I cannot resist cakes with weird ingredients. I just can’t. So, when I came across a recipe for a chocolate cake that had, as the “secret” ingredient, a can of condensed tomato soup, I knew I was going to have to make it.

The recipe came from a recent Salvation Army score comprised of ALL handwritten recipe cards and recipe clippings, sans boxes. There were about five or six collections of cards from different women, spanning the 1950’s-1990’s and I managed to snag them all for only $2. In this stack of wonderfulness, I came across the recipe for this Black Magic Cake with tomato soup twice; once handwritten from the 1970’s and another was a clipping from a grocery store handout from 1994.


I did some research for this cake, because I was convinced that it must have it’s origins in a mid-century Campbell’s recipe. But I hit a dead-end. I even asked Sharon from the Flickr group, “Gee, That Food Looks Terrible” and she couldn’t put her finger on it, either. But what I know so far is this:  Cakes made with tomato soup are very common in Depression cooking, and are also common in mid-century cooking. Even though I can’t lock down the source or the exact year, this recipe could very well be from the 1960’s or even earlier. This recipe is also very similar to Hershey’s Black Magic Cake, which uses a cup of cold coffee instead of tomato soup, and I think the debut year for that recipe was 1934.

But I have to tell you I don’t care exactly where the recipe came from.  I know this is usually the part of the post where tell you how I felt while I was making the latest dish and trying to keep the end result a surprise, but this time I am letting the cat out of the soup can early and telling you that this cake was amazing.

I know, I am ruining this post, but I don’t care. This cake was just that good.


I even made this cake twice in one week, because that is how good it was. I originally made the recipe exactly with no substitutions according to the rules here on the Mid-Century Menu, and I made it in a 13×9 pan because I was lazy and didn’t feel like frosting a layer cake.


And the batter smelled bad. It smelled really bad! I have to admit that I didn’t have high hopes at this point. But then…


It came out of the oven and the finished cake smelled so good, and it was so moist and delicious. And Tom kept eating so much of it.

“This cake is so good.”

“I know!”

“I am getting another piece.”

“No don’t! This is your third piece already. And it isn’t even 10:00 am yet!”

“I want it!”

“We have to get rid of this thing. It’s like tomato-chocolate-crack.”

Finally, we agreed that we had to send the cake away to be eaten by Tom’s co-workers, otherwise we were going to eat the whole thing by ourselves in two days.

But we couldn’t stop thinking about the cake. We daydreamed about it. We pined for it. We cursed the decision to give it away. And so, when our neighbors invited us over for dinner that Saturday, we knew exactly which cake we were going to make to take for dessert.


Oh yes. It’s back!

This time I tweaked it a little, and it ended up being even better than the first one. It was moist, very chocolately, had an excellent depth of flavor provided by the tomato soup and it was very stable. I was easily able to bake it in two 8 inch layer pans, turn the cakes out with no problems AND split each layer with no turntable and just a serrated knife. The layers took quite a bit of flapping back and forth as I filled the cake, and never once cracked or crumbled. And this sucker stayed moist, too. Three days later I got an email from our neighbor who took leftover cake home, exclaiming on how moist the cake still was.

Total success.

But you don’t have to take just my word for it. You can also check out Tom’s face.


From the first taste-test and…


From the second tasting.

The Verdict: Amazing! Tom has decided this is his new favorite chocolate cake, and I am never to make a different one again. Ever.

*Note – The layer cake is frosted with Vintage Bakery Frosting, and filled with a vintage chocolate frosting/filling that I will be posting soon!




Glistening and Jiggly Promo big

This is it, it’s the last day to send in your submission for our vintage gelatin recipe contest! Send us any vintage recipe you’ve got, good or bad! Email them to ruth@midcenturymenu.com or ruth@nopatternrequired.com . We have tons of great prizes, AND you get to see Tom choke down your worst and enjoy your best gelatin dishes.

Come on! You know you want to!