Oh dear, I thought. Another novelty cake. I'm going to go hunt for some funky American ingredient and put it in a cake and then feel bad about all the other ingredients going to waste.
Tomato soup? I ask you, would you want to put it in a cake? But then I tried to convince myself: tomatoes are fruit, after all. Tomato soup mixes sweet, sour, and salty flavors, which in moderation can contribute to a decent cake. So maybe it wouldn't be too bad, if I could find canned tomato soup without basil or garlic.
And in fact I didn't even have to buy the Heinz tomato soup from the "exotic foods" aisle at the big supermarket: the local smaller store had little boxes of it that were just about the right amount: 10.3 oz. instead of 10.7. So I had no excuse but to dig in and make the cake.
Besides the tomato soup, this is just a date-nut spice cake. It's easy to make, and if you can ignore the funny color, it doesn't seem all that odd.
Let me take a detour into chocolate frosting land. See this giant block of chocolate? I went to a pastry supply shop in Paris and got 3 kilos of unsweetened chocolate. Also 3 kilos of semisweet and a kilo of milk--all the fancy Valrhona kind. I don't need to hoard my Baker's chocolate anymore.
But something went wrong--I think the Valrhona is more heat-sensitive than the Baker's stuff--and the frosting went all clumpy and funny. Nonetheless, it was delicious. So was the cake!
That's right: this is a delicious cake. It's moist and tender and spicy and nutty. The bittersweet frosting sets it off. I made this for my German host family, and they loved it. I neglected to tell them the ingredient list...
So, Maida, I take it all back. Sometimes putting weird stuff into a cake can make it better and not just weird. Of course I had to wait for the last (I think!) weird recipe to find this out.
Here's the recipe. Astound your friends and family--and yourself.
Tomato Soup Cake
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature (unsalted is best here because the soup is salty)
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1 T. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
2 c. (8 oz.) sifted flour (some whole-wheat is OK here)
1 can (10.75 oz. or however large they are these days) basic tomato soup
1/2 c. (4 oz.) chopped pitted dates
1 c. (4 oz.) walnut halves or pieces
Heat the oven to 375. Butter a 9-inch square pan and coat it with bread crumbs (I used wheat germ).
Cream together the butter, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cocoa powder until fluffy. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating another few minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each. Gradually mix in half the flour, then the tomato soup, then the rest of the flour. Stir in the dates and walnuts.
Pour that into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely in the pan or just for 30 minutes, then unmold onto a serving plate. While the cake is cooling, make the icing:
1/2 c. (4 oz.) cream
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
Heat the cream in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl until it is steaming. Add the unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk chocolate, which should melt from the residual heat. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat it with an electric mixer for a minute or two: if you're smarter/luckier than me, the mixture should become "beautifully smooth/shiny/thick." Pour over the cake and frost the way you like to. Let cool to set, then dig in. Enjoy the Americana.