Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't judge a cake . . .

. . . by its ingredients. by its appearance. by its description by your little sister.

The Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake. Since we picked Maida's All American Desserts book, I have been dreading making this cake. I actually like cabbage. I like it raw, I like it in coleslaw, I love it sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper. Not a huge fan of Sauerkraut, but I will eat it. The thought of putting it into a cake is pretty repulsive, actually. Much more so than the thought of putting something like beets in a cake. Heck -- carrot cake and zucchini bread are delicious. But this is like making a pickle pie or something truly hideous like that.

Maria made this weeks ago. Her post about it was not inspiring. Although she described the cake as edible, there were other points in the post that made it sound like it was only vaguely so. Maybe I was just reading between the lines with my Sauerkraut Cake prejudice firmly in place.

But Saturday was the day to make that cake. I put it off on Saturday. Lots of excuses. It's too hot to bake. I don't have time (ha! I had tons of time.) I don't feel like getting the pans out of the shed (remember -- small kitchen. All my baking supplies are kept outside in a shed). It's too late (hmm -- going to bed at 8:00 p.m. to avoid making a cake).

Alright. Sunday was the day to make the cake. I opened that can of sauerkraut, and soon the entire house smelled like circus folk -- small hands, smell like cabbage. Natalie was sitting with her shirt over her nose because the smell was so pungent. Cake was easy to throw together after chopping the sauerkraut. Because I didn't feel like getting the food processor out of the shed, I chopped it by hand. I chopped like there was no tomorrow, because I didn't want chunks of cabbage hiding in the cake. Yuck. Other than the chopping, it was just the usual sifting of the dry ingredients, creaming the butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and adding the dry ingredients alternating with coffee. And then stirring in chopped sauerkraut. Yeah that's it -- just like a normal cake . . .
Pretty soon, the house stopped smelling like sauerkraut and smelled nice and chocolatey. That was a big improvement.
When I removed the layers from the oven, I could already tell something about this cake. It was going to be a lot more delicate than you would think. I can tell how delicate a cake is just by eyeing it as it comes out of the oven. I could not describe how I know this, I just do.
Maida warns you that the cake might stick to the rack. This warning I heeded. Despite the warning, and despite my heeding of the warning, one of the layers STILL stuck to the rack. Make that one the bottom layer . . .
Once the layers were nicely cooled, and I threw the milk chocolate/sour cream (2 ingredients!) frosting together, I was ready to assemble the cake. That ugly bottom layer was patched together with frosting and looked fine. The cake looked quite perfect after I had it all put together. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of it then, because the wax paper strips were still sticking out all of the place.
That cake that stuck to the rack? Well, it turns out it also sticks to wax paper. I should have sprayed the wax paper, because when I tried to pull the strips out from under the cake, big chunks of the bottom layer came out with them. Try as I might to repair the damage, it was a disaster. From a really beautiful cake, it looked more like a 5-year-old's first cake. Very very ugly.
Next step -- the step which Maria left out -- refrigerate the cake. I stuck the ugly Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake in the fridge. Once PVLL had WON THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES, we left to celebrate. We told the waitress at Gio's -- "oh, we don't need dessert. We have chocolate cake waiting at home for us."
But when we got home, I really didn't want to have any. Apparently nobody else did either because nobody asked. And so the cake continued to languish in the fridge.
Last night, after dinner, I pulled the cake out of the refrigerator and announced that we were going to eat cake. Natalie's friend Wendy was over, and we didn't tell her the secret. I cut relatively thin slices so we wouldn't have to eat very much.
Oh, let me tell you, this cake is GOOD! It is beyond good. It is fudgy without being the slightest bit dry. Yet despite its fudgy quality, it isn't rich. It was one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. I would make this again if somebody asked me to make an all chocolate cake for a party. It was a little difficult to cut, and didn't come out in really nice shapely pieces, but that didn't matter. We all scraped our plates clean. Usually big chunks of cake end up in the trash. Not with this cake.
YUM. I have discovered yet another way that I like to eat cabbage. Although not sure that I could substitute eating a slice of this cake for a serving of cruciferous vegetables, I may do that a few times this week. Glad I'm back into the groove of working out.


  1. Wow - who would have thunk it? My mouth is watering just reading your description!

  2. Think you were very brave to try this. Glad it was worth it in the end and a nice surprise! You never know until you try...