Photo: Clay Irving
The things people bake these days: cake with pork and beans and tomato soup! Scary ingredients, yes (why would you use canned soup when fresh tomatoes are falling off the vine?), but scary concept, no.
If you like carrot cake, fudgy brownies (with a secret ingredient), or zucchini bread, Carole Walter’s tomato cake isn’t far off. For the best results, use heirloom tomatoes. The uglier the better. You won’t taste the tomato, but instead you’ll get a moist “spice cake.” It is one of my favorite cakes, and it has relatively little butter. Sorry, no pictures. I made this a couple years ago.
Sugarsweet Tomato Nut Torte
(Serves 8 to 10)
3/4 pound very ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons freshly grated navel orange rind (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Cut an X in the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Remove the cores, place the tomatoes in a bowl and add boiling water to cover. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water and peel off the skins. Cut each tomato in half across the core and squeeze gently to remove seeds and juice. Puree the pulp in a food processor. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Stir in the vinegar and set aside.
2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Put walnuts and 1/2 cup unsifted flour in the container of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 8 to 10 times, until nuts are chopped to medium size. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
4. In a small pan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside to cool to tepid. Sift together the 1 cup sifted flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a triple sifter. Set aside.
5. Place the eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with beaters or whip attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until thickened and light in color, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the brown sugar over 2 to 3 minutes and beat for 3 minutes longer. The mixture will be very thick.
6. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low. Blend in the orange rind and vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the tomato puree, dividing the dry ingredients into 3 parts and the puree into 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape sides of bowl as needed. The batter will be very loose.
7. Quickly pour in the butter, then add the nuts, beating just until blended.
8. IMMEDIATELY pour the batter into the prepared pan. Center the pan on the rack and bake in the preheated oven 55 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown, springy to the touch, and the sides, begin to come away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out dry.
9. Remove from oven and set the pan on a cake rack to cool completely. Release the outer rim of pan, invert the cake onto the rack, and peel off the parchment paper. Place top side up on a serving platter. Just before serving, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. If you like, split the cake into two layers with a long thin knife, then fill and frost with whipped cream made with 1 1/2 cups heavy sweet cream. Garnish with chopped walnuts.