Sourdough takes the (chocolate) cake

Chocolate cake made with sourdough starter? You have GOT to be kidding.

No, ’tis true. Sourdough chocolate cake is a richly flavored, craggy textured, deep-dark chocolate cake, one you enjoy without ever suspecting its origin in a bubbling pot of sourdough starter.

After all, sourdough was the leavener of choice for many centuries before baking powder, baking soda, or even hartshorn (yes, ground deer antler) made their appearance. The ancient Egyptians made their bread from a sourdough starter. Skip ahead about 3,300 years, and prospectors working the 1849 California Gold Rush were so dependent on sourdough starter for their everyday bread, they often carried it with them, in a pouch worn around the neck.

Along the way, bakers discovered that sourdough isn’t just for bread. Or biscuits. Or pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Sweet “friendship” starters (a.k.a. “the edible chain letter”), born about 100 years ago, were passed from neighbor to neighbor, with specific instructions to bake a loaf of quick bread, and pass starter along to two friends. Friendship starter very quickly became zucchini-like in its infiltration of every household in a neighborhood, and that particular trend eventually calmed down. But the theory of sweet treats baked with a starter lives on.

The following cake is yet another way to keep your sourdough starter active and happy. And the thick, fudge-like coffee icing on top is a great counterpoint to the chocolate, both in flavor and appearance. Enjoy!


This recipe begins with “fed” or “ripe” sourdough starter, which means you need to plan ahead and feed your refrigerated starter before using it. Combine 1 cup of “fed” starter with milk and flour.


Mix well, then cover and let rest at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.


Here it is after 3 hours. It won’t get all bubbly like sourdough usually does; it’ll just kind of smooth out and expand a bit.


In a separate bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa, and espresso powder.


Beat till well combined, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. You should have a smooth, thick batter.


Next, add the starter/flour/milk mixture.


It’s kind of gloppy at first, but just keep beating slowly till it’s smooth. Notice how it lightens in color, too.


Pour the thick batter into a greased 9” x 13” pan.


Bake for  30 to 40 minutes, till the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan; the top springs back when pressed lightly; and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool a bit while you prepare the icing.


What’s this? Why, it’s sifted confectioners’ sugar! Much as I hate to fuss, it’s necessary to sift the confectioners’ sugar for this particular icing recipe. Unless you don’t mind icky little lumps floating on the gorgeous smooth sea of glossy icing atop your cake. If you don’t have a sifter, at least press the sugar through a sieve, OK?


Melt butter in a saucepan, then add buttermilk or yogurt + espresso powder dissolved in hot water. Heat just to a boil.


Immediately pour the hot liquid over the confectioners’ sugar, and beat at medium speed till glossy and smooth. Still working quickly…


Pour the icing over the cake in the pan. (Hopefully you’ve used a deep enough pan that you can do this… Mine is nearly 2 1/4” deep.) Those aren’t lumps— they’re bubbles! The icing solidifies quickly, so don’t be answering the phone or letting the cat out while you’re in mid-process here.


Next, melt together chocolate chips, milk, and corn syrup, and drizzle over the icing. You don’t have to do this right away; it’s perfectly OK to add this final touch later on.


Notice the thick layer of icing. The first time I made the cake, the icing was pretty scanty, so I increased the recipe by 50%.


Here’s what it looked like made as a layer cake, with the original amount of icing. Very thin layer inside; not enough to completely cover the sides of the cake.


But yummy nonetheless. See the swirls on top? That’s because while I was putting the frosting on the first layer, the remainder cooled just enough that it was spreadable, not pourable. I probably could have rewarmed it, but what the heck, right? I don’t have the Martha Stewart gene.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Sourdough Chocolate Cake.

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.


PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. breadchick

    PJ, that is one of my favourite things to do with my toss off, make chocolate cake. I have a recipe I’ve use and adore but I’m trying yours soon.

    You should also try sourdough cinnamon rolls. They take about 12 hours to do but they are worth it for the the combination of zing and sweet.

    WHOA, all right, hadn’t thought of cinnamon rolls… have to try them, too. Thanks- PJH

  2. Trish

    My co-workers are going to be so happy you printed your recipe for this cake. This should get me lots of “favors”. BTW – how does this keep? If it was made on Sunday would it still be good on Monday?


