grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish

Okay friends. I’m officially, like, the worst blogger in the entire world.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

I literally was just saying how sorry I was about waiting so long between posts, and how much I’ve missed you and was so ready to get back into the swing of things and get back to posting regularly and often.

Then I disappear for another month.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

Here it is, the beginning of summer. The beginning of fresh fruit, bright greens, a beautiful bounty I’ve been dreaming about for months. Asparagus season. Strawberry season. Rhubarb. Ramps. Snap peas. Scapes. Swiss chard. Fava beans. Fennel. Fiddlehead ferns. Vidalia onions. The first summer peaches.

This is the beginning of the best possible time for a food blogger, and suddenly I fall off the face of the internet.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, here I am again to apologize to you. My readers. My friends.

This has been a crazy summer so far, and it’s only just begun.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

See, Russell and I just started working on a really special project together. It’s in the very early stages still so I don’t really want to get into the details just yet.

Sorry to be so mysterious and leaving you hanging. We just want to get a little further along before we really share the whole thing. Don’t you worry none, I promise that I’ll spill all the beans as soon as we’re ready.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

For now though, this special project is requiring almost all of my attention when I’m not at work, so as much as it pains me, that means we’re going to be missing each other for most of this summer.  I hope to be able to get at least a few fresh summer fruit pies or big fancy salads in before it’s too late, but I’m going to be posting a lot less frequently than I’d like to.
It’ll all be worth it in the end though. I promise!

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

All this craziness doesn’t mean that I’ve missed out completely on the bounty of the season. I’ve done my best to take advantage of the early summer. Whenever I’ve had a minute to myself I’ve tried to play with strawberries and asparagus and everything I can get my hands on.

I even got my hands on some real Vidalia onions, in season, fresh from Georgia. I haven’t had much experience with sweet onions before, and I have to tell you these puppies are unbelievable. I knew they’d be sweeter than a regular yellow onion, but I didn’t expect them to be so mild. I’ve been using them for everything I can think of, including an amazing German cucumber salad, and of course, the amazing recipe I’m sharing today.

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

You want to get the thickest prettiest pork chops you can get your hands on, and cook them over real hardwood charcoal until they’re seared and smoky on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. It’s super easy to overcook pork, so I recommend using a meat thermometer.

Back in the days of yore people were really afraid of pink pork because they’d been told it’d make them sick. I won’t get into all the weird and nerdy details, but let me just say that perceived threat isn’t really a threat any longer and the USDA has recently reduced their recommended cooking temperature for pork from 160F to 145F. If you bring your pork up to 135 and remove and tent with foil for a 10 minute rest, your pork will just hit 145 to 150 and perfect. It may have a tiny touch of pink in the center but it’ll be so moist and juicy you won’t believe it. Don’t be scared. You have nothing to be scared of. I promise. So does the USDA.

I didn’t brine my chops, but I did follow this recipe from Serious Eats.

To compliment this smoky tender heavenly pork, you can’t go wrong with a sweet and creamy relish of caramelized Vidalia onions with peaches and a touch of bourbon and ginger.
This shit is thebomb.com

grilled pork chops with vidalia onion and peach relish | Brooklyn Homemaker

Grilled Pork Chops with Vidalia Onion and Peach Relish

2 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced thin into half circles
3 ripe peaches, peeled pitted and diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon or American whiskey
1 tablespoon sugar (optional, depending on sweetness of peaches)
2 to 4 pork chops, thick cut (1 to 1.5 inches thick), about 3/4 to 1 pound each

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter is bubbling add onions and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally, watching carefully that the onions don’t brown too quickly, for about 20 to 30 minutes. Caramelizing onions is all about going slow and low, be patient and turn down the heat a bit if the onions are browning unevenly or too quickly.

Once the onions are softened and take on a creamy quality, add peaches, vinegar, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, add bourbon, and cook 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If your peaches weren’t very sweet, or if you’d like the relish sweeter, stir in sugar and cook a few minutes more.
This relish can be made days in advance if you’d like, but should be served warm over the pork. This recipe makes enough relish for at least 4 pork chops.

