Appalachia Appalachian Food

The Husband Cake

The husband cake

I believe it was back last year that I first heard about The Husband Cake. We were discussing make do food recipes and Ethel, a Blind Pig reader, emailed me about the cake.

Ethel’s family had been making the cake for generations, and since it doesn’t require any eggs or butter it seemed like a make do recipe for sure.

More recently, Ethel and I were discussing the cake again-and she went asking around to see if she could discover the history of the cake for me. This is what Ethel came up with:

My Dad and Aunt Mary remember Grandma making this cake as far back as they have memories. According to Aunt Mary, it was  Grandpa who renamed the recipe Husband Cake, because he liked it so much. It is actually Tomato Soup Cake or Mystery Cake. Grandma was a busy mother of four and a dedicated nurse, so she didn’t get time to bake very often. Poor Grandpa only got this cake maybe twice a year! Grandma passed the recipe along to Mom, and the fourth generation of our family is now enjoying it.

I always assumed that this was a WWII recipe, because there are no eggs or butter in it, and my grandparents married in 1945. When I Googled the recipe history I found that it’s been around since the late 1920’s. A lot of the recipes I saw called for eggs, butter and nuts. Maybe it was adapted later to fit the depression or war-time rationing.
Now a days I make one of these cakes every two or three months. It’s just flat-out scrumptious with its half-inch layer of cream cheese frosting, but the sweetest thing about it is the way Dad’s eyes light up when I carry it in the house!
Ingredients for The Husband Cake
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cup plain flour (all purpose)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1 package cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 cup powdered sugar

Recipe for tomato soup cake

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan or 2 round cake pans. Cream shortening; add sugar; beat till light and fluffy.

Add tomato soup mix well; add water-mix well.

I must admit when I poured the can of soup in I thought oh dear I’ve probably just wasted all this-I mean how will this ever taste good?

Easy recipe for eggless cake

Sift dry ingredients together. Add to tomato mixture a little at a time and mix till smooth.

Tomato spice cake

Spoon batter into greased and floured pan(s)-bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes depending on the pan size you use-and the way your oven cooks.

To make the frosting cream butter and cream cheese till blended; add vanilla and powdered sugar mix well.

When I made the cake I used 2 round 9 inch pans. I was so anxious to see how the cake tasted so I tried to remove one layer as soon as it came out of the oven, it came apart in pieces. The other layer I let cool a good 15-20 minutes and it came out perfectly.

Old world war ll cake recipe

To my utter surprise the cake was delicious! Demolishing the first layer made the cake very hard to ice-but I finally got the icing smeared around most of it.

I had just finished cleaning up the mess when the rest of the family came home. After supper they all gave the cake a try and they all loved it. I made them try to guess what kind of cake it was, The Deer Hunter and Chatter both guessed it was a carrot cake. They were all surprised when I told them it was Husband Cake which is more commonly called a tomato soup cake. Chatter enjoyed the cake so much she requested a piece be added to her school lunch every day that week.

So have you ever had a cake with a can of tomato soup in it?

Tipper

p.s. Thank you Ethel-for sharing the recipe and your family history of the cake!

 

 

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Kriss
    October 19, 2019 at 5:52 am

    This is my all time favorite cake ( minus the icing, never had it served this way ) this was an eastern Canadian tradition at weddings. The cake was wrapped in foil with a bow and given to each quest, every single girl was supposed to sleep with it under her pillow and she would dream of her future husband. Who knows how far back this tradition started, but with the Celtic heritage of east coast Canada, quite possibly back to Ireland or Scotland, Ive never been able to find out more about it. The main difference aside from the icing it also included walnuts when I had it. Another amazing east coast tradition is boiled frosting, Ive never been able to make it but I sure do crave it ( rumor has it it only ‘turns out’ when it’s cooked on an Atlantic Coast altitude ) ‍♀️

  • Reply
    Wink
    May 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I came across this post while trying to find the history behind a “Husband Cake” recipe I came across in a high altitude cookbook published in Denver in the 1950s. The cake isn’t called out in the book as anything unusual, yet I haven’t come across one before in my collection. Now I’ll have to look closer!

  • Reply
    Becky
    March 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

    No, I can’t say that I have. But I am very curious and will be trying this!

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    February 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    This looks good! It kind of resembles a spice cake.

  • Reply
    RB
    February 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I remember our Aunt Ella’s husband making Tomato Soup Cake and he also made one called Miracle Whip Cake. Couldn’t tell you how he did either, but I do remember they were both very good.
    Saw on The Chew today Carla making a No-Bake Ice Box Cake. It was a recipe devised during WWII when sugar and butter were rationed. She took Gingerbread Cookies (Nabisco’s sugar and butter wasn’t rationed) and alternated layers with Whipped Cream flavored with lemon zest and another with Whipped Cream flavored with Lemon Curd (guess Redi Whip’s sugar wasn’t rationed either). She said you put it together in a spring form pan and put it in the fridge overnight. Then when you can stick a toothpick all the way through it, it’s done. It looked wonderful, and I was thinking of the many combinations one could make just using different cookies and different flavorings in the whipped cream. One that kept running through my mind was the Lemon Cream Cookies (vanilla cookies stuffed with lemon cream between) with the lemon flavored Whipped Cream. Yum!
    Ever heard of a No-Bake Ice Box Cake made that way? Improvisation, the true gem within every good cook. ;o)
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    February 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve never tried it but you sold me.. it looks delicious and I’m writing the recipe down..thanks Tipper..

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    February 21, 2012 at 11:13 am

    This looks SO good! I am going to have to try it

  • Reply
    Cee
    February 21, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I have seen the recipe before but was always a little skeptical. Now that I have it from a good source that it is good I will try it. My husband loves spice cakes and his birthday is coming up soon…this will make a good birthday cake!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    How could I possibly forget
    Dump Cake…..
    Thanks….

