Wednesday 6 June 2007

Kraut Rock Cupcakes

E is a big fan of kraut rock – the more obscure, the more he loves it! I never thought this could be an inspiration for baking. But is there anything that doesn’t have some link to food!

This week E and I were discussing what I should bake. He wanted vanilla. I wanted chocolate. Finally he said I should have a kraut rock theme like Amon Düül II’s album called Yeti – I think this was an allusion to vanilla (and coconut?). But unfortunately for him, his beloved ‘krauts’ reminded me of a recipe I found recently that fascinated me: Chocolate Sauerkraut Cupcakes which Alanna at A Veggie Venture made earlier this year.

I have a fine collection of chocolate cake recipes and have cooked chocolate cakes with all sorts of interesting flavours and textures – beetroot, Guinness, mayonnaise, black pepper. So I couldn’t resist sauerkraut!

At first I thought sauerkraut with chocolate was one of the weirdest combinations I'd seen. Unlike zucchini, carrot or potato – common vegetables I have used in sweet baking – sauerkraut seems a rather strong taste to pair with sweet food. But then I checked the ingredients and it is only cabbage, salt and vinegar. Salt and vinegar are not such unusual ingredients in cake recipes. I didn’t even use the blender but just chopped it finely with my chef’s knife - it gave the cake a little texture in the way grated zucchini or carrot might but not in a strong tasting way. So don’t be afraid to try it.

E took my decision like a man and got out his signed copy of krautrocksampler: one head’s guide to the great komische musik – 1969 onwards by Julian Cope. He pointed me to a song by Amon Düül called ‘Mama Düül and her Sauerkraut-band Start Up’.

So I set about making the cupcakes. Here I have to say that I am with the Passionate Cook in my confusion about what are cupcakes and what are muffins. I have quite a few muffin cookbooks with lots of interesting ingredients. I was always under the impression muffins had lots of exciting flavours and textures, and were superior to cupcakes, which in my understanding were smaller and quite plain. So I would put these into the muffin category. But I notice it is trendy to call them cupcakes again because suddenly there are lots of cookbooks full of colourful and interesting cupcakes and not a muffin cookbook in sight.

I had to adapt Alanna’s recipe. I only have one 12 hole muffin pan and only wanted one batch so I downsized the recipe to allow for this. I also only had Self Raising Flour (ie 2 tsp baking powder added to each cup of all-purpose flour) so I think these might have been a bit lighter than intended. I also didn’t feel like getting my electric beaters and food processor out – one of the joys of muffin recipes was always that it was simply a matter of mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. And to ice them I used some orange cream cheese frosting that had been in my freezer for about a month.

For all that meddling they were good. E was pleased at their lightness. I was pleased to have some home baked chocolate goodies in the house again. I think the sauerkraut was merely seasoning and some slight texture but the recipe will take place with some of my more eccentric chocolate recipes. And I now have lots of sauerkraut to use up because it didn’t use up much of what was in the tin I bought.

Kraut Choc Cupcakes
Adapted from A Veggie Venture
Makes 12

2/3 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup water
1½ cups self raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal (ground linseeds)
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Mix margarine and butter with a spoon or electric beaters. Add eggs, sauerkraut, vanilla essence and water and stir til combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix til combined.

Line 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake paper cups (or if like me, you forget, just spray the pan with oil spray but they might be reluctant to come out). Bake for 20- 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan. Cool completely before icing. Alanna did a chocolate cream cheese frosting. I used an orange cream cheese frosting – in fact it was so good I would recommend some orange zest in the recipe.

On the Stereo:
Amon Düül II: Tanz der Lemminge


  1. Ai Johanna, you are indeed inspired! I love the idea of the orange cream, in fact, what about figuring out a way to tuck in a small spoon of marmalade?

    I'm not sure I can explain the difference between a muffin and a cupcake but like good art, "I know it when I see it". :-)

  2. We were just discussing this in another blog's comments:
    Winter Skies Kitchen Aglow. The difference between muffins and cupcakes is mostly in the method. That's my opinion, anyhow.

    I've baked chili pepper in brownies, so why not sauerkraut w/ chocolate? I'll keep this mind next time I feel like baking out of the box. Thanks!

  3. Excuse my ignorance: what is kraut rock? :)

  4. Cool cakes. Weird idea, but they seem to have worked a treat.

    A lecturer I had when studying nutrition called sauerkraut 'yoghurt for vegans', so good are all those little bacteria. Will rack brains for a good use for the rest of yours, but current favourite is a rye bread sandwich with avocado, sauerkraut and a drizzle of olive oil.

  5. alanna - thank you for sharing the wonderful recipe - I think marmalade would be an excellent addition.

    thanks susan - I checked out Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow (great name) discussion - seems light and small is cupcakes and large dense and chunky is muffins - so what I need is mini muffins :-) But I think chocolate and chilli would go well in either.

    Wendy - good question - I hardly like to end your blissful ignorance but E (my authority) tells me Kraut Rock is german experimental rock music from the 1970s characterised by long instrumental freak-outs. I put a link to wiki on the post if you want more.

    Thanks Lucy - I had a browse in my cookbooks and have seen a few interesting recipes for sauerkraut but am a bit lacking in energy - maybe I need to eat more of my cupcakes - I did wander if they had many health benefits as I thought I had heard about sauerkraut being high in Vitamin C - I just checked Wiki and found why I thought this - because Captain Cook used it for his crew to prevent scurvy - fascinating stuff!

  6. They sound surprisingly yummy! It’s certainly a combination I would never have came up with in a million years!

  7. More cupcakes. Definitely!

    Great that Captain Cook fed it to those blokes to prevent scurvy.

  8. P.S. - Thanks for your additional comment on my nectarine post. It was dear of you. : )

  9. Scottish Vegan - you are so right about it being unthinkable - that is what is so wonderful about actually making these unusual recipes - if the recipe was a book it would probably have a subtitle saying 'they said it couldn't be done...' :-)

    yes lucy - I love how food can link us to our history (but imagine months on a ship eating loads of sauerkraut!)

    thanks susan - it is my pleasure to talk nectarines :-)


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