Sylvia Plath & Tomato Soup Cake
Cooking was the other important activity in her life. It was a passion in the same way that poetry was a passion. Something she couldn’t leave alone. Between and along with writing her great poems, Lady Lazarus, Daddy, or Medusa, Sylvia would be thinking on custard or banana bread or buying the lamb for the evening meal, or, perhaps, poring over another of her recipe books.
Sylvia’s favourite recipe book was The Joy of Cooking, the book that was put together by the widowed Irma S. Rombauer, who collected recipes from her neighbours, and self-published it in 1931.
At the beginning of her relationship with Ted Hughes, Sylvia was cooking complicated meals on a single gas ring in the kitchen they shared together. It was then that she wrote home to her mother asking her to put the “blessed Rombauer” in the post.
When she discovered that Virginia Woolf got over her depressions by cleaning the kitchen, and cooking haddock and sausage, Sylvia understood completely. “Bless her,” she said.
On the 11th February 1963 Sylvia Plath put a cushion on a shelf in the oven. She knelt in front of the oven, switched on the gas and laid her head on the cushion. She was found dead several hours later. Bless her.
Sylvia used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. My recipe may be slightly different:
Sift two cups Organic plain white flour with
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each of nutmeg and mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a separate bowl cream until soft 75 grams butter
Gradually stir in 1 cup Demerara sugar and cream the two together.
Stir the flour mixture in thee parts into the sugar mixture, alternating with
10 and ½ fluid ounces Organic tomato soup
and stir until smooth after each addition.
Finally, fold in 1 cup mixed sultanas and chopped prunes
and 1 cup almonds chopped in half (if you like it crunchy) or smaller.
Bake at gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes in the centre of the oven.
When cool you can serve with cream cheese, a dash of lemon juice and whatever liqueur you fancy.
But I enjoy the cake unadorned with a small chunk of sweet and nutty flavoured Jarlsberg cheese from Norway.
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
(from Lady Lazarus )