Slice of Thunder Cake with chocolate frosting and strawberry slices on a white plate with a silver fork

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco - Book Review and Recipe

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A few weeks ago, my daughter came home super excited because they'd eaten cake during library time at school. She went on and on about how some little girl's Babushka made the cake for her to help her overcome her fear of thunder. All the while thinking this was a friend from school, I listened intently as she told the rest of the story surrounding Thunder Cake. As it turns out, Thunder Cake is a book written by Patricia Polacco.

Scan of Thunder Cake by Patricia Polocco book jacket cover

The synopsis of Thunder Cake: A long time ago a little girl was afraid of thunder. To help her overcome her fears. the little girl's grandmother suggests they make Thunder Cake. The list of ingredients is long and the items are hard to come by, so the pair has to work through some obstacles together to have the cake in the oven before the storm arrives. 

Here's the official Thunder Cake recipe found in the book:

Cream together, one at a time:

1 cup shortening
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, separated (Blend yolks in. Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in.)
1 cup cold water
⅓ cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together:

2 ½ cups cake flour
½ cup dry cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

How to MakeThunder Cake:

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.

Bake in two greased and floured 8 ½ inch round pans at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.

Frost with chocolate butter frosting.

Top with strawberries.

Since we were looking at a rainy day and the kiddo was off of school for Spring Break, I thought that making Thunder Cake might be a fun activity to pass some time. First we went to the library to check out the book, and then set out to make this strange concoction. I have to admit I was slightly grossed out by the pureed tomatoes part. Why would someone want pureed tomatoes in cake?

Even worse, they didn't have any pureed tomatoes at the store, so I had to buy peeled tomatoes and puree them myself in the Ninja. I figured, what's the difference? I'm putting tomatoes in cake. It's probably going to be pretty nasty either way. That wasn't my only substitution. We don't have round cake pans (I used a 9x13 rectangular baking dish instead) and I'm not sure what chocolate butter frosting is. We substituted with chocolate frosting in a tub.

Unlike the duo in the book, our Thunder Cake ingredients were pretty easy to find. We gathered them together and started following the directions. Have you ever baked a cake with a first grader? This was my first time...and quite an experience! Mostly it was a messy experience.

Child making chocolate Thunder Cake with book in the background spooning Crisco shortening into a clear plastic bowl

We first did the wet ingredients, and then the dry:

Making chocolate Thunder Cake with book in the background mixing dry ingredients in a plastic blue bowl.

Then we mixed them together and got it all over the countertops.

Child making chocolate Thunder Cake with book in the background mixing wet and dry ingredients

Also, this may be a great time to note that I apparently am not capable of beating eggs to stiff peaks. Mine got frothy, but not stiff at all. Thankfully it didn't seem to make a difference. I would love to have a picture to share, but after seeing what my daughter could do with ingredients in a bowl, there was no way I was handing her my camera!

Since we don't have round pans, we baked our Thunder Cake in a 9x13 baking dish.

Child making chocolate Thunder Cake with book in the background pouring cake batter

More mess. BUT. She really was so happy. I couldn't bear to take it away from her.

40 minutes later, we had a cake. Color me surprised when it actually rose in the oven! I let the kiddo frost it, because we all know that's the best part!

Child adding frosting to chocolate thunder cake

 Once it was frosted we added the strawberries.

 I gave her the first piece (and some extra strawberries!)

Spoiler Alert: Thunder Cake was actually really good.

It was moist and tasty. And I can't think of a better way to sneak some extra vegetables into a kid's diet! I wouldn't consider it to be a "healthy" recipe, but a slice of chocolate cake made with tomatoes is better for you than a slice of chocolate cake that isn't! It's all about perspective, people.

I can't think of a better way to spend a rainy day than with a great book, a happy little girl, and some Thunder Cake.

Grab the book, make the cake, and enjoy your next thunderstorm!

While we're talking about books, here are some more of our favorites! 

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
Click, Clack, Moo


thunder cake
Yield: 16

Thunder Cake

Thunder Cake is a book written by Patricia Polacco about a cake made by a little girl and her grandmother when a big storm was coming. The cake has a crazy ingredient that makes it delicious!


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup cold water
  • ½ cup pureed tomatoes
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • ½ cup dry cocoa
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Cream together, one at at time, shortening, sugar, vanilla, water, pureed tomatoes, and eggs. (Blend yolks in and beat whites until they are stiff and then fold in.)

Sift together cake flour, dry cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.

Baked in two greased and floured 8 ½ inch round pans at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.

Frost with chocolate butter frosting.

Top with strawberries.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 279Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 278mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information is electronically generated and may not be accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Looking for more dessert recipes? Check these out!

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Amazing Apricot Galette (Apricot Pie
Quick Instant Pot Apple Crisp
Easy Peppermint Brownies Recipe
Easy Baked Apples Recipe

Thunder Cake Review and Recipe

Thunder Cake Book review and recipe

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    1. My grandson's class in 3rd grade read this book. They made the cake and guess it was enjoyed. I made this and didn't really care for the taste. Probably because od adding the Pureed tomatoes. It definitely doesn't have that chocolate taste. It was baked for Tyler.

  1. I am glad that it turned out amazing and delicious! We love to bake on rainy days, and my daughter loves to help with the frosting part too!

  2. Best book to settle nerves and stomachs plenty of licopene ( found in tomatoes) in the tomatoes and fills empty stomachs with heightened sweetness. a great book for any bonding relationship grandpas have farms too! Bailin’ hay grass clippings a flurry don ‘t forget to lick the beaters! That ‘s what we used to do

  3. I remember reading that book to our sons when they were little….never tried the recipe, but I guess it’s time to do so. I plan on substituting butter for the shortening….and trying the suggestion of tomato soup for the puree……

  4. Just made this for the super bowl/ valentines. For my son. He’s 8 and made it in his 3rd grade class and came home talking about it. I’m a baker so I understood the assignment and the ingredients. I baked in 9x13 for 30 mins. I don’t even care for chocolate cake but it taste good.

    1. I was actually really surprised at how good it was! My brain kept telling me that tomatoes belong in a salad, not a cake!

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