recipe... tomato soup cupcakes. Never thought of those 2 together.

  23. This is excellent. My grandmother (born and raised in the deep south) used to make tomato pudding. I used to love it as a kid, and hadn't thought about it until I stumbled accross your recipe. It was really a bread pudding made with tomatoes from her garden. The tomatoes gave it a wonderful flavor. My grandmother has long since passed, but I really wish I had that recipe. You've inspired me to try to figure it out, or to search around the 'net to see if I can find something similar.

  24. When 5:00 rolls around, I'm so venturing to the store for tomato soup and self-rising flour.

    And Guinness for Guinness Bread a la Hank Shaw via Elise.

  25. wow, this sounds so great. I've never heard about it beofre. I'll try to make these for a healthy snack to my son's class.

  26. Garrett, My mother used to make these all the time, but would never give anyone her recipe. When she passed 11 years ago, I thought I had lost the experience forever. Thanks for bringing the recipe to us. For those who are skeptical, I say keep an open mind. These are the best little cakes you will ever try and you will want them all the time.

  27. I can't wait to try this!
    But, it will have to wait until tomorrow, as I am out of ground cloves. :(
    I wonder if pumpkin pie spice, or allspice, would work in a pinch...

    I just came across someone who made broccoli cupcakes (so far she hasn't released the recipe), and I thought to google them with tomatos, instead. I've never heard of these, but your recipe looks awesome!

    Thanx for sharing. :)

  28. Tried 'em, and loved 'em!

    But, they do make more then 12. I would say 15, at least, maybe more. Perhaps 12 large muffins, instead of cupcake size.

    Also, they did take longer to cook, at least 21(+) minutes.
    And the didn't seem to rise much in the oven. Instead of forming a dome, they rose a little, then just spread out over the top edge of the cupcake tin, and were almost like a cookie on top.
    Any suggestions?

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe!
    They tasted great, and I'm sure they will be just perfect the next time I make them.

    The Major will now demonstrate the Tomato Soup Cupcake Dance!

  29. Hi! I'm from north of Boston, but these have been a family staple at Christmas since the '40s (or so I hear). We frost them with a bit of buttercream frosting.....sinful!

    I now live in Japan and make them every year when I have a Christmas party with my neighbors. Damned hard to get the soup here 30 years ago, now we have three stores that carry it. My son is totally hooked on them.

    My grandmother's recipe has 5 cups of flour, it's a monster.

  30. so whats the secret ingredint? tomato soup?

  31. Grandma made this cake up here in Ohio, it's been a family favorite for three generations.
    Grandma's version uses shortening, no butter or eggs. Maybe it was adapted to war-time rationing.
    Good stuff!

  32. Interesting story... Had never heard of anything like this until a week ago. My daughter is working on a WWII project so we went to a local antique mall looking for vintage items. We found a group of wartime ration books and she of course did not notice the handwritten recipe in one of them. When I started reading it I had a hard time figuring out some of the ingredients. I could make out the sugar, spices and "cambells tomato soup". Yeah I was like "WTF?!" so I googled tomato soup bread (it called for baking in a loaf) and your re ipe was one that came up. It was almost exactly alike except for the egg. (and you have actual directions). So I said I HAVE to try this. I made them, to the letter and they were unbelievably AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! One of the kids snuck two of them and my 12 yr old said they were "the best cupcakes in the world"!!!! Everyone guessed they were pumpkin. Just happy to have found this awesome recipe and can't wait to try more of yours! Thanks!!!!


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