Remember Them & Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

spirited fresh tomato cakeI woke up this morning knowing what I needed to write about today. I came to realize that I have never been alone in this grief process because so many moms before me have gone through it. I recall an old high school chum named Jeff who died at age 17 of leukemia. Jeff was funny and smart and a strong competitive swimmer. He loved my friend, Donna. I remember visiting him in the hospital to say good-bye and feeling so sad for him and for her. I don’t remember his mom, but I can’t imagine what she was going through. I am glad I remember him. Jeff, you have not been forgotten.

I love you Betty

I love you Betty

And then there is Betty. Betty is the mother of 5 kids including one of my best friends, Carol. I’ve known Betty for 30 years. We have a lot in common. We both love to garden, we loved playing BUNCO together for a good 10 years and we both love Carol to the moon and back. We also both lost a son.

We will always remember Robert & William

We will always remember Robert & William

Betty is now 93 years old and on a recent visit back to my old hometown I stopped by to check in on her. Betty affirmed what I already knew: a mom never stops grieving the loss of a child. It has been 56 years since she lost her oldest child, Robert. We never really talked (or did we just mostly cry) about it until this visit. And then she showed me an old photo of Robert, so handsome displaying a fish he had just caught…and in the same frame….right next to her son…was mine. My heart melted. We decided our boys were good together probably catching fish off the banks of heaven.

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

Remember that old-fashioned tomato cake recipe made with that processed canned soup? Pitch that and make this especially if you have an abundance of vine ripened garden tomatoes either in your back yard or from the local market. With a hint of spice it’s the perfect cake for a snack or with a cup of coffee for breakfast. No one will ever know there are tomatoes in the mix let alone a bit of spirit.

what 10 ounces of tomatoes look like

what 10 ounces of tomatoes look like

I cannot bake without the use of a scale. It takes so much guesswork out of this scientific process and thus less room for mistakes. We all measure differently when it comes to measuring cups and spoons and I am not certain that there is even a standard among those vessels in the manufacturing process. Use a meaty tomato for this cake or cut out the seeds before processing. This year I grew Burpee’s “salsa” tomatoes, which have very few seeds.

you would never know there are tomatoes in the cake

you would never know there are tomatoes in the cake

Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

10 ounces ripe plum tomatoes, cored (see photo)

¼ cup gold rum

½ cup chopped dried cherries

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

1 cup all purpose flour

¾ cup almond meal flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with no-stick baking spray or grease and flour. Process tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth (measure 1 cup of tomato puree). Toss cherries and rum together in a small bowl. In medium bowl, whisk flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt and spices together. In a large bowl, with electric mixer beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg; blend well. Slowly, beat in tomato puree; mixture will look curdled. Add flour mixture blending just until moistened (I usually fold the flour mixture in by hand). Stir in cherries and rum and almonds; blend well. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting on rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 

what light and fluffy butter and sugar looks like

what light and fluffy butter and sugar looks like

14 thoughts on “Remember Them & Spirited Fresh Tomato Cake

  1. “Catching fish off the banks of Heaven”…I love it. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to my mom and to my brother Robert. Betty still grieves for him and for your William too. A wonderful visit filled with tears, hugs and laughter.

      • Lisa:
        Thank you for remembering my brother Jeff. I would like to thank you for being so kind to my brother while he was sick. He thought the world of you and treasured your friendship. I am also sorry for your loss.

        Beth rennicks

  2. What sweets photos to remember both of your sons by. I will have to try this cake as I have never made cake with tomatoes before.

  3. Is it just me or do Robert and Will look a lot alike? And the fact that they’re both holding fish really freaked me out!! Such a sweet story of your friendship with your dear friend’s mom.
    I really have to try this recipe – it looks amazing! I’ve heard about the tomato soup cake but never wanted to try it.
    Love your blog Lisa!

    • Both are definitely on the tall, dark and handsome scale….and Italian….and yes, the fact that they both like to fish caught me by surprise, too.

      Betty is inspiring

  4. Such a sweet story, Lisa. You are always an inspiration to me, and the cake looks and sounds like a must-try.

  5. It is really moist and yummy. Let me know if you do give it a try……and thanks for hanging out with me here.

  6. What a beautiful post about your William and Robert. I loved this story because it made me happy and sad at the same time. I’m not sure at this point how it feels to fathom that I could live another 50 years without Aidan. When AJ died, I found out that my own grandmother had her oldest son die when he was 12. Seven years later she would have one more child, my dad. After Aidan died, my 88 year old uncle pulled out the scrapbook my grandmother had made after Jack’s death. (She died when I was a toddler.) The coincidences in the lives of my Uncle Jack and my AJ were uncanny. I wish I could talk to her now and ask her how she made it through over 40 years without her son especially at a time when you were expected to bury your grief. Your post reminded me that I have her handwritten cookbook that I used to plow through when I was first married. Maybe this is a reminder from her and Aidan that I should cook something from it again.

  7. We share so many of the same feelings. When my mom died at the ripe old age of 89 I remember saying to my husband, “I can’t believe I could possibly live another 40 years with such pain in my heart”….how in the world are we going to do it? Betty says….”I just kept on going”…it is all we can do. I hope you can share a recipe here from your grandmothers book

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