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The Secrets of Chocolate Cake

For The Secrets of Mary Bowser, I would of course go with a dish that has a secret ingredient, something that makes the flavors richer and more complex than you might expect.  After all, Mary is such a complex character, and she lives a very unexpected life. 

Everyone who knows me knows that I have one favorite secret ingredient recipe, a cake I make for my own birthday, for my sweetie's birthday, and for anybody else's birthday I can.  But I NEVER tell anyone what the secret ingredient is until they have a bite or two.  No one has ever guessed what the secret ingredient is.  To be honest, it's something I only eat in this cake.

If you are a regular baker, this will be easy, though surprising.  If you usually use a mix to make cakes, maybe this will convert you to baking from scratch, because the truth is that baking a cake from scratch doesn't have to involve many more steps than baking from a mix, depending on the recipe.  Although I love to cook and bake, I am fairly lazy in the kitchen and never choose recipes with a lot of demanding steps.  The one trick to any cake recipe is that once the "wet" ingredients get mixed with the baking soda and/or baking powder, you don't want to wait too long before finishing the recipe and getting it in the oven.  The wet ingredients and baking powder and soda start a chemical reaction that makes your cake rise, and if you wait too long, blump goes the cake (I made up the word blump.  I can do that, because I'm a fiction writer!)


28 oz sauerkraut (or about 3/4 cup drained and firmly packed) 
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup cold coffee (make the coffee in advance and put it in the refrigerator to chill)


Preheat the oven to 350, and butter one 9"x13" pan, or two 9" round or square pans. 

Drain and rinse the sauerkraut and chop so pieces are approximately 1/4" to 1/2" long (just eyeball this; it doesn't have to be exact).  Set aside. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder).  

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients little by little, alternating with the coffee. 

Mix in the sauerkraut (you'll need to mix this step by hand rather than using an electric mixer).  

Pour evenly into the cake pan or pans.  It will be quite thick as a batter.  

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Let the cake cool before inverting the pan and putting it onto your serving plate to frost.

(For frosting, I use a pint of whipping cream, which I beat on high with cocoa powder, confectionary sugar, and a dash of Kahlua or another liqueur—I adjust the amounts to taste and find I've always got some left over to eat out of the bowl!  But any chocolate frosting should work).


If you are a regular baker, this recipe for chocolate cake will be easy, though surprising.