Mystery Cake (Tomato Soup Spice Cake)

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Yield: 1 cake 9 inch round

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Dating back to the 1930's, Mystery Cake was tremendously popular as it required very little butter and eggs, precious ingredients in Depression era America. The flavors in this cake are rich with no true tomato taste, just the warmth of the spices and sweetness of the raisins. This cake keeps beautifully and can be enjoyed as a snack cake with no icing needed, or iced with a simple vanilla glaze to dress it up. "This is a pleasant cake, which keeps well and puzzles people while you are cooking other things, which is always sensible and makes you feel rather noble, in itself a small but valuable pleasure." M.F.K. Fisher 1942

Mystery Cake (Tomato Soup Spice Cake)

star rating (23) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 1 cake 9 inch round
Published: 01/11/2010


Spice Cake

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (Campbell's preferred) 10 3/4 ounce size
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Tips from our bakers

  • Looking to cut the fat even more? My mother's aunt's original version of the recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of butter. The cake is slightly less tender, but still makes a very nice snack cake.


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1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Spritz a 9" round cake pan with cooking spray. Line with a parchment circle and spritz with spray again. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add egg and mix well.

2) Combine baking soda with undiluted soup in can. Let foam for 1 minute. Pour soup mixture into butter/sugar/egg and blend well. Mixture will look slightly curdled. This is normal.

3) In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and spices. Whisk well and add to tomato soup mixture. Beat together for 1 minute on medium speed. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack and ice as desired.


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  • star rating 02/03/2015
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  • star rating 12/12/2013
  • Anne M from Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Simple and good, I made this cake into muffins :-)
  • star rating 12/10/2013
  • JoeAnn from Marysville, WA
  • My family baked this cake every Christmas, but added walnuts and dates. They called it "Husbands Cake"and frosted it with cream cheese frosting , decorated with cherries and walnuts. Always looked forward to eating it ! Delicious !!! Baked in a bundt pan. Beautiful on the table. :0) I'm pushing 70.
  • star rating 05/09/2013
  • kaf-sub-4gccollins from KAF Community
  • Easy, taste, flavorful, keeps well. As a new baker we have enjoyed this several times. Making it as cup cakes for a party. Will try some variations from the comments. Thank you KAF for all this help.
  • star rating 05/26/2012
  • family4um from KAF Community
  • I chose this recipe because I was looking for something to do with all the whey I get when I make yogurt (I strain it, so that it's like Greek Yogurt). I saw the bit about putting the baking soda in the tomato soup, and the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. I don't buy condensed tomato soup, but I keep tomato paste in stock. One of the big differences between the two is the amount of sodium is negligible in tomato paste, and often really high in condensed soup. I used a 6 oz can of tomato paste and added my whey to it to get the 10.5 oz of tomato soup for the recipe. I suppose you could use water instead. I stirred it up and it was about the consistency of condensed soup, so I decided to make the recipe. Since it was early morning, I made it into muffins, using some white whole wheat flour, reducing the sugar by 1/4 cup, and adding walnuts and raisins. It worked beautifully! I might add just a bit of salt next time, because I think it needs a bit more than it got with just the tomato paste and unsalted butter. Voilá! There is a way to make this even healthier.
  • star rating 09/20/2010
  • gaahonore from KAF Community
  • I saw the link to this recipe in last week's blog. Intrigued about a recipe for :Mystery Cake" I clicked the link. As I read the recipe I knew I had to bake it so I stopped for a can of tomato soup on the way home from work. This cake was wonderful, spicy and moist, and a snap to put together. My husband loved it and could not believe it when I told him about the soup. Thanks KAF for reviving a classic!
  • star rating 05/25/2010
  • Aaron from Fall RIver, MA
  • I made a sheet cake no nuts or raisens. doubled the recipe, then did a single bach. was tall enough but I think 2 double batches would have made a higher cake. I use half White whole wheat and white flour. I only used a 1/4 tsp. of cloves. Was delicious and MOIST!!! Used buttercream icing, but cream cheese would have tasted even better. Big Thank you to the chat hotline for the questions I had.
  • star rating 04/01/2010
  • pamela from hartville, ohio
  • This cake was nice and moist, however, I added only half the amount of ground cinnamon and clove that it called for since these are both such strong spices. It worked just beautifully. Unique recipe not something you would expect to put tomato soup in.
  • star rating 01/25/2010
  • Lucy C from Arlington Heights IL
  • I got hooked on the whimsy of this cake and made it this weekend. I stopped at a strore that only had regular Campbell's Tomato Soup; I will opt for a healthier version next time. I will also add walnuts. But there definitely will be a "next time." We liked this cake very much.
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