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Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake ...and a Cookbook Review: Maida Heatter's Cakes

No.  You can't taste the sauerkraut.  You know you were wondering.

Call me strange, but I have always wanted to try a Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.  I've seen it in photos...I've read of it in print...It's one of those legendary foods.  In my mind, at least.  I have always heard good things about it.  It's incredibly moist.  It's so-and-so's favorite type of chocolate cake.  Susie and Fifi's grandmothers have both made it every year for as long as they can remember.  

When I happened upon a recipe for it from "the Queen of Desserts", I figured  now was as good a time as any to give it a try.  I'm gonna tell ya...I'm glad that I did.  It's everything the legend foretold.  And more.  Moist.  Chocolatey.  Rich.  Delicious.  And this recipe in particular, at least is big and me the largest, most satisfying layers that I, personally, have ever accomplished in a cake.  And I did keep the sauerkraut a secret until every body ate a slice.  Nobody knew.  Nobody gagged mid-bite because they tasted fermented cabbage.  And every single person did a triple take when I announced the secret ingredient.  This cake will forever be in my will the frosting (for this and other cakes).
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
from Maida Heatter's Cakes
yield: 10-12 portions

⅔ c. drained sauerkraut, firmly packed
2¼ c. sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ c. Dutch-process cocoa powder
5⅓ oz. (10⅔ Tbs.) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 c. strong coffee

1 lb. milk chocolate
1 c. sour cream
make the cake: Put your oven racks in the middle position and preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter two 9" (I used 8") round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper cut to fit, then butter paper and dust all over with fine, dry bread crumbs I used cocoa powder and tap out excess.  Set aside.

Place sauerkraut in a large bowl, add cold water to cover, and with your hands work the water all through the sauerkraut to rinse it lightly, drain in a strainer, and then squeeze the sauerkraut a bit in your hands to remove most of the water that remains (but don't overdo it or you will make the cake dry).  It is okay if the sauerkraut still smells like sauerkraut--the cake won't smell or taste like it once it is cooked.  Honest.

Chop the sauerkraut until it is pretty fine.  Set aside. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa together and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until soft.  Beat in vanilla and sugar, then eggs one at a time.  On low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the coffee in two additions.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in sauerkraut with spoon or rubber scraper.

Place half of the mixture in each of the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for ~30 (mine took 25) minutes, until tops of cakes just barely spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip.  Do NOT over bake.  Let layers stand in pan for a few minutes, then remove and turn them back right side up and cool completely on wire racks. 
make the icing: Break up the chocolate and place in top of a double boiler.  Let it melt a bit, stirring from time to time until completely melted and smooth.  Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.  Use immediately.  This stuff completely and totally rocks!  It's thick and tangy and chocolatey and fabulous.  Just thought I should let you know.

To ice the cake, place four (10" x 3") strips of parchment paper in a square around the sides of a large cake plate.  Place one cake layer on the plate upside down and check to be sure it is touching the papers all around (use a turntable, if you have one).

Spread about one-third of the icing over the layer on the plate.  Cover the frosted layer with the other layer, right side up (bottoms together in the middle).  Pour remaining icing over cake and smooth it over the top and around the sides with a thin metal spatula.  Remove paper strips.

Refrigerate and serve cold.  We actually ate a few slices was too tempting not to.  So. Stinkin'. Good.  I liked it both warm and cold.
I cannot argue the fact that Maida Heatter is the "Queen of Desserts".  I adored  Maida Heatter's Cakes as much as I adored Maida Heatter's Cookies.  This book is a compilation of 175 of the most beloved cake recipes that have appeared in her previous books.  I can think of nobody's advice I'd trust more on Ingredients, Equipment, and Techniques...and that's exactly what you'll find in the chapter on Cake-Making Basics that kicks off this informative, delicious book.  Maida's advice.  Then you'll move on to one of the other chapters such as Plain Cakes, Chocolate Cakes, Layer Cakes, Fancy Cakes, Cheesecakes, Fruitcakes and Nutcakes, Cakes with Fruits or Vegetables, Yeast Cakes, Sweet Breads, Muffins, Cupcakes, and Tassies, Gingerbreads, or Ice Cream, Sauces, and More to put her advice to good use.  She was also thoughtful enough to put Metric Conversions and Equivalents in (for those of us who are metric-ly me...but I'm getting better!).  This will become a bible for me around birthdays and potlucks, along with "the cookie one".  If you have this book in your possession, you'll never run out of cake ideas.  If anything, you'll have too many.

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