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Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

This and other recipes will be included in a new book, <em>America's Best Lost Recipes</em>, to be published this fall.
This and other recipes will be included in a new book, America's Best Lost Recipes, to be published this fall.

Recipe by Tracey Duble
Ardmore, Pa.

Popular as an April Fool's Day recipe in the 1960s, Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake actually makes a lot of sense since vinegar was often added to early chocolate cakes to make them moist and tender. Sauerkraut has the same effect, plus it adds a coconut-like texture that is very appealing. This cake didn't seem at all unusual to Tracey, who came from a German/Polish background.

"My mother used to make sauerkraut cake for us when we were kids," she says. "My brother and I loved it. It is a rich chocolate layer cake with sauerkraut as one of the main ingredients. The taste of the sauerkraut really adds to the depth of flavor. I didn't realize how strange it was until I took this cake into school one day when I was in sixth grade. Everyone loved it until I said that it had sauerkraut in it. People had thought it was coconut. To this day if I want to surprise someone, I will make sauerkraut cake. People adore it, and then give you a look of amazement when you tell them the secret ingredient!"

Serves 12


2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting and Filling

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

2/3 cup pecans, chopped

1. For 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.

2. 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. Add the flour mixture and the water mixture alternately in two batches, beating after each addition until combined. 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, turn out onto a rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

3. For 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).

4. 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. Press the remaining coconuts and pecans into the sides of the cake. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Notes from the Test Kitchen

Both the cake and the frosting in this dessert have unusual components—the sauerkraut in the cake, and the mayonnaise in the frosting. The sauerkraut adds moisture and brightness to the cake (much like carrots in a carrot cake). Mayonnaise, made from eggs and oil, replaces the butter in the frosting. We served this cake to the test kitchen and waited for a reaction. No one could identify the sauerkraut at all (most thought it was chopped coconut), and as for the frosting, tasters thought it was tangy and chocolaty at the same time.

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