Baking with Beth: Andy Warhol and Tomato Soup Spice Cupcakes

Posted: August 06, 2021 | Author: Beth Foley | Read Time: 5 minutes

Baking with Beth: Tomato Spice CupcakesHello. My name is Beth, and I like to bake. As a graduate student at Southern Utah Museum of Art, I have a philosophy that learning is better with food. This includes learning about art, art history, and art education, which are areas that I don’t have a degree in--my background is in music. In this new series, we will spend a year learning about different artists and their art, and while we are at it, we will explore a variety of baked goods and discover the beautiful ways that we can connect art with food.

Today would have been the 93rd birthday of Andy Warhol, one of the pioneers of pop art, and one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. To celebrate him, I made a strange but surprisingly tasty mid-century dessert inspired by one of his most recognizable works. Here's the recipe for Tomato Soup Spice Cupcakes

Tomato soup spice cupcakes are pretty self-explanatory: they have tomato soup and spices. I used cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg: the autumnal quaternity of spices.

Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three sons. A neurological disorder often kept the young Andy home from school, where he spent time reading comics and magazines. He received his first camera at eight years old and took free art classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and he later attended college at Carnegie Mellon University. After receiving a degree in pictorial design, Warhol moved to New York to become a commercial artist. During the 50s he illustrated magazine stories and books, and did work for Tiffany & Co, Columbia Records, and Vogue.

Like many baked goods, this one starts by simply mixing dry and wet ingredients

In the 1960s, Warhol began to focus on pop art, and made paintings based on comics and ads. “What even is art?” The pop art movement took that question and ran with it. Comics are art! Block letters are art! Advertisements are art! Dancing colorful stick figures are art! Pop art uses familiar images from the media, popular culture, and mass produced consumer goods. Warhol is known for his depictions of celebrities, including multi-colored Marilyn Monroe paintings, and his famous banana print that appeared on the cover of a Velvet Underground album.

The tomato soup aroma makes me wonder if I should have made a banana dessert instead.

In 1962, Warhol first exhibited Campbell’s Soup Cans: 32 individual paintings of soup cans, each a different flavor, arranged on shelves as if they were in a grocery store. Each soup can is hand painted, except for the fleur de lis pattern, which was stamped. The soups look impressively identical except for the name of the soup, which included flavors such as cream of celery, pepper pot, turkey noodle, and the new cheddar cheese flavor, which is “great as a sauce!”

Andy Warhol said that he used to drink Campbell’s soup and, in fact, had the same lunch every day for 20 years.

The batter looks suspiciously like refried beans

The first ready-to-eat soup that Campbell’s produced in 1895 was a beefsteak tomato soup. Cheap, shelf stable, processed foods like this soon became quite popular through the 20th century. What followed were recipes using these new processed foods, some of them more appetizing than others. According to King Arthur Flour, tomato soup spice cake dates back to the 1920s (their recipe includes raisins and walnuts). The condensed soup was a cheap substitute for fresh produce in the cake, making it rich and moist.

The repetitive nature of the soup can paintings remind me of rows of cupcakes, which is why I wanted to make cupcakes instead of cake. I used silver cupcake liners to reference the silver can, and the decorations reference the white, red, and gold iconic soup label. I used cream cheese frosting, as per the recipe, and added a semicircle of red melting chocolate and a gold chocolate medallion like the one on the can.

Chocolate coins are surprisingly difficult to find in the summer. These are chocolate half dollars, but chocolate nickels would have been a better size

Once baked, the tomato soup flavor and aroma become less noticeable. While it seems strange, it is similar to other culinary vegetables that frequently appear in baked goods, such as carrots, zucchini, or pumpkin. The cupcakes made my kitchen smell festive and autumnal, and many people said they tasted just like pumpkin muffins.

Here are some reviews by the staff at SUMA and at SUU:

“Before anything, I unwrapped the chocolate coin and laid it on top. Then I took a bite. Not bad. Comparable to carrot cake - frosting is thick and rich and I am getting my daily serving of lycopene (good for the prostate, in case you were wondering) from the processed tomato, so honestly I can’t complain. I would eat two in one sitting - that is the highest compliment I would ever offer.” -Emily M., SUMA

“Delish! If you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t know there was tomato soup in it hahaha.” -Courtney, SUMA

“I mean, pumpkin is a vegetable as well. I put zucchini in things, so why not tomatoes? I’d say it’s as good as any pumpkin muffin, which is a four-star dessert” -Chris, Old Main

“I would totally make these! Souper delicious” -Sara, Old Main

And here is the finished product, compared to the original paintings. You can also see that I piped “soup” exactly one time with black frosting before deciding that I didn’t want to eat that much black frosting. I guess we went more of a minimalist route. Sorry, Andy.

Thanks for joining us, friends. Next time we will make a cheesecake using Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup! (Just kidding. But the cheese soup does both intrigue and terrify me.)

Tags: SUMA