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I fear that we talk so much about tomato dinners—salads, sandwiches, and pastas—that we forget about what happens after dinner (...dessert!). We refer to tomatoes as "sweet" constantly, so why not, at least from time to time, treat them as such?
After all, there's hardly another vegetable (or, whatever, fruit—this still holds true) that can take front and center as a main dish, then do a 180° and be served for dessert. Sure, melon can be eaten as part of a salad, but rarely does it carry a main dish; lemons can turn into a fine tart and add acidity to a vinaigrette, but they, too, are unlikely to shoulder a meal from start to finish.
This Tomato Ricotta Cake from Little Flower Baking proves that tomatoes have it in them. Two layers of slightly-sweet, very-tender cake are sandwiched with tomato jam and a smart smear of yogurt (which adds creaminess without sweetness), then the whole thing is swirled with cream cheese frosting tinted orange with tomato paste. The tomato presence is in no way overpowering; rather, it comes through towards the end, as a comforting taste you might not be able to put a finger on but that's soothing and summer all at once.
And that means the cake is not gimmicky: You'll want to serve it and to eat it, even if it weren't for the tomatoes-in-dessert wow-factor.
Deconstruct the cake's components and put it back together as you see fit: Adopt the ricotta cake recipe, simple and reliable, as your own, then serve it with stewed prune plums. Choose a tomato jam you already love—like Amanda Hesser's Roasted Tomato Jam—and throw in whatever spices and aromatics (lemon zest, ginger, fennel seeds) will taste good to you. Or use the tomato cream cheese frosting on Tomato Soup Cake. Now wouldn't that be something?
For the tomato marmalade and the tomato cream cheese frosting:
- 6 pounds tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and quartered
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick, toasted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 6 tablespoons (113 grams) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup (125 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
For the ricotta cake and assembly:
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) whole-milk ricotta
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup (114 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (215 grams) plain Greek yogurt
And, if you're as dessert-minded as I am, here are some other suggestions for sweet uses of tomatoes. (The upside-down tomato cake will require some experimentation: Since tomatoes are so watery, I'd suggest cooking them beforehand or using small cherry tomatoes with less juice.)
Does the idea of eating a tomato-flavored dessert scare you? Tell us in the comments!