Would you keep reading if I told you that there’s sauerkraut in this cake?
When I see a recipe with an oddball ingredient or an offbeat method of preparation, I’m often compelled to try it. Sometimes, wacky ingredients really do come together in unexpectedly delicious ways.
A few years ago, I met a woman named Cathy while at a meeting in Milwaukee. Cathy runs a vineyard in California called The Noble Pig and writes a blog by the same name. Shortly after our meeting, Cathy shared a recipe for a cake with, yes, sauerkraut in it. Given our region’s New Year’s Day tradition of pork and sauerkraut, this recipe burrowed its way into the back of my brain and held tight.
Until I saw this recipe, some of the more bizarre cake ingredients I’d heard of (and in some cases tried) included beets, mayonnaise, and black beans. Sauerkraut was definitely a new one!
Cathy found the original recipe years ago on the label of a Steinfeld’s Sauerkraut jar. We both made slight adjustments, but the following cake recipe is very much true to the original. After trying the accompanying icing recipe, I started over with my all-time favorite peanut butter icing. (Even if you never bake the Lucky Cake, I highly recommend the icing paired with chocolate cake.)
As my family dug into this dessert for the first time, I watched them intently to see if they noticed anything peculiar. To my delight, everyone loved the cake and we laughed about the secret ingredient. Truly, this treat is worth making solely for the table talk that follows!
Notably, the sauerkraut is rinsed to remove its briny flavor and then finely chopped. The unique addition enhances the cake’s texture and contributes moisture but little flavor. It’s subtle, like zucchini in muffins or quick breads.
Lucky or not, there are some who don’t relish the idea of a pile of pickled cabbage on their dinner plate, so this cake offers a sweeter way to ensure luck in the New Year. Being lukewarm toward the customary pork and sauerkraut meal, my kids suggested that BLTs and this crazy cake would be a far better way to guarantee good fortune in the year ahead!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (may substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour mix)
- 1 cup (190 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (144 grams) brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (130 grams) crunchy peanut butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup sauerkraut (120 grams; a little more than half a 14-ounce can), rinsed, well-drained and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus an extra tablespoon for sprinkling on top, if desired)
- Foolproof Peanut Butter Frosting: (yields 17 ounces of frosting or enough to frost a 10 x 13 cake or the combination of smaller pan sizes described below with a little extra to spare)
- 1/2 cup (130 grams) creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature (I use salted)
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (195 grams) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) milk
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 10 x 15 baking pan. (See notes)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the remaining cake ingredients, except the mini chips, and beat until well blended. Use a spatula to make sure the dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl are thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Spread mixture in the prepared pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is just cooked through, being careful not to over-bake.
- Allow the cake to cool completely and then frost. (If you prefer a thinner layer of frosting, you may have a small portion leftover.) Sprinkle the top with mini chocolate chips, if desired.
- For the Foolproof Peanut Butter Frosting: In a mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter until creamy. Add about half of the powdered sugar and blend well. Add the milk and vanilla. Blend again.
- Beat in the remaining powdered sugar until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.
- Frosting may be prepared several days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and stir well prior to using.
- This recipe makes a large cake that is slightly thinner than a standard 9 x 13 cake. Think snack cake. If you do not have a pan this size, you could spread the batter between one 9-inch square and one 8-inch square pan. (Additionally, a 10-inch round will substitute for a 9-inch square pan, and 9-inch round will work for an 8-inch square pan.) When varying pan size, keep an eye on the oven and augment the baking time a few minutes either way, as needed. As a final option, you could put all of the batter in one 9x13 pan for a thicker cake. In this case, the baking time will need to be lengthened and there will be leftover icing.