Make the most of your sourdough discard with this easy one-bowl sourdough chocolate cake! You'd never know this is an egg-free cake recipe – the starter adds both hydration and lift. It's adapted from depression cake, so it doesn't need eggs, milk, or butter, is all mixed in one bowl, and makes a perfectly moist chocolate cake.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Oil: use any neutral-tasting oil you like or have on hand. We used avocado oil but vegetable oil or canola oil are fine, as well as widely available.
- Apple cider (AC) vinegar: vinegar helps activate the baking soda and baking powder. White vinegar or lemon juice can be swapped in for apple cider vinegar.
- Sourdough starter: this is a sourdough discard recipe, which means unfed starter s used.
- Flour: you can substitute up to 40% whole wheat flour (74g) in place of the white flour.
Step 1: mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Step 2: add the wet ingredients to the bowl.
Step 3: whisk until fully combined, being careful not to over-mix.
Step 4: pour into a prepared cake in.
Step 5: bake for 30 minutes, until the cake is pulling away from the edges of the pan.
Step 6: cool fully before frosting and serving.
- Double the recipe: this recipe doubles well! Simply double the amount of ingredients and divide the batter between two cake tins rather than one. You can make an easy layered cake this way.
- Cool fully: if the cake is still warm - even a little bit - the frosting will melt when it's added and make a mess.
- Don't over-mix: if you whisk too long after adding the wet ingredients, the cake will be tough and a little chewy. Mix until just combined.
If you're looking for a sourdough discard cake with intense sourdough flavour this may not be the recipe for you. The chocolate flavour counteracts any noticeable sourness, and even more so if you add frosting once the cake cools.
We didn't include a recipe for frosting because there are so many terrific choices! For this post we used our vanilla frosting recipe and added cocoa powder to taste to make it chocolate. Cream cheese frosting would be delicious and you could add a bit of cocoa powder to that as well.
The middle of the cake always sinks a bit and that's just part of the recipe. It's not under-baked, but these old fashioned recipes often have little quirks like that. You just get a bit more frosting on the first bite!
How to Store
Storage: sourdough cake will keep on the counter, covered well or inside a cake server, for up to two days. You can refrigerate the cake but we recommend bringing it to room temperature before serving.
Freezing: transfer fully cooled cake, without frosting, to an airtight container. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw as usual before frosting and serving.
Why is it called depression cake?
Whether you call it depression cake, war cake, or wacky cake, it's a recipe that was made during times of want. This type of cake doesn't use butter, eggs, or milk, foods that were in short supply during the depression years and rationed during and after World War Two.
What is a sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is either a starter that's been in the fridge after feeding, or starter that's peaked and has started to decline. This is what is discarded before feeding but it can be used rather than thrown away.
What do you do with sourdough discard?
Many sourdough bakers (including the three of us) keep a jar of discard in the fridge as a just-in-case measure. Otherwise we add it to crackers, cakes, and muffins, or put it in the compost.
If you make this Chocolate Sourdough Cake recipe or any other sourdough discard recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
Sourdough Chocolate Cake
- 8-inch (20-cm) round cake tin
- Parchment paper
- Mixing bowl
- Wire rack
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons neutral oil plus extra for greasing the pan
- ¾ cup water room temperature
- ½ cup sourdough starter discard
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease an 8-inch (20-cm) round cake tin with oil. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk well.
- Add the oil, water, sourdough discard, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir until everything is well mixed and the flour is just combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake bounces back when lightly pressed with a fingertip.
- Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool in the tin. Once cooled, turn the cake out of the tin and decorate with your favourite frosting.