Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cake of the Week: Mystery Ingredient Chocolate Cake

OK guys, this cake has a mystery ingredient. No, I won’t tell you what it is. You have to try it first. (I learned from my Mama’s mistake involving a zucchini apple crisp – make people try it before telling them what’s in it!)

I’ll give you a hint. It’s a vegetable derivative. Now guess!

Umm, no. Vegetable derivative.
No, that’s a fruit.

You’ll never guess it, so I’ll just tell you. Sauerkraut!

That’s right, this week I made Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake. Bear with me here. I saw the recipe in the Washington Post a while ago, and have been meaning to try it.

But at that moment of truth, when I was supposed to add chopped saurkraut to my beautiful cake batter, I definitely hesitated. Really? It this going to totally ruin this cake? Will we have to throw the whole thing out? I wondered. The recipe says to. People have made it before – just do it!

And it’s actually not bad. The sauerkraut is rinsed and chopped, so you can’t even tell it’s in there. That being said, I’m not sure what it actually adds to the cake either. I don’t think sauerkraut has much moisture to make the cake richer. And it doesn’t add flavor. So it’s just kind of there. But the fact that no one could guess that it was in the cake speaks to its subtlety.

So give it a try, see what you think!

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

10 2/3 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 1/4 cups flour, plus more for the pans
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
2/3 cup homemade or store-bought sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and finely chopped

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Use a little butter to grease two 8-inch cake pans; then flour them, shaking out any excess flour. If desired, place 8-inch circles of parchment paper or wax paper in the bottom of each pan.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition, and the vanilla extract.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda on a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.
Reduce the speed to low; add the flour mixture alternately with the water, beating until smooth.
Use a spatula to fold in the drained, chopped sauerkraut until well incorporated. Divide the thick batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans, leveling the surfaces.
Place both pans on the middle rack and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cakes spring back lightly when touched. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes two 8-inch, single-layer cakes (16 servings)
Recipe Source:
Adapted from a recipe by John Shields of Gertrude's in Baltimore.