Generously season your pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.
Prepare your grill. If using a charcoal grill (recommended) try to organize the coals on one side so you have a hot side and a cooler side.

Sear your chops over the hot side of the grill, for about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Once both sides are seared transfer the chops to the cooler side of the grill with the bones facing the hotter side. Cover about 10 minutes and start checking with a meat thermometer. Once the chops reach 135 to 140, transfer to a plate and tent with foil to rest for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a generous dollop of warm onion relish, and with grilled asparagus if desired.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Forgive me.

My mother watched a lot of soaps when I was growing up.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

What I’m trying to say is, time is marching on and I’m officially older now than I was when I wrote my last post.

About two weeks ago I celebrated my birthday.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Those of you who’ve been reading along with me for a bit probably know that I look at my birthday as an excuse to make a big ass fancy layer cake.
I’ve heard it all before about how I’m not “supposed to” bake my own birthday cake, but the fact of the matter is that I enjoy baking a good cake almost as much as I enjoy eating one. A grocery store birthday cake pales in comparison to what I can bake myself, and I’d rather bake my own cake than shell out good money for something I’m not going to love.

I bake so many bundt cakes around here that I also relish the opportunity to go all out with sky high layers of cake stacked up with fillings and icings and glazes and decorations and candles, so that kind of seals the deal for me. I bake my own birthday cake, and I like it. So there.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll also know, if you’ve been reading along with me for a while, that I have a tendency to get inside my own head and overthink things. Like seriously overthink things.

To that end, I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve been planning this cake for at least 6 months. Initially I was thinking about posting this cake, or at least a version of it, around Christmas. When that didn’t work out I thought I’d make it for Russell’s birthday in January. That didn’t end up happening either, so I’ve been sitting on the idea ever since.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

My initial thought was a high contrast black and white cake with layers of deep dark chocolate cake, bright white icing, and glossy dark chocolate ganache. In some circles on the internet this contrasting black on white on black cake is called a “Tuxedo Cake”. Considering my name is Tux, I was all over that business.

Thing is, something magical happened along the way that made me rethink the white in my “tuxedo”.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few months ago some friends came to visit us, one of whom happens to be from England and also happened to be celebrating a birthday while he was here. Before his wife finished the sentence, “Tomorrow’s his birth…”, I was in the kitchen preheating the oven.

They were out of the house a lot while they were here, off doing the tourist circuit, and since I didn’t know exactly when they’d be around I opted for cupcakes rather than a big formal layer cake. Since I was baking cupcakes, and since our friend is British, I wanted to go for a kind of American kid’s birthday party theme.
I decided to reimagine my funfetti cake recipe as cupcakes, but wanted to skip the American buttercream frosting and go for something a bit more subtle and a bit less sugary. I thought I’d adapt the mascarpone icing from the gingersnap icebox cake I made last December, but add some strawberries to it to make it fit better with the funfetti cake.
(Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes?)

To concentrate the flavor of the strawberries and make them less watery I decided to cook them down a bit with some sugar before mixing them into the icing.
At first I worried that I’d cooked the strawberries too long and was disappointed that they ended up tasting kind of jammy rather than super fresh like I’d hoped, but I forged ahead anyway and once I’d mixed them into the mascarpone and whipped cream…
HOLY SHIT.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Where do I begin?

This icing basically tastes like the freshest, creamiest strawberry ice cream you’ve ever had, but with the texture of fluffy whipped cream. It’s stable enough to be used as a cake icing as well, and just sweet enough to bring out the sweetness of the strawberries without being overly sugary or cloying.

After one bite, all of my big birthday cake plans changed.

My black and white tuxedo cake would be getting a chichi pink makeover.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

As much as I’d like to, you can’t have an entire birthday party and serve nothing but cake, so with the cake as the pièce de résistance we decided to have a barbecue. An amazing sustainably sourced organic butcher recently opened near us, so we got a bunch of homemade bratwurst for the grill and called the whole shindig a “sausage party”.