    Absolutely – it keeps VERY well… – PJH

  3. Andrea

    Hubster has now told me that I’m only allowed to read this blog once a week – he said that all the homemade treats, breads, and fancy salads I’m making daily (haha…I think he meant the panzanella) are going to make him gain weight. 😉 I told him that at least he can pronounce the ingredients in what I’m making!

    My only question is this…I don’t have any ‘ripe’ starter. Do I really have to wait a week to make this lovely cake? I really want a tasty chocolate cake for dessert tonight….

    Well, getting starter going doesn’t take a week, even if you’re starting from scratch. But getting starter ready to use does take about 12 hours… Try this fudge cake – it’s our go-to , default birthday cake here at KA. – PJH

  4. Rebecca

    PJ, I’ve noticed a lot of recipes for chocolate cake include espresso powder, which I never have since I don’t drink coffee. Would this cake work well without espresso powder? Should I add more cocoa powder to compensate? I’ve already ordered my KA sour dough starter, so your little plug worked. Now, time to bake!

    Becca, just leave it out – it’s there strictly for flavor. Espresso powder enhances chocolate flavor just like vanilla does… – PJH

  5. Kat DeFonce

    PJ –
    This looks like it tastes phenominal! (I think I’ll have to cheat on Atkins for a week now!)
    I did notice one thing though, or maybe I just missed it. I can’t find espresso powder listed in the ingredients for the cake, in the recipe. How much do I use?

    Whoops – it’s 1 teaspoon. We’re entering recipe online in a different technological format now, and I’m still struggling with it. Thanks for cathinc that, Kat – PJH

  6. Daphyne Davis

    There are lactose issues with my family. Can I use rice milk instead of cow’s milk to feed the sourdough starter? We recommend you use non-chlorinated water to feed your sourdough. Joan @bakers hot line

  7. Kimberly

    I too don’t drink coffee and was wondering any idea for another frosting? Maybe a peanutbutter frosting? The nicest thing about making your own frosting is that you may use any flavor you enjoy. So if you feel peanutbutter frosting will be a good combination I hope you will make it. Joan @ bakershotline

  8. Diane Miller

    I really don’t like cakes with oil in them. Is there any way to substitute something else for the oil?

    Sure, Diane – try melted butter. Should work just fine, plus add some flavor. The texture might be a tiny bit less tener, but I wouldn’t worry about it; it’s plenty moist… – PJH

  9. Judy G.

    This cake recipe was great! I made them as cupcakes instead and omitted the frosting as I am not a person that likes real sweet icing. My son who does not usually like cake loved it, so did all my company. It was moist and airy. We chose to top it with ice cream and chocolate sauce. I would definitely recommend it without reservations I did use very high quality cocoa and vanilla.

    Using good ingredients really does make a difference, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing, Judy. – PJH

  10. Hilary

    WOW! I never thought of using sourdough starter in things like chocolate cake. My mom got caught up in the 1960s sourdough craze that was started locally by an LA Times magazine article on baking with sourdough, and that pot of starter bubbled on her counter for years until we all lost interest. The use I looked forward to the most was pancakes on Friday nights. They were yeasty, thick and chewy and reminded me more of English muffins than pancakes. Fall is here and I’m inspired! Thanks!

  11. Jacqueline

    Does anyone remember “Snackin’ Cake?” I think that’s what it was called. Boxed cake mix you could whip up in a 8×8 pan and eat w/o frosting. Not the kind of thing I’d have in my house now..but…

    I would love to make a sourdough starter from scratch version of it. Would this recipe work w/no frosting and does anyone have proportions for a smaller pan? It’s just two of us here, struggling to keep weight down and loving our food!

    btw. made pancakes with the sourdough discarded cup. Fantastic. But we cannot eat pancakes every day. We’re on day three and I think that will be the end of the discard batter (I used the waffle recipe and just dropped in some frozen blueberries. SO good.)

    Can I use the cup I cull out to begin another starter for different bread?

    Any suggestions appreciated!

