We all know the basic recipe for cake – flour, sugar, eggs, etc. Sometimes recipes will add-in something unexpected like zucchini or buttermilk. But for the most part, these recipes are very similar. You might be surprised at some of the strange ingredients that were once used in cakes! Grandma knows all about these little gems. Let’s take a look at these seemingly out of place mix-ins and see what they add to the recipe. Grandma would be proud!

Mayonnaise

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This condiment, while popular on sandwiches, isn’t quite what you think of when baking a cake. Although, if you think about it, mayo consists of eggs, oil, and something tangy like vinegar or lemon juice. When you break it down like that, it’s a little more palatable. It makes sense that adding mayonnaise to cake batter surged in popularity during the Great Depression. Mayo was a great substitute for more expensive ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter. Try our recipe here!

Sauerkraut

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Yes. Believe it or not, people who still use sauerkraut in their chocolate cake recipes swear by it. When I think of chocolate cake, the absolute last thing on my mind is pickled cabbage. And yet, just like the mayonnaise, there’s some science behind why this strange ingredient works. Sauerkraut contains acid that brings out the rich flavor and color of the chocolate. It also helps keep in the moistness to help the cake stay dense. Plus, the texture is highly reminiscent of coconut. The obvious pitfalls of this ingredient include the added sodium and possible clumping. Don’t worry, though. Both of these issues can be resolved by simply rinsing the sauerkraut under cool water before adding it to the cake batter. Check out this strangely delicious sauerkraut, mayo, and cola cake!

Mashed Potatoes

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Now, don’t get me wrong; I love mashed potatoes. Any kind of potatoes, really. I don’t discriminate. But in cake?! It’s not as weird as you may think. After all, people don’t bat an eye when adding potatoes to bread, so why not cake? Potatoes themselves don’t have a lot of flavor, so it’s all about enhancing the texture. Mashed potatoes give the cake a moist, dense structure, as well as adds a bit of fiber to the tasty dessert. Experiment with sweet potatoes and russet potatoes and see which one you like best! Try this mashed potato cake recipe!

Beets

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I’m not a huge fan of beets even in their regular context, so I cannot imagine a cake recipe that would be enhanced by these root veggies. However, some bakers swear by this odd ingredient! Like a few of these items on this list, adding beets was born out of necessity. Well, maybe calling cake a necessity is a bit much, but you get the idea. During WWII, bakers swapped in beet sugar for heavily rationed white cane sugar. It’s unclear how beet sugar transitioned into straight-up beets in cake, but it started in the Midwest during the 60s. Believe it or not, beets add a natural sweetness that helps retain moisture and add density. Try these red velvet beet cupcakes!

What weird ingredients did your grandma add to her cakes? Do you still use the same recipe today? Let us know in the comments below!