Still on our German kick after our recent trip to Berlin, we went all out with German potato salad, and gurkensalit (cucumber salad), sauerkraut, and whole grain german mustard. I even drank beer for the night! (I usually stick to wine or whiskey).

The food was a huge hit, and while the bratwurst put up a good fight trying to be the star of the (sausage) party, my foppish pink tuxedo cake definitely stole the show!

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

The tender layers of devil’s food cake are nothing less than super rich and incredibly moist slices of dark chocolate heaven. The strawberry mascarpone icing is ethereally fluffy and impossibly creamy, and even though the strawberries are cooked down, the icing tastes bright and fresh and summery. The dark chocolate ganache is velvety and perfectly rich and bittersweet, with a lovely glossy finish thanks to a touch of honey.

To top it all off and make it feel even fancier and ever-so-slightly gaudy, I added some white candy beads in varying sizes to the top of the shiny dark ganache. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but why on earth wouldn’t you want to?

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chocolate Tuxedo Cake with Strawberry Mascarpone Icing and Glossy Ganache

  • Servings: 16 to 24-ish
  • Print
Devil’s Food Cake
adapted from Brooklyn Homemaker
makes three 8-inch layers

butter and flour for pans
1 1/2 cups unsweetened natural cocoa powder (I used Double Dutch Process)
1 1/2 cups hot water (or hot brewed coffee for a richer flavor)
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter three 8 inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, butter paper, and dust pans with flour.
Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water (or coffee) until smooth and set aside.
Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
Beat melted butter, oil, and sugars together on medium-low speed until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Beat in vanilla and cocoa mixture. Reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined.
Divide batter between pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
To achieve a perfectly flat, professional looking cake, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.

If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks.

Simple Syrup: (optional)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Strawberry Mascarpone Icing:
1 lb ripe strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 oz mascarpone cheese
pinch of salt

Hull and finely chop strawberries and place in a medium saucepan with sugar. Stir to combine and once the strawberries begin to give off liquid, transfer pan to the stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce to a low boil. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy and reduced by about half.
Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely cool. You can place it in the freezer if you’re in a hurry, but stir often and don’t let it actually freeze.
If preferred, you can substitute 1 1/2 cups good quality store bought strawberry jam to save yourself some time.

Whip cream with a mixer on high just until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla, salt, mascarpone, and strawberry mixture and beat until well combined and mixture stiffens back up. This should only take about 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t over mix or the mascarpone can become grainy. If you’re not using your icing right away you can store it in the refrigerator, but you may want to whip it for another 30 seconds just before icing the cake.

Glossy Ganache Drizzle:
4 oz good quality dark chocolate (60% works well)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
pinch salt

Chop chocolate into small, easily melted pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
Heat heavy cream, honey, & salt in a small saucepan just until it comes to a light boil, and immediately pour directly over chocolate. Wait 2 to 3 minutes before stirring until completely smooth and melted and free of lumps. If the mixture seems very hot still it may melt the icing as you pour it so wait a few minutes for it to cool slightly. Do not let it get too cool or it will not drizzle nicely and may look messy.

*Do not make the ganache until the cake is completely iced and ready to decorate.

Decorations: (optional)
Various sizes of white candy beads, including:
white sixlets
white candy pearls (sometimes called dragees)
white nonpareils

Assemble cake: 
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Using a squeeze bottle or pastry brush, evenly distribute 2 or 3 tablespoons of simple syrup over the top of the cake layer. This step isn’t completely necessary but helps ensure the cake stays incredibly moist. It’s especially helpful if you’re using cake you stored in the fridge or freezer for a few days, or if you plan to wait a day or two before serving the cake.

Once the syrup has absorbed into the cake, place about 2 cups or so of icing on the first layer and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. It’s okay if it spreads out past the edge of the cake layer a bit. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat with the simple syrup and icing again, then add the third and final layer and repeat again. Using the same amount of icing as before, start with the top of the cake but spread the icing thinner and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole cake in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing is called the crumb coat, and it seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
After 30 minutes top the cake with about 3 to 4 cups more icing and spread it over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly work the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. You may have some icing left over, and I couldn’t blame you if you ate some of it with a spoon. Refrigerate the cake again for another 30 minutes (or up to a day).