    Jacqueline, you could simply cut the recipe in half and bake in a 9″ round cake pan. Frosting is good, but of course you can always enjoy cake without it. And yes, you can use the 1 cup of starter to begin a new starter, for sure; just feed it with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, and go from there. Enjoy – PJH

  12. Marliss

    Should the milk be warmed (about 90F) when added to the starter and flour? I went ahead and did this, since all my other sourdough recipes specify warm milk.

    No, you don’t have to warm the milk. It ‘ll reach room temperature as it sits for the few hours it needs to develop its flavor.

  13. Barbara

    Someone mentioned sourdough cinnamon rolls? My husband just asked me today if I could make cinnamon rolls with the sourdough. My KAF sourdough starter arrived yesterday, and I’m baking my first bread later tonight. The chocolate cake looks great, and so does the carrot cake. But, I’d love a great cinnamon roll recipe. Alternatively, I HAVE a great cinnamon roll recipe–how would I incorporate the sourdough into it, or should I just use a recipe that is, from the get-go, designed to use with sourdough?
    Barbara At first I would use a recipe designed for sourdough. Once you get familiar with sour dough doughs, then it is easier to experiment. The rustic sourdough loaf recipe would work as cinnamon rolls. Use your filling from your recipe and follow the how to on your recipe for rolling and shaping the rolls.
    When you’r ready to try substituting sourdough in a recipe, use abour 1 cup of starter in place of about 3/4 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of the liquid. Have fun with it. Mary from King Arthur Flour

  14. cindy leigh

    can you list the nutritional counts on your recipes?
    1 cup of oil is a lot, cn that we cut down at all or replaced with something else?
    I’m looking for reasonably healthy recipes.
    Thanks! We are working to get the nutritionals on each recipe. We’re not there yet, but are gaining ground. Frequently applesauce or fruit puree can be used to replace part of the oil in baked goods. Mary @ King Arthur Flour

  15. Barbara

    On the chocolate cake recipe, if omitting the espresso powder in the frosting, should I add some vanilla instead?

    Hi Barbara,
    You could add a little vanilla if you wanted, or any flavor that you feel would work well with the chocolate cake.

    Happy Baking! MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  16. Barbara

    On the recipe for carrot cake, it does not specifically say “fed sourdough starter.” It just says “sourdough starter.” But, is it a rule of thumb that, unless is says right from the refrigerator, like the waffle overnight sponge recipe, it MEANS “fed sourdough starter”?

    Barbara, most sourdough recipes should tell you whether the starter should be a “fed” starter or not. Bread recipes should either tell you to use “fed” starter; or they call for you to take the starter and combine it with some flour and water, then let it “work” for several hours. This takes the place of the pre-feeding. (But don’t forget, you still need to feed your “mother” starter whenever you remove some to bake with.) In cakes, the sourdough doesn’t need to be fed, as it’s either combined with other ingredients and allowed to rest for a couple of hours; or it’s there not for its yeast, but for its acidity. Unfed starter (acid) combined with baking soda (base) in a recipe produces some nice leavening power. – PJH

  17. Barbara

    Following up, on the carrot cake, then is it also acceptable to use “fed” starter in this recipe? In other words, could it be either fed or unfed? I ask because I’ve already fed my starter this morning and want to use it to make the cake recipe this afternoon….

    Sure, Barbara – the fed starter will be more vigorous. If you’re making the chocolate cake, and you’ve already fed your starter, there’s no need for the 2-3 hour rest period called for at the start of the recipe. PJH

  18. Linda

    Back from a vacation and my starter was crying for attention. Didn’t want to make bread so made cake instead and this was well recieved at a local restaurant grand re-opening (free to regular customers) Comment was (Will this be on the menu?) Well, I’m not sure but it was a winner and disappeared very fast. Some comented that it was too sweet but hey, they didn’t have to eat the frosting, did they? I will let them eat cake when I don’t have bread even though I am not Marie Antoinette.

    Glad you’re not Marie Antoinette, Linda – you don’t want to lose your head… – PJH

  19. Alvara

    I made the chocolate sourdough cake and it was a mistake. It is so delicious and moist. It’s wonderful even without icing. I cannot have a cup of coffee without taking at least a little slice of the cake. I may have to freeze what is left so I don’t see it. Thanks again for a new experience.
    Now on to the breads as I have tried the sourdough waffles and liked them also.

