Category: Beans and Grains

KD Reep: Dancing to a Different Drummer with Pinto Bean Cake {Foodie Friday}

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit 

I love weird stuff – to a degree. In particular, I love midcentury modern weirdness, and I found this cake on Mid Century Menu, a blog about recipes and cocktails from the 1930s-1970s (sometimes beyond, but who’s counting?).

As a kid, my mama would make chocolate cake with leftover mashed potatoes. Did I care? Not a whit. And, I would not have known if she hadn’t told me. When I ran across this recipe, I knew I had to make it for a number of reasons, including:

  • My love of cake, first and foremost;
  • My love of pinto beans;
  • My love of weird things, particularly cheap, fast and easy weird things; and
  • I needed a dish for a church potluck.

Something that spoke to me about this recipe, besides being unusual, is its use of cheap, readily-available items almost everyone has in their cabinets. Pinto beans (and mashed potatoes, for that matter) sustained by family for generations, and we ate what was prepared until they were gone – no tossing anything out because we were tired of eating it. Essentially, the pinto beans in this cake serve as a filler so you don’t have to use as much flour for volume, and they are tasteless after the cake has baked, the same way the mashed potatoes are in my mother’s chocolate cake.

I like to think this recipe was born by someone who made too many beans, wanted to create some way of feeding them to her family one last time but had too few ingredients (or money with which to buy them), and made something actually delicious with what she had on hand. You can find the original recipe at MidCenturyMenubut I simplified this even more to be as cheap, fast and easy as possible. My version is below, and the steps I took to make it are somewhat unorthodox, too.

The main thing to keep in mind with this cake is to use what you have on hand. Have some apples or pears about to go bad? Dice those up and toss 2 cups into the cake instead of the can of apple pie filling. Have leftover nuts from Christmas? Chop those and use in place of the walnuts. If you don’t have raisins, replace with canned pineapple or leave them out altogether.


If you use the cinnamon and sugar combination to prepare the bundt pan, you may notice your cake comes out dark. Rest assured, it’s not burned. You can use flour if you’d prefer, but I like to use the sugar and cinnamon to give the cake a little extra crunch and flavor.

And the original recipe called for cooked pinto beans that were fresh, dried or frozen. I used canned because it’s what I had available, they are already cooked, and I can’t taste any difference between canned and the other preparations.



As for how much time to bake the cake, I say start with 50 minutes and add or subtract time according to your oven. Everyone’s oven bakes differently so keep an eye on the cake after 50 minutes and check for doneness in 5-minute increments.

To ice or not to ice? I say a cake without icing is a great big muffin. You can make homemade frosting, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar, ice with whipped cream or grab a cheap can of store-bought frosting, melt it to pourable consistency in the microwave and drizzle to your heart’s content. Whatever you do, this cake will stand up to it.

I hope you try this and are pleasantly surprised. If you’ll excuse me, I have cake to eat.

KD Reep: Dancing to a Different Drummer with Pinto Bean Cake {Foodie Friday}


  • 2 15.5-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup butter, margarine, shortening or oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup black walnuts
  • 1 21-ounce can of apple pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 12-ounce can of ready-to-spread frosting (cream cheese, vanilla or flavor of your choice)


  1. Prepare a 12-cup capacity bundt pan by spraying with vegetable cooking spray then dusting with cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Open the two cans of beans, dump into a colander or sieve, rinse them off and drain well.
  4. Fit the paddle attachment onto a stand mixer.
  5. Add beans to bowl and start mashing with the mixer on low speed. As the beans begin to soften, turn up the speed to mash them thoroughly.
  6. Toss in the ¼ cup of butter, margarine, shortening or oil. Mix well.
  7. Add in the one egg and mix well.
  8. Add in the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, raisins and nuts. (I dumped all of this in at once.) Mix well.
  9. Add in the can of apple pie filling and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  10. Spoon evenly into the prepared 12-cup bundt pan. Smooth top to even.
  11. Place in the oven for 1 hour or until toothpick or knife inserted in cake comes out clean.
  12. Let cool completely then invert onto cake plate. Ice with canned frosting if desired.
  1. Take off the lid and inner foil liner of the frosting.
  2. Place in microwave and heat for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir then drizzle over cake. Use as much or as little as desired.


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KD Reep is a writer, public relations practitioner and aspiring romance author in Little Rock. She owns Flywrite Communications Inc., a marketing communications agency in Mabelvale. She is a six-time recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s Prism award and has been published statewide as well as in the Arkansas Times, Savvy Magazine, Bourbon & Boots, Arkansas Money & Politics, Delta Farm Press and Rice Farmer magazine, among others.



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