Depression Era Recipes: Tomato Spice Cake

The Campbell Soup Company first sold canned condensed tomato soup in 1895. A pantry staple long ago, it was affordable as America plunged headfirst into the Great Depression in the summer of 1929. The tomato spice cake came out of the extreme recipes created in that time period. The cake/bread required no eggs, milk, or oil. It’s a straightforward recipe – the authentic one, not the later version, which used a commercial spice cake mix. Always keep seeking the real recipes our ancestors created out of what they could find and, yes, afford. Even today, with the high cost of groceries, you can still cook and bake affordably.

The original recipe calls for margarine, which was far easier to get in the cities during the Great Depression and WWII than butter. If one uses margarine, this bread would be vegan.

The baked cake (though I’d call it a quick bread) comes out a pleasant shade of auburn, almost like a natural-dyed red velvet cake. And no, you don’t taste or smell the tomato soup. The soup, being acidic in nature, activates the baking soda, where traditionally, buttermilk or soured milk would have done the job. It’s great cooled and even tastier the next day, with a little butter on each slice. No frosting is needed.

Don’t be afraid to use the full amount of spices called for. Yes, it needs a whole teaspoon each!

Campbell Tomato Soup contains:

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Water, Wheat Flour, Sugar, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Potassium Salt, Natural Flavoring, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Celery Extract, Garlic Oil.

Tomato Spice Cake


  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, chopped up (room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (we weighed, used 240 grams)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 10.5-ounce can of condensed tomato soup
  • 1 tsp baking soda


Preheat oven to 350°. Oil an 8″x4″ loaf pan.

In a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat until creamed.

Add in the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt, and mix in well.

Stir the baking soda into the tomato soup and beat into the dry mixture until blended.

Scrape into the prepared pan, and smooth out.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the center is fully baked and when a butter knife comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then knock out of the pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Store covered.

Makes 1 loaf.