  20. Emilie

    The cake looks scrumptious. but the icing is soup that never thickened, despite very carefully following this recipe. However I think I might know why. I used “light” butter instead of regular, and perhaps that caused the commotion. Anyway, whatever you do, make sure there’s a lot of room in the top of your pan for the icing. Mine went all over the place I ended up having to flip the cake, add lots of confectioner’s sugar to the icing, and it’s still funny looking. Since I’m taking it to a dinner tonight, I can only hope the chocolate glaze will make all the difference.

    Yes, light butter has lots of water in it, which tends to make things soupy. Also, yes, you do need to use a deep-enough 9″ x 13″ pan; some of the pans manufactured these days aren’t up to standard height-wise (mfrs. trying to save money, I guess…) When a cake starts to look funny, you can always cut it into rounds with a biscuit cutter and drizzle icing over the rounds again – makes them look festive. – PJH

  21. meredith

    okay — so you actually don’t need to use “fed” starter for this recipe; you can take 1 cup (or 1/2 cup, if 1/2’ing recipe) straight from crock in fridge, and then let dough rest for 2-3 hours before proceeding? BUT — if you use “fed” starter by (1) taking entire batch of starter from fridge, (2)discarding 1 cup, (3) adding 1/2 cup water, 1 cup flour to remaining, and (4) allowing to sit at room temp. for 4-12 hours, then taking 1 cup of this mixture and using that 1 cup in recipe, you don’t need to rest for 2-3 hours?
    (this is my first experience w/ sourdough baking/starter!)

    Hi Meredith: Correct. If it’s fed, it doesn’t need to rest for the 2-3 hours. If it’s right from the fridge, it needs to rest for 2-3 hours, per the instructions in the chocolate cake recipe. Don’t worry – you can do this and it’ll come out JUST FINE! PJH

  22. meredith

    One more question — could I substitute buttermilk for the regular milk, or will the acidity be adversely affected. I have excess buttermilk on hand (that I purchased for the sourdough waffle recipe!) that needs to be put to good use. . .

  23. Anastasia

    I just got my KA starter and made a loaf of rustic sourdough bread this weekend. Delicious! I can’t decide if I want to try this chocolate cake or the extra-tangy bread next 🙂

    I have a question about the starter. The instructions for use say to remove one cup, feed 1 c flour and 1/2 c water, wait 4-12 hours, use fed starter, then feed again before refrigerating. What’s the significance of that second feeding? Is it just to maintain the volume of starter? Or for some other reason? The reason I ask is that I typically make small batches of things… one loaf of bread instead of two, etc. So I’d only need 1/2 c starter for most recipes. If the second feeding is just to maintain the volume of the starter, then could I skip it when I start getting more starter than I need? Thanks!

    Yes, Anastasia, to maintain volume. And yes, you can skip that second feeding, if you’re OK with the volume of your starter diminishing. Enjoy – PJH

  24. Grace

    Does this recipe bake well as cupcakes? Obviously, shorter baking time.

    Yes, I’m sure cupcakes would be fine. Shorter baking time – try 20 minutes? I haven’t tried it, but sounds like a good idea… PJH

  25. Diane Miller

    OK, I finally made this chcolate cake, substituting melted butter for the oil as you suggested. It is fabulous!!! So moist and tender, wonderful flavor, I don’t know why you would make it with oil in the first place. I did not have expresso powder so I just added some leftover coffee from breakfast. I was kind of frightened of your iceing so I made chocolate iceing, it turned out great. I can’t wait to try using melted butter in my Meyer Lemon cake, I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with the oily feel and taste of it. Thank you so much for your suggestion.

  26. Larkin

    I am new to the whole sourdough starter thing…this is only week 3 of feeding weekly and baking something each Friday. I would love to try this chocolate cake but am wondering what type of flour to use? I use unbleached all-purpose flour to feed my starter each week. Should I use the same for this cake? Thanks!

    Absolutely, Larkin – our King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour is the way to go. Enjoy – PJH

  27. Michele Yanow

    Have you tried this with any non-dairy substitutes for the milk (soy, almond, etc.)? If so, which do you recommend? Thanks!

