- 3/4 cup, room temperature butter
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-1/4 cups white flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sauerkraut, drained and squeezed of excess juice, and very finely shredded
- 1/2 cup cacao nibs (optional)
- 1/2 cup jam of your choice to spread between the layers
Chocolate Balsamic Glaze
- 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/2 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, grated or cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans: Rub butter on interior surfaces, dust with flour, and line bottoms with parchment paper.
- Cream butter and sugar together using a whisk or electric mixer until mixture is smooth.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing each one in until smooth.
- Add vanilla and mix until smooth.
- In another bowl, combine dry ingredients, then sift slowly into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, mixing well with a spoon or spatula. Add 1 cup water, a little a time, as you stir it into a smooth batter.
- Add sauerkraut and cacao nibs (if using), and stir to mix in thoroughly.
- Pour cake batter into the two prepared pans.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then stick a toothpick or fork into the center of one of the cakes to see if it comes out clean. If so, remove the cakes from the oven; if not, bake for another 5 minutes.
- Allow cakes to cool on a rack until they’re cool enough to handle. Then, remove from the baking pans and peel the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cakes.
- For the glaze, combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, whisking them together and heating until it is hot but not boiling. When the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until it is melted.
- Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate or cake stand, spread jam on top of it, then place the second layer on the jam. Pour the glaze over the top and sides of the cake. Enjoy!
Many people seem shocked at the idea of a chocolate cake made with sauerkraut. But it’s quite delicious and moist, and the sauerkraut blends into the sweet cake, just like the shredded vegetables in a carrot cake or zucchini bread. The sourness of the kraut is mostly neutralized by the alkaline baking soda, and the reaction between them is part of what rises the cake.
Sauerkraut chocolate cake was first served to me at a wonderful fermentation-themed feast in Amery, Wisconsin, where the dessert course was prepared by pastry chef Leigh Yakaites. Leigh told me her grandmother, from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, used to make sauerkraut chocolate cake when Leigh was young, though “she of course didn’t tell the kids it had sauerkraut in it until we had eaten it.”
Leigh didn’t follow a family recipe, but she directed me to one published online by Canadian food blogger Bernice Hill, on her website Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen. Because I am constitutionally unable to follow a recipe, I have adapted hers, and I offer this as a guideline for you to adapt further.
Spread jam between the layers; I thought marmalade worked especially well, but any fruity jam would be great. Leigh served it covered with a fantastic chocolate balsamic glaze – her recipe for that is included. A simple chocolate icing or whipped cream would be fine as well.
As for the sauerkraut, I recommend simple and plain kraut without additional ingredients beyond finely shredded cabbage and salt.
Sandor Ellix Katz is a fermentation revivalist and self-taught experimentalist who lives in rural Tennessee. His explorations in fermentation developed out of his overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition, and gardening. He is the author of four previous books: Wild Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, The Art of Fermentation, and Fermentation as Metaphor. This excerpt is from Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green Publishing), available below. www.WildFermentation.com