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Tipper,
    I couldn’t pass this opportunity to list a few oddball cake names I’ve heard thru the years that stick in my mind…
    Hummingbird Cake…
    Watergate Cake…
    Cherries in the Snow…
    Hawaiian Fantasy Cake…(sounds like it would be great for a snowy winter)
    Pepsi-Cola Cake…
    Heath Bar Cake…
    Mounds Cake….
    I got to stop or I’ll have a coma and I don’t have diabetes,Yet! LOL
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Sandy Carlson (USA)
    February 20, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    OK, now I have to try this. For years I have been looking at the recipe. But you give me courage–and a great back story.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Tipper,
    Never heard this called Husband Cake…and I never made one…My Mother made a cake with a can of tomato soup in it, so I guess this is close to the same recipe..
    She was crazy about all kinds of spice cakes..as a lot of folks from the mountains are, I have found…Don’t know if that’s because chocolate was hard to come by or not…I know anything with spices or molasses she loved…I may just try this one..
    When I resurrect Moms cookbook, the one she started housekeeping with in 1940…I will look and see if the recipe is there..that might give a time period for the recipe…
    Great Post Tipper,

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    February 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Now that last picture was to die for so to speak. I am going to pass that recipe along to my wife.

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    February 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    It does sound delicious and reminds me of a spice cake…

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Your recipe for tomato cake couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a cold rainy day here and I was looking for something to do tonight with my wife, Jan. I had to call her to see if she had any tomato soup. She didn’t,Jan makes her own home made tomato soup. I’ll have to get some on the way home from work. We have to go to a meeting Wed. night and it would be great to take one of these cakes there to see if anyone can guess what it is made out of. There are a couple of people there that think they can tell what anything is made of. I wonder if any of them will think of tomatos.

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    February 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I am so laughing at this. When I was a very small child, ’bout the only thing my mom could get me to eat (without a full-fledged tussle) was grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. I always have at least a dozen cans of tomato soup in the house. I’m going to give this recipe a try this week!

  • Reply
    Mic
    February 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    It sounds disgusting, but it looks delicious!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Mrs. K-Mayonnaise is made from vegetable oil, eggs and citrus juice. All are ingredients in a lot of cakes. They are just preblended. So why not?
    Does anyone have a cake recipe with bacon in it?

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 20, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Tipper,
    When I saw tomato soup added I
    thought, uh oh, it’s ruern’t!
    From the finished picture it does
    look like carrot cake. I bet my
    parents would have known about
    this cake in those Depression
    Years…Ken

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    February 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Interesting recipe, I will have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Tom
    February 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Another must-try recipe, thanks Ethel and Tipper!

  • Reply
    Ethel
    February 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Thank you for sharing this old recipe Tipper! Grandma, who was so proud to call herself a Pennsylvania Hillbilly, would be ticked pink to know one of her specialties is being featured on an Appalacian blog!
    I had to smile when you said you had a moment of doubt after adding the tomato soup – Mom called Grandma in a panic at just that point when she made it the first time, certain she’d made a mistake!
    Now I’m hungry for a nice big slab of that moist, spicy sweetness. Another plus, when I make this with my grandaughter Kate, I can let her lick the beaters, as there’s no egg in the batter!

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    February 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of Tomato Soup Cake – even have the recipe for it somewhere, but I’ve never tried it. I have had mayonnaise cake when I was a child and my husband also had it and loved it. I remember as a kid we thought it was so weird, but it didn’t stop us from eating it!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    February 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I’ve never heard of that cake, but I’ll surely try it out soon.

  • Reply
    Susan Casada
    February 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

    That sounds delicious. I think my husband should bake it this weekend for us. Then it will be a real Husband (made) Cake.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    February 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I have a very old Campbells soup cookbook that contained all kind of recipes. When I head North I will check it out. I remember making a cake with soup, probably tomato, but it has been years. I think I will try making one of these – not only a good conversation piece, but something that will taste good.

  • Reply
    sandra
    February 20, 2012 at 8:38 am

    it looks great, this is a first for me, tomato soup in a cake. very interesting.

  • Reply
    Belva
    February 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I’ve never had tomato soup cake before, but it sounds good. I will have to try the recipe and see if my family can guess what is in it. Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    February 20, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I’ve heard of it but never tried it. Maybe I’ll have to now.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Tipper, I’ve never heard of that cake and I have to say it certainly sounds strange.
    I will take your word that it is good.
    It’s interesting that the first layer was so soft it came apart. I used to make a cake called Wacky cake that had no eggs or butter. It was very soft like your cake. I guess the eggs give a cake more substance, so to speak.
    That picture of the flour mixture with the tomato soup poured in sure has a strange look!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    February 20, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Linda-I think Ethel’s family called it a Husband Cake-because the Husband (her Grandfather) loved it so much : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    February 20, 2012 at 8:06 am

    My grandma called it depression cake. 😉

  • Reply
    LINDA L. KERLIN
    February 20, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Yes Tipper, I have had tomato soup cake and the folks in this cabin love it as well but I never heard it called Husband Cake—do you know why it was named that?

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 20, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I have the recipe, but it’s been a long time since I baked this cake. My recipe is entitled “Tomato Soup Cake.” I had not heard it called Husband Cake before! But my husband liked it–when I used to make it about twice a year. Someone gave the recipe to me when he was pastor of Epworth, GA First Baptist Church back in the 1960’s.

  • Reply
    kat
    February 20, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Have never heard of tomato soup cake but it sounds interesting.

  • Reply
    Special Ed
    February 20, 2012 at 5:35 am

    mater soup cake? Hmmmmmmmm!!

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