Make your ganache just before you’re ready to remove the cake from the fridge.

I find it easier to get an even, professional looking drizzle by slowly pouring the ganache just around the outer edge of the top of the cake, while slowing rotating the cake. Once you’re happy with the amount of drizzle coming down the sides, use the remaining ganache to fill in the center of the top of the cake, smoothing it flat with a clean icing spatula before the ganache sets.

If you’d like to add decorations to the top of the cake, be sure to add them before the ganache sets. I used a mix a mix of multiple sizes of white candy beads, about 2 to 3 tablespoons of each, starting with the largest size and finishing with the smallest.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for a day or two if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least an hour before serving.

grilled mojo pork skewers

Wow you guys. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted!

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

What a month it’s been! I’m so sorry for just falling off the face of the planet like that. Right after my last post I started a “little” project in our guest room, tidying up in preparation for a visit from my mother.

We don’t really use the space we call our “guest room” for much more than a room to store paper towels, kitchen electrics, and my ever-growing blog prop hoard. It’s basically a giant closet with a bed in it, and usually the bed is so deeply buried under slow cookers and dessert plates that you wouldn’t even know a bed was under there if you weren’t looking for it. It’s basically an oversized “junk drawer”, a place where we throw random stuff when we’re trying to clean the house for company but don’t feel like putting things where they actually belong!

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

The guest room is the only space in our apartment that we never painted when we moved in, and for almost 5 years the space has been an embarrassing, seldom-used, neglected eyesore of a room that we do our best to keep hidden behind a constantly closed door. When overnight guests would come for a visit, we’d do our best to clean off and make the bed, but the room was always so overwhelmed by junk that there wasn’t much more we could do.

About a month ago, I thought it was finally time to do something about it.

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

For mother’s day this year I decided to use a little vacation time and go up to help my mom out with some projects around her house, and she offered to come down to the big city to pick me up rather than having me rent a car or take the bus. Thing is, every time my mom comes for a visit, every single time without fail, she asks when we’re going to paint in there and finally do something with that room. Since the room needed tidying anyway, I decided to bit the bullet and bust out my brushes and rollers.

I thought I’d still have time to try to squeeze in a blog post or two before my mother’s day trip, but my painting project quickly snowballed into almost two weeks of spring cleaning and household improvement projects. Before painting I thought I’d go through and toss a few things to make a little room in there, but what ended up happening was much more involved. We ended up going over every inch of the room and throwing away half of the old clothes and random junk we’ve collected over the years. Then we packed up stacks of boxes and old suitcases with even more junk to store upstate in mom’s attic. Then of course, moving all the furniture in there back and forth meant that the painting took much longer than I expected, and once I was finally done I decided to do a little redecorating too. By that point I was on a roll, and while the paint dried I decided to go all in and re-caulk my shower, install new (brighter) light fixtures in my living room, and do some cleaning and planting in the back yard too. My apartment has never looked better but I am POOPED!!!

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

At some point in this two week span I did find a minute to make (and photograph) these amazing mojo marinated grilled pork skewers, but by the time the dust settled and I sat down for 5 minutes, I was too exhausted to actually write the post or edit the photos.

The next thing I knew mom was here and I was whisked upstate to help her with another laundry list of projects around her house. With the best of intentions I brought my laptop along with me thinking I could edit photos at night before bed, but of course that never happened either.

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

Time rolled along and before I knew it a month had passed since the last time I’d spent any time with you guys. I literally can’t believe it. I don’t think I’ve ever gone so long without posting, and it felt pretty weird. I’m glad I got so much done, but boy howdy how I’ve missed you!

We’re almost in the midst of grilling season proper now though, so I suppose this recipe is coming at the right time anyway.

