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Sweet surprises for April Fools' Day: two delicious vegetable cakes

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Somehow it's hard to imagine Marie Antoinette scoring any points with the bourgeoisie by stepping out on her Versailles balcony and tossing pieces of sauerkraut-chocolate cake or chocolate beet root cake to the crowds, even if she insisted they were palace-made from scratch. But, when you think of it, it wasn't too long ago that we were looking down our noses at zucchini bread and the like. And just look at carrot cake! It's become somewhat of an American institution. Perhaps not as ``American'' as Mom's Apple Pie, but it's arguably more popular these days in restaurants from Portland to Pasadena.

Carrots, zucchini, beets, and sauerkraut add more texture, substance, and moistness to the cake than any particular flavor.

These are not light and fluffy afternoon tea cakes. These are moist, dense, stick-to-the-ribs desserts. And they don't go stale in a day either. All keep for a week if tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. And they're fun as well. A perfect April Fools' dessert. Just don't tell your unsuspecting guests the ingredients - let them try and guess after they've take a bite.

Most likely you know someone who wouldn't get within a runner's mile of a plate of sauerkraut. Watch as they gulp down the sauerkraut-chololate cake and have your cake knife poised when they ask for another slice.

Several cookbooks have crossed this desk with recipes for chocolate-beet cake. This particular one is from Bert Greene's ``Kitchen Bouquets'' (Fireside Books, $9.95).

Mr. Greene got it from Jackie Cook who works at Ford's Cafe in Sonoma, Calif., and is attributed to Ms. Cook's grandmother who, as the story goes, brought the recipe by covered wagon across the Oregon Trail. It's a cake with a past, and a bit of history, and hopefully a future. Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake 1/2 cup butter, softened 11/2 cups granulated sugar 3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup cocoa powder 1 cup water 1 8-ounce can sauerkraut, lightly drained and finely chopped by hand (don't use food processor)

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