Grandma Jo’s Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake is a soft and moist chocolate cake topped with a thick and creamy chocolate frosting. (If you love chocolate cake but can’t bring yourself to try this one, be sure to also check out my Best Chocolate Cake Recipe!) But, who is Grandma Jo? She is my friend’s grandmother. We were visiting and happened to look at a cookbook of her recipes. While perusing the book of recipes, the sauerkraut chocolate cake certainly got my attention. So, of course, I had to test it. After I tasted it, I knew it belonged here!
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
No, you did not read that wrong…there definitely IS sauerkraut in this chocolate cake. According to TheOldFoodie.com, “‘Sauerkraut Cake’ sounds like some sort of sick joke, but it is very real indeed. It came about in the 1960s as a result of the USDA Surplus Committee’s request (specifically to school lunchroom managers) for ideas to use up a large quantity of stockpiled canned sauerkraut.” It was credited to Mrs. Geraldine Timms who was a lunchroom supervisor.
I am honoring where my friend discovered the recipe, from her Grandma Jo. She uses a full 18 ounces in her version. I love the ingenuity and creativity and most definitely love the flavor of this decadent cake!
Sauerkraut: I will get to the unexpected ingredient first, the sauerkraut. Be sure to drain the sauerkraut and finely chop it before folding it into the batter. You could also put it in a food processor.
Room Temperature Ingredients: Using room temperature ingredients, specifically butter and eggs, does make a difference in the final product of the cake. The texture will be light and fluffy.
Cocoa powder: I used Dutch-processed cocoa powder for both the cake and the frosting. Using Dutch-processed cocoa results in a darker color and more chocolate flavor in both.
Why Add Sauerkraut to Chocolate Cake?
I know people will wonder what the point is of adding sauerkraut to a chocolate cake. First of all, it adds some liquid to the batter, which gives the baked cake a little springiness to it. Second, the slight tanginess from the sauerkraut complements the sweetness of the chocolate. It does NOT taste bitter! And third, you get a little texture from it.
Can You Taste the Sauerkraut?
Nope! You could serve this to your friends and family who dislike sauerkraut, and they would never know it was in the cake. However, they would enjoy the moist tenderness of the cake, for sure! The only thing they might notice is the slight texture, similar to the consistency of coconut flakes, in the cake.
Can I Use Regular Unsweetened Cocoa?
Although I used Dutch-processed cocoa, you could use regular unsweetened cocoa for both the cake and the frosting instead. The difference would be that each would be a lighter color and will not be quite as rich tasting.
How to Store Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
This cake is fine at room temperature for 2-3 days. You could also store it in the refrigerator for a little bit longer. However, once people start eating the cake, it won’t last long no matter where you store it!
Can I Make Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake in a Different Pan?
Yes! This recipe could be made into a round layered cake. Use 2, 8-inch round cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. (This is how the original cake recipe was prepared.)
More Chocolate Cakes
Grandma Jo’s Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
- ¼ cup (½ stick / 57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (59 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 cup (250 g) water
- 18 ounces sauerkraut, drained and chopped (about 1½ cups)
- 3 cups (375 g) confectioners' sugar
- 6 tablespoons (44g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
- 3-5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with a hand mixer, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Again, mix on low, increasing to medium speed until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
- Alternating between the flour mixture and water three times, add each to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing until incorporated.
- Fold in the drained and chopped sauerkraut.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool before adding the frosting.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth. Then, alternating between the sugar mixture and heavy whipping cream three times, add each to the creamed butter. (I ended up using all 5 tablespoons of the heavy cream.)
- Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more whipping cream or sugar.
- Spread the chocolate frosting over the cooled cake.
Did you make this recipe?
Thank you for making my recipe! You took pictures, right? Well go ahead and post them on Instagram! Be sure to mention me @iambaker and use the hashtag #YouAreBaker.
Can’t wait to try this recipe! In the ingredient section it says 1 cup water but I didn’t see anything in the directions when to add it?
It’s #4 in the instructions.
I discovered chocolate sauerkraut cake in an Amish novel…had to look it up..thank you for your recipe it’s delicious…
hi thank you so much for sharing your recipe
I reduced the recipe to 2/3 the size since I didn’t need as large a cake as the original. I like the way the sauerkraut adds fibre so it’s a little healthier than many cakes. I also made a topping of ricotta cheese sweetened with maple syrup which to me added a nice contrast to the chocolate flavour. I made the cake for a friend’s birthday and had her try to guess the secret ingredient which she couldn’t. Her family enjoyed the result and I will keep this recipe on file since it’s a success.
I grew up eating this cake, first made by my grandmother, then mother, and since then, me. It is such a rich, and delicious cake, with an unusual ingredient…. But so is my Moms Tomato soup Cake……and it’s delicious too.