    Haven’t tried any, but I think any of them would work just fine, Michele… PJH

  28. Carolyn Hergenrother

    Note to those people who don’t drink coffee and have a problem with espresso powder in recipes. I don’t drink coffee any more but a little jar (2 oz.) of espresso powder lives in my cupboard (under the can of baking powder!). I’ve had it for quite a while now (years) and it’s only about half gone. I have no idea what it cost. But the point is, it doesn’t take up that much room, it seems to keep forever, and when I need it I have it. It really does tweak up the chocolat flavor but doesn’t add a noticeable coffee flavor.

    Thanks for the endorsement, Carolyn! I really do like the espresso powder with chocolate… as you say, it doesn’t make the chocolate taste like coffee – any more than vanilla makes chocolate taste like vanilla. It simply enhances that rich chocolate flavor… PJH

    1. Amy E. Armstrong

      I’m not a coffee drinker, neither is my husband. We’ve tried recipes that call for espresso powder and we’ve tried recipes that call for instant coffee granules … and we taste it. That coffee flavor comes souring through no matter how small the amount. Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t drink coffee at all …we’re super aware of it when it’s in a recipe. We love chocolate recipes, and so many of the KAF recipes call for using espresso powder. So we either leave it out, or move on to a different recipe. Still looking for a good brownie recipe 🙂

    2. PJ Hamel, post author

      Amy, simply leave the espresso out, in any recipe – no problem. This is my favorite brownie recipe: our basic Fudge Brownies. It’s SO reliable, the perfect balance between fudgy and “too dense,” deep-dark, and wonderful flavor. Enjoy – PJH

  29. Carolyn Hergenrother

    Just wanted you to know — The neighborhood where I live (Durham, NC) is very actively engaged in Neighborhood Watch. To mark National Night Out, the neighborhood had a bake-off. I made several things, one being this Sourdough Chocolate Cake. It won second prize!!! And no leftovers came back!

    My only problem with it was getting it out of the baking pan and into the foil lined box to take to the event. Altlhough I’d made it two days previously, the frosting was still very soft and sometimes tended to slide off the cake and the cake crumbled at the slightest touch. By the time I had the box filled, counter and floor were covered with crumbs and I had cleaned the floor twice already. (There are times I miss the dogs.)

    Now I”ve got to watch for a super recipe for next year.

  30. Evelyn Hayward

    This chocolate cakes looks wonderful. I am inspired to begin using your starters, however, I know nothing about using them. Do complete instrucitons come with the first starter? I am enjoying your whole grain white flour and other flours too. Wish you had a cooking class in the Portland, Oregon area sometime. Your newsletter is terrific.

    Thanks for your kind words, Evelyn. Yes, complete instructions come with the starter. Plus there are lots of good sourdough tips here online. It seems daunting, but trust me, it’s actually quite simple. Yeast (and tha tincludes sorudough) is much friendlier and forgiving than many not familiar with it would imagine… PJH

  31. Mitzie Nitta

    I had a sourdough cake recipe which I liked and have misplaced. So, I am looking forward to using your recipe, but, you have not published the ingredients. Do I look for it somewhere else?

    Also, I find your bread flour really makes a difference when feeding my sourdough starter, which I’ve had for decades.

    I have printed a number of your recipes and plan to try them out one day. I usually use my starter for waffles, pancakes and breads.

    Isn’t sourdough fun, Mitzie? The link to the recipe is at the end of the blog – and here it is again: Sourdough Chocolate Cake. Enjoy – PJH

  32. Dionakaye Sims

    This look of this cake really makes my mouth water, and I definitely want to make it! Question: Does the sourdough starter in this recipe add “lift” to the cake, and if so, why add any baking powder or baking soda at all? Can sourdough starter be used as a sole leavening substitute for any cake or cookie recipe? Thank you! DK

    Hi – I’d say if the sourdough starter adds lift, it would be insignificant. And I wouldn’t say you could use starter solo to leaven cakes or cookies – unless perhaps you experimented with letting the cake sit for hours to rise which, in my opinion, could compromise the flavor, due to the milk. eggs, and other perishables in the recipe. Hey, experimentation sometimes yields wonderful and unexpected results though, right? Give it a try, let us know what happens. PJH

  33. Karen from Poquoson VA

    I made this cake last night and can’t stop eating it, it is the very first cake I have ever made from scratch, I can’t believe how high the cake got and how awesome the flavor, so soft, moist, tender, this may become my new favorite. The frosting is very sweet, it kinda reminds me of browned butter frosting, which I love too. Of course the sifting of the powdered sugar was an absolute nightmare, I know I had powdered sugar everywhere, must be an easier way to do that task. Thank you so much for the recipe and step by step blog. I am now debating what to make today.