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

This citrusy cuban mojo marinade is absolutely amazing with tender chunks of grilled pork. The sweet citrus and earthy cumin and oregano pair perfectly with the delicate pork and gentle smokiness of a charcoal grill. The original sauce recipe called for the garlic to be pulverized into a paste in a mortar and pestle, but since I was using it as a marinade I decided to make things easier on myself and just crush the garlic in a garlic press. If you’d like to reserve some for later dipping, you probably won’t want chunks of garlic floating in it so the extra work is probably necessary.

I served my pork with some grilled whole red potatoes, gently smashed and covered in creme fraiche and fresh parsley. This pork would be excellent though with a bright citrusy salad, maybe something with black beans, or avocado. Maybe some grilled corn? My wheels are spinning already, and my mouth is watering!!!

Happy grilling y’all! It’s good to be back!

grilled mojo pork skewers | Brooklyn Homemaker

Grilled Mojo Pork Skewers


marinade adapted from serious eats

Mojo marinade:
8 cloves garlic, very finely minced or crushed
1/3 cup of fresh orange juice and 1/3 cup of fresh lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 to 4 lbs pork loin or tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 1/2 lb per serving)
1 to 2 limes, cut into segments, for serving

Directions: 
Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup until well combined.
Add cubed pork to a large bowl with a tight fitting lid (or a leak-proof resealable bag). Add marinate and stir (or shake) to coat. Marinate for 1 to 4 hours.
If using wooden skewers, soak in a tray of water for at least 30 minutes while pork is marinating.

Discard marinade and thread pork chunks onto skewers. If desired, you can alternate with cubes of tropical fruit (citrus segments, mango, etc.) or onion. (I went for all pork)

Prepare and preheat a hot grill. Clean and lightly oil grill grate. Cook pork skewers, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Do not overcook or they will become dry and tough.
Let rest, loosely covered in foil, for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lime segments if desired.

tomato soup bundt cake #bundtbakers

When I first started Brooklyn Homemaker, I hoped it would be an outlet for not only my love of food, but also for my love of food history and my off-the-charts food nerdiness.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I used to post lots of recipes (especially cake recipes) with fun details and anecdotes about their histories, how they came to be, and why we were still making and eating them today. As much as I still love writing these kinds of posts, life gets in the way and the fact of the matter is that researching the history of a recipe is a lot more involved and a lot more time consuming than just whipping something up on a whim. I also thought that I’d sort of exhausted my supply of cool, iconic desserts with histories that I’d find interesting enough to write about. That is, I thought I had until this month’s bundt bakers.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Felice of All That’s Left are the Crumbs chose Retro Desserts as our theme this month, and I was all over it! You know how much I love an old cookbook, and I kind of feel like this theme was hand selected to appeal to me! Thanks Felice!

To me the word “retro” always inspires images of the 50’s and 60’s, the atomic era, the age of ambrosia salads and jell-o molds. The days of gas guzzling pastel land yachts, wall to wall pink tile bathrooms, and single story cookie cutter ranch homes. I prefer my “old fashioned” dessert recipes from the 30’s and 40’s though, so I decided to go back a little further. People were doing all sorts of inventive things with food back then, either just to stretch their scarce resources, or maybe even to make their lives a little lighter and brighter.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite (and most popular) dessert history post that I’ve written so far is Red Velvet Cake, which didn’t actually originate in the 30s, but did reach it’s wild popularity in that era. Long story short; a big food coloring and extract company started giving away a red velvet cake recipe, complete with color photos, to try to boost their struggling sales during the Depression. It worked like a charm and soon red velvet cake was on American tables, and in American hearts, where it’s managed to stay for almost a century.

Not surprisingly, the cake I’m posting today is another Depression era recipe, though not currently as well known and loved as Red Velvet. Originally called “Mystery Cake”, this spice cake contains a full can of condensed tomato soup. The “mystery” was that you’d never guess the “secret ingredient” if you didn’t already know.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe most likely originated in the 20’s, as the first printed reference to it comes from a September 1928 notice about cooking classes in the Los Angeles Times. “The opening of the fall season is observed on the menu arranged by Mrs. Mabelle (Chef) Wyman for her demonstrating this afternoon… Under the dessert classification are velvet cake and mystery cake, a culinary idea of Mrs. Wyman’s skill.”

