Fresh Tomato Spice Cake

It’s been hard not to notice the abundance of tomatoes in season lately.  I’ve seen vibrant varieties of colors and shapes at farmers markets, grocery stores, and gardens of green-thumbed friends.  They whisper that summer is sneaking away as the magic of autumn awaits us. They offer a burst of life and color while the sky gets a little darker each day.

Juicy, tangy and sweet, seasonal tomatoes make it obvious that they’re fruits and not vegetables.  Eating one recently, I noticed that it almost tasted like a berry, and I wondered why we make sweet treats from pumpkins and zucchini but hardly ever from tomatoes, at least not that I’ve seen or tasted.  Now was the time.

Fresh Tomato Spice Cake
(makes a 9 x 13” cake; 20 – 40 slices, depending on size)

  • 2 and 2/3 cup pureed fresh tomatoes (from about 1.75 pounds ripe tomatoes; see instructions)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar*
  • ¼ cup molasses*
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a 9 by 13” cake pan with parchment paper; grease parchment and inner sides of pan.  Wash the tomatoes and cut the stem spot off each of them, then slice into fourths and place in food processor.  Puree until liquidy and even in consistency; little flecks of colored skin are welcome.  Measure out 2 and 2/3 cups; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and molasses until smooth and even in color. Beat in the oil until incorporated.  Sift all remaining dry ingredients over the egg mixture.  Begin to fold in the dry ingredients, gradually adding the measured tomato puree.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with spatula; mix until batter is even.  Pour into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until center tests clean with a toothpick and no longer jiggles.  Let cool completely in pan, then transfer to a large plate or cutting board.

For an easy, pretty icing, whisk together ¾ cup powdered sugar, 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (added gradually), and a few dashes cinnamon and nutmegDrizzle diagonally over cake using a fork or plastic bag with a small hole cut in its corner.  Let icing dry before serving.

Sweet, spicy, and full of fall flavors, this colorfully-flecked cake has taken on the nickname Secret Ingredient Spice Cake in my orbit.  You see, I brought it to work last week and placed a sign next to it that read: “Guess the secret ingredient: Pumpkin, persimmon, beet, sweet potato, zucchini, tomato, carrot, or apple?”  It turned out to be one of the most fun times I’d had at work in quite a while.  Interestingly, pumpkin and persimmon were the top guesses by far.  Some reported they could taste a pleasant hint of tomato — but only after finding out it was there.  Most people simply called it delicious, and everyone seemed happy to be given a slice of fresh, homemade cake at the end of a long week.

Maybe next time:  Instead of the drizzled icing described above, cream cheese frosting would be wonderful slathered over this cake or piped in a swirl atop each slice.  Likewise, a sprinkled of powdered sugar is yummy.  Feel free to add more of any or all the spices (and others) to your taste.  When I make this again, I’ll definitely add the zest of an orange or two to the batter — I’m certain it would be complementary — as would a big scoop of nuts or raisins.  Finally, this enormous cake can easily be halved and/or split into layer cakes, loaf pans or muffin tins; just be sure to reduce your baking time accordingly.

*When you mix molasses and white sugar together, you essentially make your own brown sugar.  The result is moister and a little more molasses-y than pre-made brown sugar, so I lean toward doing this for the richer flavor, especially when I don’t have brown sugar already on hand.  If you’d rather not, or don’t have molasses, then instead use 2 very firmly packed cups of moist, dark brown sugar.

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21 Responses to Fresh Tomato Spice Cake

  1. Looks so good . . . do you think I could substitute brown sugar for the molasses?

    • Thank you, Avra-Sha! Yes — I’m sure that replacing the white sugar with brown sugar and omitting the molasses would work fine. I would probably use a little more brown sugar (adding 2 Tbsp or so) to make up for the lost moisture and volume, and would use moist, dark brown sugar if possible. Cheers!


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  3. moinette says:

    This is such an amazing, innovative idea! It looks so moist and flavourful, love it!


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  5. Erica says:

    This cake looks just wonderful! A spice cake, such as this beautiful one, sounds like the perfect treat to usher in the coming fall magic with. And your use of the tomatoes is just so incredibly creative…and such a great way to celebrate and utilize their abundance at this time of year. I bet this cake smelled just heavenly while baking…making your kitchen so cozy with its scent. Those were some lucky folks who got to enjoy a slice of this delicious-looking (as always) sweet creation!

    • Thank you so much for your always kind words, Erica! I especially appreciate that you called this a way to celebrate the abundance of tomatoes — baking really does feel like a celebration of ingredients to me! I am going to remember this beautifully apt way of describing it, thanks to you!

  6. I never would have thought tomatoes – what a great idea & that last close up photo is too much! You always have just the perfect texture in your cakes.

  7. katy says:

    This cake was a wonderful early morning surprise; I’m all for tomatoes becoming a part of dessert! And here’s the article I mentioned to you yesterday about the sweet tomato jam with honey and vanilla: . Clearly, you were ahead of the trend. 🙂

  8. poppi says:

    Wow! You are a genius. Who would have thunk tomatoes for cake. Have you ever lived in Sacramento? ( the tomato capitol )

  9. emmycooks says:

    Whaaaat? Yes! This is certainly going to be the next big thing. 🙂

  10. krugthethinker says:

    How beautiful! When I saw that first shot, I wondered if it might be rhubarb, but this is so much more exciting! Also, I love the idea of transitioning from summer to fall. So wonderfully creative, and delicious, I am sure!

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