  34. Han Lam

    wow, the cake is beautiful. I’m just curious that since the cake is from a starter dough, if I add sugar only as much as I’d add in bread, would it still rise and hold the structure?

    No, Han, I wouldn’t try that. One, because the sugar gives it its tender, cake-like structure. And two, because cake without sugar would taste awful, in my opinion. Of course, there’s no law against experimenting! If you do, let us know how it comes out – PJH

  35. Han Lam

    Dear PJH,

    Thank you for a wonderful recipe! I have not tasted many cake that is this good. This cake has very interesting texture. Unlike other cakes, this one is more fluffy and has bigger bubble. It is also very soft, springy and moist.

    My brother likes it a little bit less sweet so i reduce 10% off the sugar and the salt to 1 g. It still raised very high and therefore crack in the middle so i suspect even if i reduce another 10%, the cake still rise beautifully. 🙂

  36. Beth

    Has anyone tried this cake with a “starter” that is not a King Arthur
    starter? I have a sourdough starter that I have been using for about 5 years now. I make bread and cinnamon rolls frequently and it is great.
    I was just curious if I could use my starter rather than the King Arthur starter. I may try anyway but thought I would ask others.


    Beth, I’d think it would be just fine, so long as your starter is fairly thick, like a very thick cake or pancake batter or very soft yeast dough – you wouldn’t want to use a thin liquid starter here. PJH

  37. Beth


    Thanks for your reply. My starter is more liquid than a pancake batter or cake batter. I guess I will order the KAF starter and give it a try.


    Or just feed your starter with a greater percentage of flour to make it thicker… PJH

  38. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    This cake turned out to be sooooo moist. It was honestly the most amazing cake I’ve ever baked. I don’t bake cakes very often so the fact that I could bake this one and have it turn out perfectly was AWESOME.

    The frosting was a failure though. It turned out as a glaze, not a frosting. I ended up just putting it in the middle of the cake which just added to the cake’s moistness. I think next time I would make a bunch of toothpick holes in the cake and pour the glaze on top.

    Glad you were pleased with the cake. Please call our Baker’s hot line for help with the icing. JMD @ KAF

  39. Alisonyo


    I wonder if you could clear up some confusion. In your recipe and on the blog, you specify a “fed” starter, and then let it sit for 2-3 hrs. But in response to the comments/questions from your adoring fans, you say that a fed starter can be used without the wait, while an unfed starter needs the wait. So… which is it that you intended for the recipe? Fed or unfed starter?

    Thanks for your help-
    Happy to help out with the confusion. A fed starter is generally assumed to have been fed and ripened in the last 2-24 hours. Therefore, it’s up and ready to go without the wait. If the starter is unfed, it will need the 2-3 hours to ripen so that it’s at it’s best to start working in the bread. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

  40. Cristina

    Finally got around to making this today. The recipe is very similar to Texas Sheet Cake or Texas Brownies. I baked mine in a 17 x 11 sheet pan for about 22 min. and it came out great. I passed on the fudge frosting as right now a scoop of vanilla ice cream seems best.

    My college-aged sons seem skeptical but a loaf of Walter Sands’ white bread literally disappeared overnight so I have no worries about the cake. 😉

  41. Complainathon

    Oh my! I just made this cake and it is AMAZING. Fudgy. Chocolatey. Rich. AMAZING. Best chocolate cake I ever made.

  42. mmckee

    I am so looking forward to making this cake! I just read through all of the comments and think I’m beginning to understand fed vs. unfed starter. I just received some existing starter a week ago, and I have some recently fed starter on my counter. I am having a hard time throwing away the discard, so I’ve been stockpiling it in the fridge (and I have a bunch even though I’ve already made crackers, English muffins, and pancakes!) So, can I use this refrigerated discard in the cake if I let it ripen for 2-3 hours? Is refrigerating the discard even a legit thing to do? I just can’t bear to truly discard it down the sink!

