Inside the Mysterious Connection Between Sauerkraut and Chocolate Cake

Not the recipe you'd expect

Part of a delicious dessert! No, really.
Annakareninerussie, CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’ve ever done a search for information related to sauerkraut cakes, you my well be prompted to do a related search for “sauerkraut cake why.” Admittedly, that’s an understandable reaction — after all, there are not too many ways in which traditional hot dog toppings and tasty desserts overlap.

And yet here we are — living in a world in which storied chocolate makers tout recipes for chocolate cakes in which significant amount of sauerkraut plays an integral part. This leads to an obvious question: what, exactly, is the deal with this cake? And who was it who first thought, “You know, this fermented cabbage that I like to put on sausages — I’ll bet it would also be great for baking cakes?” The mind, as they say, boggles.

In a new article for Atlas Obscura, Diana Hubbell took a crack at answering these existential questions about one of the most unexpected cakes you’re likely to try. As it turns out, the cake’s origins are more mysterious than you might think. Some decades-old articles attribute the recipe to an immigrant from Germany. German food writers, meanwhile, seem mystified by the phenomenon.

Hubbell’s conversation with food and fermentation historian Sandor Katz turned up another theory: that the cake recipe was created by someone with a surplus of cabbage — possibly during World War II. But there is no one clear-cut inventor of the style, and it seems possible that multiple bakers came up with the concept independently. Still, as mysterious as the cake’s origins are, it does sound delicious — and might well inspire you to try your hand at making one.


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