Pinto Bean Cake – A Mid-Century Recipe Test

Posted on Oct 2 2013 - 5:00am by RetroRuth

My obsession with weird-ingredient desserts continues. This week we are making a cake with a fun addition: Pinto Beans!

It’s called, unsurprisingly, Pinto Bean Cake.


I found this recipe in a stash of newspaper clippings from the 1970’s that I recently bought on eBay. Besides the fact that this cake contained a heck of a lot of beans, I was also surprised at the amount of cloves the recipe called for. I mean, 1/2 teaspoon of cloves is actually quite a lot. I was intrigued to see how it would all come out!

Pinto Bean Cake
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups pinto beans, cooked and mashed (can use frozen!)
  • 2 cups diced raw apple
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup black walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture.
  3. Stir in beans, apples, raisins, nuts and vanilla. (Raisins can be plumped in hot water)
  4. Pour into greased and floured 13x9 pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  5. Good with cream cheese icing, powdered sugar, white cooked icing or just whipped cream.



This recipe had some big positives. Besides being a way to get beans into people who may not like beans, it also was a relatively cheap cake to make. I had apples, raisins and walnuts all on hand in my pantry, especially at this time of year when Tom comes home with a gigantic bag of apples every week from the farmer’s market. It called for a relatively small amount of fat, one egg and no milk. The only thing I ended up buying for this cake was the beans.


Since the recipe called for cooked beans, I am assuming that this cake isn’t meant to have canned beans in it. You can always try it, but canned beans always have kind of a funny flavor and a lot of salt, which I didn’t want messing with the flavor of the cake. But I was too lazy to cook my own beans, so I bought frozen precooked beans and thawed them out. They worked perfectly.


At this point, I noticed something was a little off in the batter, besides the fact that this mostly just beans. It looked a lot like cookie dough and not very much like cake batter. In other words: Really dry. I suddenly started to get less excited and started wondering if I should break my own rules and throw some milk in there.

And then I hit a pan snag. At first I tried to spread it into a 13×9 pan, but when that didn’t look like it was going to work I crammed everything into a 9 inch pan and crossed my fingers.


It actually came out okay! I was thrilled there was no spillage.

I slapped some quick cream cheese icing on the cake and forced Tom to take a bite.

Tom TastesIMG_3317

“Is it horrible?”

“Nah. Tastes like a spice cake. Lotsa cloves though.”

“Is that bad?”

“Nope. It tastes good and completely covers up the tastes of beans. But it’s dry.”

The Verdict: Good Flavor, But Dry

From The Tasting Notes:

This cake tasted like a good spice cake. The spices were surprisingly balanced, even the cloves, and really helped to completely hide the flavor of beans. The apples, raisins and walnuts were good additions. Tasted amazing with cream cheese frosting. Only drawback was that the cake was too dry and crumbly. This could easily be fixed by adding some additional fat or applesauce. If I were going to make this again, I would get rid of the shortening and instead use a stick of butter and a half a cup of unsweetened applesauce. Oh, and make it in a 13×9 pan, because a 9 inch pan was a bit too small!

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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12 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Ae October 2, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    I think a scoop of ice cream on top would help!

  2. Sharon October 2, 2013 at 10:12 am - Reply

    This sounds like it’s worth a shot. When I was a teenager, about 30 years ago, an older woman (probably the age I am now!) brought a pinto bean pie to a potluck. It was good, and did not taste like pinto beans. If I recall correctly, it tasted a lot like an apple pie. I remember all women saying to each other, “Take a bite and see if you can tell what this is.”

  3. Ann October 2, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Interesting. I was half expecting the recipe to call for cooking the bean in sugar water, much like Japanese red beans. Here is one example:

  4. Lassie October 2, 2013 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Interesting! I came here to say I was on the South Beach Diet some years ago and came across a recipe that also used mashed beans (any kind, pinto, kidney, black beans), an egg, sugar, oil, and a packet of either pudding or jello mix. It made a small one layer cake of any flavor you wanted to use. The butterscotch pudding cake and strawberry jello cake both were EXCELLENT. You would never imagine they were made with beans. The hardest part was mashing the beans into a smooth paste. The diet featured lots of good foods, but I sure missed my carbs, and so the cake was extra-satisfying. I would make it again today if I could just find that recipe again.

  5. SnoKat October 2, 2013 at 11:03 am - Reply

    I wonder about putting canned beans through the food processor to get it really smooth?

    • celia October 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      I am going to try an immersion blender.

  6. Charlotte October 2, 2013 at 11:04 am - Reply

    There’s a brownie recipe floating around that uses black beans. Might be based on the same idea. Either way..this is..err..healthy!

  7. Juti October 4, 2013 at 8:44 am - Reply

    I made pinto bean pie a couple of times. It’s just like pecan pie, but instead of the nuts you have pinto beans. It tastes good but the texture can be a little funky. It was supposed to be an antique cowboy chuckwagon recipe.

    By the way, you can find “no salt added” canned beans. That might make a differencein the moisture category.

  8. celia October 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    I am fully making this. My husband will be horrified but I’ll do it while he’s at work. I bet if I mash it with the immersion blender and the applesauce the beans will vanish. I am still kind of horrified but IT IS ON>

  9. Sharon December 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    My grandmother used to make a Pinto Bean Cake in the 40’s to 50’s but I have never found the recipe for it. This sounds similar, but I can remember hers being moist.

  10. Barbara Eller December 9, 2015 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Pinto beans, cooked with seasoning are delicious. The Pinto bean cake recipe that I use calls for butter and just one cup of flour, no salt. Bakes in a tube pan for one hour at 325*. It is very moist, not dry at all. It has 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. A 9×13 pan would be too large. The rest of the recipe is the same as the recipe appearing here.

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