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 — specifically, Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.
Sauerkraut Cake Origin
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 version which is round and layered, but I ended up making a 9×13 inch “serve-out-of-the-pan” cake.
Really Chop That Sauerkraut!
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.
Sour Cream 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 cake again, but might try it with drained applesauce instead of the sauerkraut…or maybe some other surprise ingredient.
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Sour Cream Frosting
- 1/2 of a 14 ounce can of sauerkraut
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, measure by weighing or spooning into cup (260 grams)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened (114 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup warm brewed coffee or water
- 1/2 cup miniature semisweet 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
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch metal cake pan with flour-added baking spray.
- 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.
- In a medium size bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Note: Make sure to add 1 cup at a time and taste test after the first 2 cups. You may not want to use the full amount of sugar, or you may want more. For thinner frosting, add a little more milk or sour cream. Spread over the cake.
Thanks for trying it! Glad you liked the frosting. This is an old post, so I’ll go in and add some more tips and info for success. Looking forward to hearing about the rematch.
The frosting turned out great. Maybe more butter and/or sour cream to make it easier to spread? The cake turned out a bit dry, my fault. You said 1 cup brewed coffee or water. I read it 1/2 cup. Fiddle sticks. Looking forward to a rematch….
Gave it a “5” as it would have been if I had on my reading glasses….
I added the entire can of drained sauerkraut unchopped, making this the best version of this cake on the internet. The frosting is what really makes it special.
I clicked on this when I was visiting your home page. The image appeared on the right side of my screen and I thought what the heck. It sure sounds like a fun cake to make if you have sauerkraut to use up. The frosting looks especially good.
This has been a long time favorite “go to recipe” for a chocolate craving that has long since passed through three generations in my family. We are still pleased to see reactions from first timers. It does not disappoint.
R D Stevens
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.
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.
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. 😉
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!
Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy
how creative! it looks so fudgy and decadent! yum!
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…..
Wow, who would have thought… sauerkraut in a cake. My mouth is just about watering looking at that thick layer of frosting.
Martha in KS
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!
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!
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.
Oh, and poor HAL wants to go outside. 😉
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.
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…
I just threw away some extra kraut…I’m so bummed! Remembering this for next time!
I love the amount of frosting on there.