Sylvia Plath's Favorite Cake


Welcome to the first installation of Graywolf Test Kitchen, an occasional series in which Graywolf staff members whip up the beloved recipes of famous authors and then—this is the best part—gather around our conference room table for a taste test. We decided to kick off the series with Sylvia Plath’s favorite dessert recipe, which sounds simultaneously repulsive and appealing: Tomato Soup Cake. There are a number of variations on this recipe online, but we went with one that was vetted by Graywolf poet D. A. Powell (by way of his childhood neighbor, “Miss Linda”).


The brilliance of this recipe lies in its simplicity. I already had most of these ingredients in my pantry—save for the mace, which a quick Google search told me was not, in fact, the spray I keep in my purse (close call, co-workers)—and there isn’t anything too complex about the prep work involved. The end result is a spicy, dense, and flavorful cake that, as someone pointed out during the taste test, would actually work quite well as a breakfast item and was not unlike a carrot cake muffin. Give this Tomato Soup Cake recipe a try while you re-read your ratty old copy of The Bell Jar for the tenth time, at one with Ms. Plath. 


Classic Tomato Soup Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting




3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 tablespoons shortening

1 can tomato soup

2 cups white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon mace

1 cup white sugar

1 egg (well-beaten)




1 package cream cheese (3 ounce)

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla




  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 2. Mix dry ingredients.
  3. 3. Wash and cut raisins and roll them in a little flour.
  4. 4. Cream the sugar, shortening, and egg together thoroughly.
  5. 5. Add dry ingredients and soup to the creamed sugar mixture in alternating batches, a third at a time, and mix until all soup and dry ingredients are incorporated.
  6. 6. Fold in raisins and chopped nuts.
  7. 7. Pour into floured cake pan. 
  8. 8. Bake one hour; let cool before icing.
  9. 9. For the frosting, beat the cream cheese until soft and airy. Add sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Spread on cooled cake.



    (source: Miss Linda Cook, Warwick, GA)


    —Erin Kottke, Publicity Director