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Tomato soup … in a cake? We tried the Campbell's recipe from 1949

This was the first recipe ever to be distributed on a Campbell's can.
Collage of recipe card, label and cake
This cake has a soup-er surprising ingredient.TODAY Illustration / Campbell's
/ Source: TODAY

Bored with your tomato soup and grilled cheese lunch?

There's a whole new — well, actually, old way — to use canned tomato soup, and it's rich in flavor and history.

Campbell's first published a recipe for tomato soup spice cake in The New York Times in 1949, but the dish later went on to become the first recipe to be distributed on a Campbell's can, appearing on labels in 1960.

Easy Tomato Soup Spice Cake

The recipe is simple: Combine a box of spice cake mix with a can of Campbell's tomato soup, eggs and water and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Frost with homemade or canned cream cheese frosting and your tomato soup cake is ready to serve.

Intrigued by this retro recipe, I tested out the Campbell's cake in my own kitchen. Boxed spice cake mix was hard to find in stores, so I followed Campbell's suggestion of taking a box of yellow cake mix and adding one tablespoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.

In addition to a box of spice cake mix and a can of Campbell's tomato soup, water and eggs get mixed into the cake batter.Terri Peters

Once combined in my mixing bowl, the mixture smelled exactly like boxed spice cake mixes I've used in the past.

Dumping a can of tomato soup into such a sweet-smelling mixture seemed strange to me, and there was no disguising the fact that there was soup in the batter: My whole kitchen smelled as if I were warming tomato soup on my stove.

The batter immediately took on the scent of tomato soup when mixed.Terri Peters

When I separated the batter into two round pans and loaded them into my oven, I was still a bit nervous: Each time I'd open the oven to check on the cakes, the strong scent of tomato soup wafted out.

However, when I removed the cakes from the oven and left them on the counter to cool, the tomato-y smell had disappeared. All that was left was the fragrant aroma of spice cake.

The cake, which I iced with store-bought cream cheese frosting in keeping with the recipe, was spiced perfection, with all the flavors I expected from a spice cake but a deepened level of flavor and moistness from the addition of the soup.

Even my kid who isn't a fan of tomato soup liked this flavorful spice cake.Terri Peters

Campbell's told TODAY Food the recipe has maintained its popularity over the more than 70 years since it was first created. In fact, on the Campbell's Kitchen website, the original recipe and its variations receive nearly 65,000 views each year on average.

Campbell's has even modernized the vintage recipe a bit, offering an updated cupcake recipe (that can be used to make spiced waffles as well) on its website.

Tomato Soup Spice Cupcakes

While my kids were hesitant to taste a cake made with tomato soup, they eventually came around and gave it a try.

My daughter was a big fan, and went from saying she'd never try it to asking for a second slice. And my son, who is notoriously picky and not a fan of tomato soup, enjoyed the cake, saying he couldn't taste the soup at all.

Apparently, whether it's served in a bowl or baked into a cake, there's nothing a can of soup can't do.