This isn’t a clever post title made to make you think ‘You whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?’. Tomato soup cake is a Usual Thing in some parts of the world – the southern states of the USA, for one. When you look at it alongside red velvet cake and sweet potato pie it makes a certain amount of sense. It’s spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves so it has that autumnal feel to it, much like a sweet potato or pumpkin pie. I made a point of not telling anyone the secret ingredient so that everyone would try one; I’ve played this game with my work colleagues a couple of times now, and it’s always been a success, so now they are beginning to trust me. Cue the dog food pie any day now. Not really, not really! I would never do that. It’s cat food. No, of course not. It’s fish food. Bird food. Actually if you’re talking a dried fruit and nut mix, bird food would be fine. Not so much with the mealworms, though.
All joking aside, I won’t abuse the ‘guess what THIS is?’ game because it’s too much fun all round. Obviouslyit’s fun for me because I know and can enjoy all the peculiar guesses that get thrown at me, but everyone else seems to enjoy it, too. Today’s favourite guesses: Irn Bru (because of the colour), corned beef and stones. I think only the first one was serious, and the last was showing wise caution, given the line of my thoughts so far in this post. The guessing game makes the work day a bit different, maybe even a bit more interesting. Not that we’re ever what you might call bored. I mean, part of my job involves using a trolley; I can’t think of anything more fun than being the butt of an ‘I’ll have a tea, please’ joke every two feet. Plus, there’s cake involved, and people are mad for cake. I never really appreciated this until I started this blog and started ramping up my baking; people are MAD for cake. Alright, not *everyone*, but it’s my experience that even people that don’t have a sweet tooth want to talk about recipes, about cakes they’ve had, about the best way to make icing. It’s great that people share my interest and are interested (at least sometimes) in what I have to say about food; it’s the kind of hobby you can really share with people. It doesn’t get you out in the fresh air, right enough, though I do have a camping stove… Would probably confine me to pancakes and other flat food, though that might not be a hardship, since I have this delicious looking recipe for Thai-style savoury waffles. Haven’t tried them yet, they’re on the ever-expanding list.
To get back to the tomato soup cakes, then… I had tried these before when the superb baker Miss P made them for a girls night cupcake extravaganza. She’d mentioned to me that she was making them and I was excited to try them out, not put off in the slightest. They were, of course, divine, and mine were pretty average in comparison, but nobody else who tried one of mine knew that. Result. I used this recipe for the cakes, doubling it to give 36 cakes. I made them in two batches, because one of them was gluten free, for which I used Doves Farm plain flour blend and xanthan gum. I have two pieces of advice for anyone embarking upon the tomato soup cake road (which, presumably, is bordered by the French bread pavement and occasionally dotted with crouton traffic islands). The first is that when you add the tomato soup to the butter and sugar mix, it will separate. This happened with both batches of cake mix, so I don’t think it was a fluke, though perhaps mixing more slowly, or adding a little at a time, or hand mixing would make a difference. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because the recipe comes together when you add the flour and that frightening, congealed, scrambled-eggs-in-tomato-soup kind of look goes away again. Big relief. The other advice is two-fold; mix the soup in gently, and don’t wear white. Because the recipe calls for cream of tomato soup, the staining potential is really high, though of course it varies depending on the brand. I used two different ones, since I already had a tin of ‘value’ tomato soup in the cupboard for emergencies. The cheaper the soup, the more luminously orange it seems to be. The other tin I bought was also an own-brand tin, though it wasn’t from the supermarket’s yellow and black labelled, ‘you’re skint and you know you are, and now everyone else knows you are too’ range. Both soups worked fine and tasted fine, though I thought that the ‘value’ (I really want to spell that ‘val-U’ because that’s how I say it in my head) soup had a stronger smell to it. I didn’t check the ingredients beyond making sure it didn’t contain wheat, I thought that was best. What you don’t know won’t hurt you? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Not sure which is the best cliché to put into place here, if you have a favourite one we can use that, instead.
I didn’t like the look of the vague nature of the icing recipe on that page, though. I wanted an icing that could be piped into swirls, and starting out with melted butter suggested to me that this was more of a pouring recipe, no matter how much icing sugar you piled in. I started following the icing recipe on this page instead, but when I was finished with the instructions it, too, was a pouring consistency. I took matters into my own hands, so the finished recipe for the icing (to top 32 cupcakes, slightly fewer than I’d made, sadly) was this:
- 500g icing sugar
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 180g cream cheese
- 120g butter
- two pinches of sea salt
If I was making this properly, and not just amending a recipe that had gone wrong in the making, I’d do it like this:
- cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together
- add the icing sugar a bit at a time
- add and beat in the salt once all the sugar’s been incorporated, tasting before you add any, then after one pinch, to make sure you don’t overdo it
I topped the cupcakes with white chocolate stars, edible silver stars and holographic disco dust. It’s National Cupcake Week, so I wanted to make some really pretty, photogenic cakes. I also found that, by an extraordinarily happy coincidence, that the baking cases my mum had given me to take home after my last visit to hers were red, yellow and white, great matches for the orange-colour cakes.
Tunes : My wife-in-law’s dad sent me a gift this week. By wife-in-law I mean sister-in-law, but I like wife-in-law better. She and her family are from New England, and when I met her dad I rattled on about how I would love to visit them so I could hear people talk like they do in Stephen King books. If you don’t already know, I’m a huge King fan. I’ve built my collection, mostly through charity stores and second-hand bookshops, so that I own all but three of his substantial back catalogue. I haven’t read Under the Dome yet, but it’s on my wish list and Christmas isn’t too far off… Anyway, to get back to the point, I’ve read so much about New England, and Maine in particular, through the unlikely medium of horror fiction that I really want to visit the place in real life, listen to people talking, check out the autumn colours, that kind of thing. Maybe ward of some great and unimaginable evil while I’m about it. To tide me over until such time as I can hop on a plane across the water, Mr D sent me a CD of Marshall Dodge’s gentle, warm and funny collection of Maine stories, ‘Bert and I… on Stage’. Here‘s a performance of the eponymous story by his co-writer, Bob Bryan. You can listen to more he-yah. You should do so, and if you’re round my house any time soon I might even play you the CD.