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!


Pan of Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Two Pieces Missing and the Spatula in the Pan.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

No, you did not read that wrong…there definitely IS sauerkraut in this chocolate cake. According to, “‘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!

Overhead of a Pan of Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with Chocolate Swirled Frosting.

Cake Ingredients

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.

Raw Chocolate Cake Batter with Sauerkraut In it Before Stirring.

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.

Fork Taking a Bite Out of One Piece of Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake on a White plate.

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.

Piece of Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with a Bite Removed and Fork Resting on the Plate.

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

4.88 from 8 votes

Grandma Jo’s Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake is a soft and ultra-moist and sweet chocolate cake topped with a thick and creamy chocolate frosting.



  • ¼ cup (½ stick / 57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 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.


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Meet Amanda Rettke

Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

Reader Comments

  1. 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?

    1. I discovered chocolate sauerkraut cake in an Amish novel…had to look it up..thank you for your recipe it’s delicious…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Wow, I find this recipe so intriguing & timely. Just last Xmas l gifted my siblings, a tea towel with 2 of our grandma’s handwriten recipes on it. One was her Sauerkraut Cake!! It was without chocolate though.

  5. My Aunt used to make sauerkraut chocolate cake when I was young. She had a large family! We all thought she had coconut in it and thought she made the best cake hands down! When I was married I asked her for her recipe and was surprised at the sauerkraut- not coconut! She never told any of us youngins any different! Now I’m making and canning my sauerkraut with my son and going to add a jar to my cake.

  6. This cake is unbelievable. So good and love the springy texture. I am allergic to coconut so this is a wonderful way to be fooled. I followed the recipe to a T I rinsed the sauerkraut and drained it. Chopped it well as stated in the recipe. Used convection setting on my new oven set at 325

  7. I’d like to try this recipe. I’m wondering if instead of the chocolate frosting, I could merely sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake. Am always looking at cutting calories!

  8. This was a perfect chocolate cake. It is a heavier style, think zuchinni cake texture, but oh so tasty! Made this to take to a church function and it was well received. O one knew it had sauerkraut in it! 😁 I will definitely make it again.

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