    Yes on all counts – you actually don’t even need to let it ripen, as it’s there to provide flour, water, and acidity to get the chemical leavening to kick in, all of which are present in its unripened state. PJH

  43. dvhirst


    I tried the version from the KA Anniversary Cookbook, which seems much the same as this one. I mixed everything by hand, and didn’t get the sourdough combined with the chocolate mixture as well as it should have been; still tasted great, my wife was thoroughly pleased (her birthday), and this one goes on the list of good KA recipes to repeat. The frosting came up a bit skimpy, so I filled the center with seedless marionberry jam (yummy). Next time, I’ll use the stand mixer or the bread dough whisk, either should work OK. You folks are wonderful! Thanks.

  44. Natasha

    Hi, quick question, can I use Dutch process cocoa powder? The recipe explicitly calls for non-dutch process, but I live in Canada and raw cocoa powder is hard to find. Thank you so much, love the recipes on this site.

    Try this – Use 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder PLUS 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, lemon juice OR vinegar. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

  45. Baldwin W Walker

    Hello There…. Is it possible to use one cup of Coconut Oil in place of Vegetable Oil? I am trying to stay away from LCFA Oils. Would like to use MCFA Oils for good health. Also, would Whole Wheat Flour work as will. I am 85 years of age and would like to live 15 to 20 years longer if at all possible. Thank you for your answer in advance.
    The coconut oil and using half whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour should work out just fine in this recipe. Salud! ~ MJ

  46. Lisa Rinaldi

    I have made the sourdough cake and frosting before with great success. I loved the espresso frosting and I am wondering if I do let it sit – will it set up enough to be used for a filling in a cupcake? It would be the filling for the cup cake and then topped with a chocolate ganache frosting. I just wasn’t sure if it would be firm enough to scoop and fill the cupcake. Thanks,Lisa

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lisa, I think it would set up just fine as a filling. You don’t want it so hard it becomes a ball, just firm enough to hold its shape – and it looks like it should do just that. I say go for it, your plan sounds yummy! 🙂 PJH

  47. Lo

    So excited to try this recipe! I have my own starter going, which I feed with a 1:1:1 ratio by weight. Will this work as a substitute for your starter, or should I thin or thicken it?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s what we use too, Lo: equal parts seed starter, flour and water by weight; so you should be able to use yours just as we suggest here. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  48. Anne M

    I halved the recipe and found that it didn’t have much chocolate flavor and was kind of dry and crumbly. Did I do something wrong?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Anne, we can help! The chocolate flavor comes exclusively from the cocoa powder, so for best results use a high-quality, natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. You can also try adding 1/2 to a 1 cup of chocolate chips to the batter for extra flavor. Also, whenever you bake with discarded sourdough starter, it’s important to consider the quality of the discard. If it’s been in your fridge for weeks without feeding, it’s best to simply throw it away. If you’re feeding your starter regularly, you can use the discard in recipes like this one. Last tip? To ensure your cake isn’t too crumbly, be sure you either measure your flour by weight using a scale or like this. Using just the right amount of flour is essential to the texture. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  49. Dvorah

    Wonderful cake ! I use my King Arthur starter like 3 times a week. I follow your recipes and sometimes experiment, of course my experiments are not always perfect 😃 but I’m getting more confident with the use of starter. I read all the post and learned a lot from you answers. I was afraid of making a mess with the starter and after reading all this post I see I’m not alone !
    My only question is, a ready to use started that was feed in the last 2 days can be use straight from the refrigerator or need some resting time on the counter ?
    Thank you ! Great blog, recipes and products .

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you’re having so much fun with your starter, Dvorah! A starter is only considered “fed” if it has been fed within the last 4-12 hours and has remained at room temp until it has reached its peak activity level. “Unfed” starter, on the other hand, can be used straight from the fridge, recognizing that the cooler temp will bring down the overall temp in your dough or batter. If making something yeasted, you can use slightly warmer liquids to compensate and/or expect a longer rise. Mollie@KAF

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