Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

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.

ANOTHER DELICIOUS IDEA >>  Traditional English Trifle

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

printable version

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.

ANOTHER DELICIOUS IDEA >>  Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake and Mini Cakes

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.)

For other intriguing recipes try 

Sauerkraut Peanut Butter Chip Cake – at Noble Pig
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Chocolate Glaze – at Leite’s Culinaria
Beet Cake – at Straight From The Farm

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  1. Grumpy and HoneyB says

    Your cake really interests me! I am going to have to try this sometime just to see what the frosting is like! I love how my mayonnaise cake batter tastes so I'm thinking I probably would love the frosting here. Does it have a slight tang to it? Yummy!

  2. Katrina says

    Definitely interesting. There's mayo in chocolate cake, too. The frosting is intriguing. Haven't heard of putting mayo in a frosting. Hope the kids try it, at least. Will they? Will you tell you husband about the sauerkraut later?
    Hey, sure looks good on that plate! ;)

  3. Amanda says

    Shelby – it's funny because mayo cake has been on my list of things to try for a while. It totally makes sense to use mayo, it's just oil and eggs, so why not? Thanks on the plate ;)

    Jo – thanks! I have a feeling "interesting" will be a popular word in the comments of this post LOL!

    Katrina – I don't think I will tell my husband about the kraut. I'll be that old lady years from now with a little grin on my face whenever I pull the wool over my family's eyes/ ;) I DEFINITELY won't tell him about the mayo. He is freakishly opposed to mayo! LOL Luckily he doesn't read my blog. LMAO I don't know if the kids will try it because of the coating on the outside, they are weird that way. :-P

  4. Magdalena says

    A few months ago, on one of Polish culinary forums we were discussing the most strange cakes. And although Polish people eat a lot of sauerkraut, we do not use it in cakes. However, one person, living in Germany, claimed that she tried this type of cake. According to her, one could not smell nor recognize the taste of sauerkraut. I do not know is I will ever have enough courage to try this kind of preparation, but your cake looks nice and as I am a curious person, I would like to try it. Kind regards!

  5. LDH says

    Oh, Amanda… I am intrigued! I make a great bread that has sauerkraut as an ingredient and no one can tell. I am going to an engagement party in two weeks and was looking for something special. I think this is it!

  6. Chef Dennis says

    wow…now that cake looks incredible…I would love to taste it! I cant imagine putting sauerkraut in the cake, but I will take your word for it!
    thanks so much for such a great recipe!

  7. Gabe's Girl says

    Interesting! The name took me off gaurd, but it looks scrumptious! Hey, people turned their noses up at mayonnaise for baking at first, too.

  8. Barb, sfo says

    That's definitely one of those cakes I'd have to bake when no one else was home to see what was going in it!

  9. cookies and cups says

    I have to admit that might have puked a little in my mouth when I first read the title to this…BUT after reading the whole entry you have me intrigued! Someone very inventive must have this combo up!

  10. MaryBeth says

    I am so not a fan of Sauerkraut, the smell of it just makes me sick. But then I love Chocolate so much this might actually be good.

  11. Mary says

    I've made a cake that is similar to this, Amanda. I don't recall mine looking anywhere near as nice as yours does. This is my first visit to your blog and I've spent some time here looking at your older recipes. I really like your blog and will be back as often as I can. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  12. Kathy@theshebearofeleven says

    I would have never thought of adding Sauerkraut to a cake recipe nor mayonnaise for frosting. I've got to try this.

  13. 5 Star Foodie says

    How interesting that this cake is with sauekraut! Cool! I'm about to try to make a chocolate cake with tomatoes in it, called a thunder cake :)

  14. Mags says

    Never in a million years would I think sauerkraut would work in a cake but I believe you! It looks absolutely gorgeous too.

  15. steph says

    Never in a million years! Very creative and BRAVE!! You couldn't tell me it had sauerkraut in it if you wanted me to try it. I bet it is delish and moist. Great photo!

  16. Gail's Card Cafe' says

    I made this just last week! LOL I agree, mine didn't cut well either but it still tasts good. I just wish my recipe came with your frosting.

  17. Mimi says

    I just made avocado cake a couple of days ago. Someone commented on my blog that they made chocolate avocado cake. So there you go, another wierd secret ingredient. Chccolate hides all.

    My opinion: The more fruits and veggies you can hide in your sweets the better (as long as you can get away with it)

  18. Culinary Cory says

    When I read the headline, I thought you were crazy. But the cake looks so pretty…it had to have been tasty. :) I can see why it would be hard to cut. Sauerkraut has a lot of moisture in it.

  19. Joanne Cohen says

    I am sure that the cake will be very moist. I will try it in a cup cupcake and have my friends comment. I will send a new appraisal.

  20. Phil Suderman says

    Haven’t tried this particular recipe but I can tell you the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. The kraut is rinsed, drained, chopped and diced so it bakes in just fine. You do not taste sauerkraut at all. It however does make it a very moist cake. The Amish and Mennonite communities have made this cake for many generations.

  21. Erin says

    I found a recipe like this in my grandmother’s things. I made it twice not realizing that it was poorly written, and I didn’t think. The first time I didn’t drain or chop the sauerkraut. The second time I didn’t chop it. Now everyone knows to be suspicious of any chocolate cake that I have made.

  22. Glenn says

    Found your blog looking for a Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake recipe. Back in the 80’s I used to be Cook in the Navy { Submarine } and The Navy had a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake. The crew loved it….but very,very few knew it had Sauerkraut and that’s saying a lot..not many secrets on a sub. I remember it being very moist. Thanks for the post. Going to try making one for home..but mums the word. Glenn

  23. says

    Had to re-check out your cake after Anna posted hers and link this one. First glance (and not remembering) I thought the chunks in the filling were sauerkraut that wasn’t chopped up, especially after you and Anna mentioned wishing you’d chopped it up more. ;) I’m going to have to try a sauerkraut cake and see if I can fool the fam.


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