Cake is one of the simplest and most rewarding desserts to make for a home baker. After all, pound cake got its name from the original recipe of one pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Of course, that recipe can be tweaked to suit the occasion, but it showcases the cake's delicious simplicity. The basic and versatile ingredients that go into a cake allows for a little adventure in baking, as well. Unusual ingredients can be found in all kinds of odd cake recipes. A county fair in Arkansas even has a "weird cake contest" for the creative baker. The winner in 2009 used black beans and grape jelly, in addition to chocolate chips and coconut [source: de Vera].
Let's take a look at 10 ingredients you probably wouldn't expect to see in your cake.
When you're a corporation with the influence and history that The Coca-Cola Company has, you can pretty much call the shots. Bakers have long used the popular soft drink as a cake ingredient, but how about commissioning the Culinary Institute of America to develop recipes using Coke? The acclaimed cooking school crafted more than 75 food recipes for the beverage giant. Their recipe for Chocolate Coca-Cola cake includes a full 16-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.
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Sometimes an unexpected cake ingredient is used to replace another ingredient to make the cake healthier or lighter in fat, calories or cholesterol. And that's the deal with tofu. This soybean curd is a staple in vegetarian and Asian diets that can also be used as an able replacement for eggs and oil in many cake recipes. Just don't try to eat a slice with chopsticks.
8: Tomato Soup
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Some unexpected cake ingredients are hard to pick out if you didn't know it was included in the recipe. Tomato soup adds some moisture to the cake as well as a beneficial burst of antioxidants. It works well as a complementary ingredient in cakes that feature cinnamon and clove to add a nice spicy element. But if you don't want to add salty to the sweet, you may want to use a low sodium base.
7: Plastic Baby
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Not all unexpected ingredients are added to cake for their flavor. One in particular offers only tradition and fun, as is the case of the New Orleans King Cake. This colorful, sugary cake, traditionally served at Mardi Gras since the 1800s, contains a tiny plastic baby doll. Whoever gets the slice of cake with the baby is rewarded with good luck and the honor bringing the King Cake the following year.
6: Miracle Whip
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Miracle Whip, the popular salad dressing that most people think of as a sandwich condiment, can actually be found in certain chocolate cake recipes. While the notion of the piquant spread in your cake might sound a little funky, it actually adds a nice tangy element to the cake and ensures that it will remain extremely moist. Look for recipes called "Salad Dressing Cake" if you want to try it out for yourself.
5: Peanut Butter and Jelly
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While many unexpected cake ingredients may make you think twice about taking a bite, peanut butter and jelly will surely delight your guests. The classic kid sandwich is used in many cake recipes, typically with the jelly acting as a filling and the peanut butter as a frosty topper. Make sure you have a large glass of milk standing by to wash it down.
4: Salt Pork
Salt pork, a fattier and saltier cousin of bacon, definitely falls under the heading of unexpected when it comes to cake ingredients. Then again, bacon is the consummate salty companion to anything sweet, so it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. Pork cake was known as a "war cake" -- desserts that substituted unusual ingredients for rationed butter and eggs. Don't be fooled, though. While many unexpected flavors disappear into the overall taste, that's not the case with pork cake. Only lovers of swine should give this one a try.
3: Hot Peppers
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The people of Mexico and Central and South America are well-known for mixing the sweet with the spicy. From hot chocolate with a kick to cakes made with scorching hot peppers, the combo of hot and sweet is a culinary classic. Most cake recipes that use this unexpected ingredient call for the powdered version of the pepper, used in proportion with other spices. This makes it an easy additive to bring just the right amount of heat to balance the sweet.
2: Saltine Crackers
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Sweet graham crackers are a no-brainer for many cake recipes, but how about the not-so-sweet saltine cracker? Believe it or not, a full sleeve of this salty soup cracker is called for in some cake recipes. The addition of the saltine adds texture, with a nice crunchy element in every bite, and also lends itself to the classic salty-sweet flavor combination.
File this one under "artistic license," as it's only a cake in the strictest sense of the word. While it's not a sweet dessert cake, you can cook spaghetti pasta with other typical Italian ingredients and then bake it in a cake pan before using the sauce as a "frosting" topper. Circular Bundt cake pans are even used sometimes to create an eye-catching main course. Look for recipes for spaghetti and meatball cake before your next dinner party to wow your guests with an unexpected treat.