So you’re either thinking I’ve lost my mind and this must be gross, or your intrigued beyond belief and want to know what a chocolate cake with sauerkraut tastes like. Well, my friends, it’s delicious! Weird, I know! Even my husband enjoyed it and still has no clue there was sauerkraut in it. The kids haven’t tried it yet, but they tend to be afraid of anything with nuts or coconut on the outside, so i think that’s the only thing holding them back.
You’re still scratching your head… The sauerkraut is rinsed and drained, so most of the pickling flavor is washed away, and it adds a fabulous moist and chewy texture to the cake, much like coconut would.
What’s equally unusual is that the frosting has mayonnaise in it. Two ingredients really, mayonnaise and melted chocolate chips. And it’s wonderful! In fact, if you’re ever in a hurry and need a frosting pretty quickly, this would work great as a glaze, or if you have time to chill it for 20 minutes, it’s a great spreadable frosting.
Amanda’s Notes: There were only two issues I had with this.
1) When I made the frosting, the recipe said to reserve 4 cups of frosting and mix some coconut and pecans into the rest. Problem was I only had 3 cups total after following the instructions. So I reserved 2 cups instead and that is reflected in my adaptation below.
2) This didn’t cut very nicely, it was very moist and crumbled a bit. I think it’s because the recipe didn’t specify to chop the sauerkraut. So I have adjusted that as well. However, I also didn’t refrigerate my cake before cutting it, so that could have been a contributing factor.
3) I also changed the topping by toasting it in a skillet first.
Other than that, this is a really good chocolate cake. I was curious about the origin of sauerkraut cake, but I wasn’t able to turn up much, and what I did find didn’t really have any proof or backing. One source, a fun blog called The Old Foodie, says that it was developed on the 60′s as a result of a surplus supply of sauerkraut. Apparently the USDA Surplus Committee asked for ways to use up the extra canned kraut, and a lunch lady, of all people, named Geraldine Timms from Waller High School in Chicago, developed the recipe. Do you think that’s why lunch ladies have such a bad rap these days?? Now while I couldn’t really find anything else about Geraldine, there is in fact a Waller High School in Chicago.
Now, while the above story sounds legitimate enough, the recipe that I used was from the cookbook America’s Best Lost Recipes. In the book, it states that the recipe was actually a popular April Fool’s Day recipe in the 60′s. According to the book, it was submitted by a Tracey Duble of Ardmore, PA. She stated that her mom, of German/Polish decent, used to make sauerkraut cake for her and her siblings when they were kids. Hmm.
So who knows where it really came from, but if you think about it, adding sauerkraut to a cake really isn’t all that odd. Why, you ask? Because it was pretty common in earlier chocolate cake recipes to add vinegar, helping boost the moisture. There are other odd ingredients that we’ve already become accustomed to, such as carrots, zucchini, and beets. So why not sauerkraut?
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
adapted from America’s Best Lost Recipes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Frosting and Filling
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, divided
2/3 cup pecans, chopped, divided
Make the Cake
Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the water, eggs, and vanilla in a large measuring cup.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Reduce mixer speed and ddd the flour mixture and the water mixture alternately, beating after each addition until combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and stir to combine.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the sauerkraut and pecans. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating and switching the pan positions halfway through baking. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes then, remove from pan and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely on wire racks, at least 30 minutes.
Make the Frosting and Filling
Whisk the melted chocolate chips and mayonnaise in a medium bowl and reserve 2 cups. To the frosting remaining in the bowl, add 1/3 cup of the coconut and 1/3 cup of the chopped pecans (this is the filling).
Spread half the filling on one cake layer. Repeat with the second layer and the remaining filling. Top with the final layer and spread the top and sides of the cake with the reserved frosting.
Mix together the remaining coconut and pecans and toast them in a skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until the start to turn light golden brown, then remove from heat immediately. Dump them out of the pan onto a piece of paper towel or a waiting plate to cool. Leaving them in the pan can cause them to burn, even if the pan is removed from the fire.
When topping has cooled, press it into the sides of the cake. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
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