Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Sour Cream Frosting

One of the best things about leaving home for college was this:  I’d never have to look, smell or taste sauerkraut again.  Blech!  Okay, that was an overstatement, but I have some pretty bad memories of my mom spooning it out of a can, warming it in the microwave and serving it as a side to one of my least favorite meals.  When I left home, I mentally erased it.  Or tried.  Out on my own, I started seeing it on restaurant menus and smelling it at carnivals where it was served with German sausage.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all?  But the motivation to actually try it came in the form of chocolate cake.

Sauerkraut Cake

According to The Old Foodie, Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake was devised in the sixties as a way to use a surplus of canned sauerkraut — particularly in school lunchrooms, which explains why the cake’s creator was a school lunch room supervisor. Since then different versions of the cake have appeared in newspapers and books, and for years I thought about trying it. It wasn’t until this weekend that I finally took the time to buy sauerkraut and make it.

The process of draining, rinsing and chopping the sauerkraut was kind of fun, but the smell was just as off-putting as ever. To keep on track, I made a list of all my least favorite vegetables that were tasty in cake — squash, beets, sweet potato, and continued with the recipe, which was pretty relaxing and easy to pull together.

Had I done more research, I might have tried Amanda’s Sauerkraut Cake, which is round and layered, but I ended up making a 9×13 inch “serve-out-of-the-pan” cake.

Sauerkraut Cake

Since this cake is perfect for a potluck (especially a German themed event), keeping it portable was important. Plus serving it out of the pan made it easy to cut into moist and crumbly squares. The cake’s flavor and texture were excellent and I would definitely make it again, but next time I will really focus on chopping the sauerkraut into tinier bits. I thought I’d done a good job with the chopping, but there were still little strings.  Other than that, the cake was terrific, and I was happy with my decision to incorporate coffee and miniature chocolate chips.  Plus the frosting was surprisingly fabulous.

Chocolate Frosting

The frosting recipe was one that accompanied most other sauerkraut cake recipes. At first I wasn’t sure whether it would be as good as my old standby, but I found that its smooth texture and the fact that it set up like creamy fudge, made it special. So as mentioned, I’d definitely make this one again, but might try it with drained applesauce instead of the sauerkraut…or maybe some other surprise ingredient.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Sour Cream Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A serve-from-the-pan chocolate cake with a surprise ingredient -- sour cream! Try it for Wurstfest or some other German celebration.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16
  • 1/2 of a 14 ounce can of sauerkraut
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder( like Hershey’s Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup warm brewed coffee (or water)
  • 1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup room temperature sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 2/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar OR 4 cups (12 oz) sifted powdered sugar**
  • 1-2 tablespoons room temperature milk or as needed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch metal cake pan with flour-added baking spray.
  2. Spoon half of the sauerkraut out of the can and into a sieve. Drain well, pat dry, and chop it up on a cutting board or better yet, in a mini chopper or food processor. Save the rest of the sauerkraut for something else.
  3. In a medium size bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs, one by one. When eggs are blended, add the flour mixture alternately with the coffee, stirring on low speed, just until mixed. Stir in the chopped sauerkraut and the miniature chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake on center rack for 33 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in the pan.
  6. When ready to frost, melt the butter in a medium size microwave-safe bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until it is almost fully melted. Microwave at 50% power for another 30 seconds and stir until chocolate is fully melted. Scrape into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the ROOM TEMPERATURE sour cream and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. For thinner frosting, add a little milk. Spread over the cake.
**I sifted the powdered sugar before measuring so it was fluffy and only weighed about 3 ounces per cup. If you want to skip sifting because you plan on beating the lumps out with the mixer, just weigh out 12 ounces of un-sifted powdered sugar or measure out about 2 3/4 cups (volume) of powdered sugar. Whatever you do, don’t measure out 4 cups of un-sifted powdered sugar or you’ll be using over a pound of it. That being said, I recommend taking the time to sift the powdered sugar.


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  1. Louise says

    Last fall I turned 25 pounds of Bravo cabbage into about 9 quarts of sauerkraut. You need to start with freshly picked cabbage, right after the first frost. It takes 4 – 6 weeks to become sauerkraut. Homemade kraut makes the wurst meal. 🙂

  2. says

    I just threw away some extra kraut…I’m so bummed! Remembering this for next time!

  3. says

    When I made avocado chocolate muffins, they were a hit…however, I didn’t pulverize the avocado enough, and someone remarked that they found a green ‘chunk’ in the chocolate cake. I was mortified! The cake looks stunning, but knowing me, I would end up with a few strings. Maybe try it with pumpkin…

  4. says

    That frosting looks great! If there were bits of saurkraut in the cake, I’d have to pass, but your idea to pulverize/process it might make it fun to try.

  5. Joyce Mitchell says

    I remember my Mom making sauerkraut cake when I was a kid. Also sauerkraut was a regular side dish for Thanksgiving at our house. She always rinsed it several times, pressed it dry & sauteed it in some bacon fat, sprinkling in some brown sugar too. Good stuff.

  6. Khadijah says

    I don’t think i will try the sauerkraut cake (although I like it on a Reuben) but I am loving that frosting recipe! I’m definitely bookmarking! And I love your ratio of cake to frosting, almost half and half! Sometimes I just think cake is merely a vehicle to deliver frosting to my mouth!

  7. Martha in KS says

    Kudos for being a big girl & giving this a try. I too am a sauerkraut hater – just like cooked cabbage – it’s an odor thing. I’ve ordered “virgin” Reuben sandwiches at restaurants. I once had a sweet & sour sauerkraut salad that was delicious. I bet you could use grated apple instead in this cake. Now get that stinky empty can out of your house pronto!

  8. says

    Wow, who would have thought… sauerkraut in a cake. My mouth is just about watering looking at that thick layer of frosting.

  9. says

    Never in a million years would I have thought sauerkraut could be added to cake successfully. What a revelation. I’ve been reading lately that sauerkraut is very healthy in that is has lots of the good bacteria everyone needs. The cake looks great and I really like the ratio of cake to frosting. 🙂 Even though I have German heritage, I’ve tasted sauerkraut only once or twice. Maybe I should get some and use the leftovers in a cake…..

  10. Darlene says

    The difference that sifting makes to the quantity of powdered sugar used is amazing. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m with Khadijah, equal parts cake and frosting rocks!

  11. says

    Wow, I’m prepping ingredients to make this cake tomorrow (or Saturday morning), so I just processed the sauerkraut in the FP. Not a pretty smell. Can’t believe some people like eating that stuff. Way too pungent for me. Really hope it’s undetectable in the cake. 😉

  12. GaylordJane says

    You have made memories start flowing. When I was in college in the early 70’s (very early) I did an independent study in Cleveland working with young moms to find ways to use Government surplus commondity foods in ways their families would find acceptable. I remember at Easter making this chocolate sauerkraut cake and cutting it to look like a lamb or bunny (it was a long time ago), and then patting coconut flakes onto the frosting. When you knew you were eating real coconut, the extra strings in the cake just seemed natural! I remember rinsing and straining the sauerkraut and cutting it with scissors. Honestly, I had never heard of this before necessity stepped in, and was just as pleasantly surprised as the moms. Think I will try this soon – and THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.

  13. R D Stevens says

    OMG…. I was just looking up a choc. sauerkraut recipe, picking this one at random… after telling my wife how I first learned about it while volunteering in my grade school kitchen back in 1964. I thought the “strings” were shreds of coconut.
    It would be curious to see if it was the same kitchen supervisor that related this recipe to you.

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