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
Author: Mrs. Soule, Iowa Newspaper, 1975
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 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 13×9 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!