Mystery cake didn’t really become well known though until the Great Depression. The use of egg, dairy, and butter substitutes was very popular during this time because these grocery items were expensive and scarce. Grated or pureed vegetables like zucchini or carrots were popular substitutions for eggs and butter, as was applesauce, which remains a popular substitution for health conscious bakers to this day. Along with it’s moisture content, condensed tomato soup had the added benefit of an acidity that works as a flour conditioner. This meant that it could not only be used in place of butter, but could also replace the buttermilk usually used in baking to ensure a moist, tender, and delicate crumb.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mystery Cake really took off in the early 1940’s when Campbell’s started promoting their own recipe during World War II. The same ingredients that were too expensive for home bakers in the 30’s were suddenly being rationed for the war effort in the 40’s and were even harder to come by. Canned food companies all over the country were using wartime rationing as a way to boost sales, and Campbell’s didn’t miss the opportunity. They quickly developed a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake that included only two tablespoons of butter and no eggs to appeal to homemakers with limited resources.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The American food writer and cookbook author M.F.K. Fisher even included a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake in her 1942 book on wartime rationing and shortages, How to Cook a Wolf. Her recipe varied just slightly from Campbell’s but the idea was the same. “This is a pleasant cake, which keeps well and puzzles people while you are cooking other things, which is always sensible and makes you feel rather noble, in itself a small but valuable pleasure.”

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tomato Soup Cake remained popular even after the war, and another version of the recipe was included in the Joy of Cooking in 1964. Modern homemakers in the 1960’s and 70’s, fascinated with convenience foods and time saving tricks, loved to make their Tomato Soup Cake with boxed cake mixes.

Eventually the cake did wane in popularity though, and today many people have never even heard of it. I myself only discovered it a few years ago, and had a really difficult time wrapping my head around the idea when I first saw it. Eventually I warmed up to trying it, and by the time this month’s theme was chosen I was full well ready to give it a shot!

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since the Great Depression and wartime rationing are now just distant memories, the butter and eggs have found their way back into most of the recipes you’ll find out there, including Campbell’s updated version. Of course, the tomato soup still remains as a way to add moisture, acidity, and interest to this simple spice cake.

Nuts and raisins have always been common additions to Tomato Soup Cake, and for my recipe I kept the nuts but skipped the raisins. Sorry raisin lovers. You can add them back in if you want.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mystery Cake was definitely an appropriate name for this recipe. I was worried that the tomato soup would add a weird tinny chemical taste, but I really don’t think I could have figured out what was in it if I hadn’t baked it myself. The tomato soup concentrate adds a subtle sweetness and tang, and ensures that the cake is moist and keeps well for days. It has a perfect just-enough sweetness and a lovely touch of spice that doesn’t overpower the cake. The walnuts add a nice contrast in texture and a welcome touch of earthy bitterness.

Many older recipes for Mystery Cake were topped with chocolate icing, but cream cheese icing has always been popular too. I decided to go for a drizzlable cream cheese glaze that adds sweetness and tang, and helps keep the cake from drying on the outer edges. I don’t usually go for sprinkles, but this fun retro theme got the best of me and I couldn’t help but add a handful of bright red jimmies as a play on the iconic tomato soup can!

Although this recipe has been around for almost a century, it definitely still feels relevant and delicious in these modern times. Why not step back in time and see what other retro bundts the talented team of bundt bakers came up with this month? Please scroll down past the recipe to find the links.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tomato Soup Bundt Cake

Adapted from several sources, mostly from Campbell’s

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Tomato Soup
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 8 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour pan. Refrigerate.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, & cloves together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together condensed tomato soup and water until smooth.
Cream butter and sugars on high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Alternate additions of the flour mixture and the tomato soup mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix each addition just to combine. Do not over-mix.
Stir in walnuts just until evenly distributed.

Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Invert the pan and turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely before glazing.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with red jimmies if desired.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 3 or 4 days.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Don’t forget to travel back in time with all the other retro cakes the bundt bakers came up with this month.

BundtBakers
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You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.