Sourdough Discard Vegan Chocolate Cake

sourdough discard vegan chocolate cake

Have your discard and eat it too

Jump to Recipe

Whether you’ve just embarked on your sourdough adventure or you’ve baked sourdough for years, you may need one more recipe in your repertoire for the discard you remove from your starter every time you feed it, especially if it’s a recipe for chocolate cake.

(Start a sourdough starter that won’t take over your life.)

(Go here for my most helpful sourdough posts, including a list of discard recipes.)

Sourdough-ized depression-era chocolate cake

This rich chocolate cake contains neither eggs nor dairy—precious commodities that Granny used sparingly during the Great Depression. With grocery shopping now a stress-fraught ordeal during Covid-19, most of us are cooking like Granny—using everything, wasting nothing, opting for less-perishable foods that fall lower on the food chain. And although I want the pandemic to end soon, I hope our rekindled respect for food does not.

While working on my book over the winter (out early 2021!), I came up with a sourdough-ized version of depression-era chocolate cake but since I have two chocolate desserts in the book already, I filed this recipe away and forgot about it—until this past weekend when I found myself with too much starter on my hands and too little chocolate cake.

sourdough discard vegan chocolate cake
Frugal yet rich, just like Granny

A few notes on the simple ingredients

The acidic discard in this—and also, the vinegar—reacts with the baking soda to make the cake rise. Once you have combined the wet ingredients with the dry, the batter will begin to puff up immediately. Pour the batter into the prepared pan asap.

If you have a good, strong batch of scrap vinegar on hand, use that for your vinegar. You can also use kombucha that you’ve fermented to the point of strong vinegar. Between my scrap vinegar and kombucha vinegar, I haven’t bought vinegar for about nine years. Granny would approve.

While olive oil adds a rich flavor to this humble cake, brown sugar provides more depth than mere granulated sugar does (I’ve made the cake both ways). Because we don’t have brown sugar on hand at the moment and I’m avoiding shopping like the plague, I’ve been “making” brown sugar by combining two ingredients we do have—molasses and granulated sugar. No wonder I was Granny’s favorite.

Using a fork in a shallow dish, mix about 2 heaping teaspoons of molasses per cup of granulated sugar. You have to sort of mash it up into the sugar to combine it well. I like to make a couple of cups at a time. Want it darker? Add a bit more molasses. Store your brown sugar in a jar in the cupboard.

Homemade brown sugar

Enough throat clearing. Here is the recipe.

sourdough vegan chocolate cake
Print Recipe
4.69 from 22 votes

Sourdough Discard Vegan Chocolate Cake

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unfed discarded starter straight from the refrigerator
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar white, cider, or strong homemade
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cup olive oil plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 portion coconut buttercream frosting if desired

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch by 8-inch glass or metal baking pan.
  • Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Combine unfed discarded starter, water, vinegar, vanilla extract and olive oil in a separate small bowl.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until moistened and pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the pan on a baking rack.
  • If frosting the cake, allow it to cool completely first.

Notes

  1. You can also make cupcakes. Divide batter among only 9 muffin cups of a standard, 12-muffin-size pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  2. All of my sourdough recipes use a 100 percent hydration sourdough starter, meaning the starter contains equal parts water and flour by weight (not volume).
  3. If you don’t keep a sourdough starter, increase the flour to 1½ cups and the water to 1 cup.

Go here for a carrot version of this cake.

56 Replies to “Sourdough Discard Vegan Chocolate Cake”

  1. Chandra Nicola says: Reply

    That looks amazing ZWC! You are baking like the way Ma did in Little House on the Prairie.

    1. Thank you Chandra 🙂
      ~ ZWC

    2. Hi! This sounds delicious. As all your recipes do. Our starter “Bob” has been going strong since February after a failed starter experiment last year. I bake bread once a week but already have a full glass of discard waiting in the fridge. This might be a good recipe to try this weekend.
      I do have a general question, is there a possibilty to add the measurements in metric? I always struggle to convert US recipes as I don’t know the equivalents and would really appreciate the help.

      Anne

      1. Hi Anne,
        The next time I make this (likely very soon!), I will weigh the ingredients and add the metric measurements to the recipe 🙂
        ~ Anne Marie

  2. So I’m not a fan of sourdough at all and do not have a starter (or any unfed discard) as a result. Do you have thoughts on how I can use just regular flour & water as substitute for all your fabulous recipes you have on the website? Been itching to try them… Thank you!

    1. Hi Melody,
      I need to write a post about converting non-sourdough recipes to sourdough recipes (and then back again). Sourdough starter has 1 part flour and 1 part water by weight. That works out to about 2 parts flour to 1 part water by volume. For this recipe, you would remove the 1/2 cup of starter and then add about 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. I am super interested in learning how to turn a regular recipe into sourdough in all different kinds of recipes. I would love a post on how to do this! I’m really excited to try your things! I have never thought of using sourdough for cake but I love the idea! Now I want to try it for everything!

      2. I need to get on this, Nicki. I had to do the conversion for my daughter yesterday for a recipe she wanted to make and said yet again, “I need to write a blog post about this!”
        ~ Anne Marie

  3. Ooohhh…between this and your cracker recipe, I might actually be persuaded to resume
    caring for a sourdough starter after l of these years!

    1. Hi Jill,
      Even if you never make the bread, I think crackers and chocolate cake are good reasons to keep a starter 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  4. I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for posting.

    1. My pleasure Lisa. Thanks for checking it out 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  5. I’m trying this now but having a hard time (I’m new to using my starter). My “fresh from the fridge” discard won’t incorporate into the other wet ingredients. Maybe it was too dry 🙁

    1. Hi Jenn,
      The discard is fairly runny, kind of like cake batter. If it’s dry, it may be a different hydration level than mine, which is 100 percent hydration (meaning equal parts water and flour by weight). I’ll add that information to the instructions. All my recipes use a 100 percent hydration starter. If yours is thicker, you can add the water to it first to thin it out, then add the other ingredients. That should make it easier to work with. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne Marie

  6. Wow.. how’d you know I was craving cake, chocolate, and using some starter

  7. We have so much bread at the mo (very active Olio in this area), that I’m keeping my starter going just for the yummies I can make with the discard. Thanks for the addition to my armoury, Anne-Marie 😘

  8. Thank you for this recipe Anne-Marie! I’ll definitely try this but just with flour. Been wanting to make a sourdough starter, but everytime my husband goes to the grocery, the flour shelves are always empty. So I’m saving the little flour we have for the very necessary recipes and i think this cake should be one of them. 🙂 God bless

  9. This looks amazing! Do you think it would work with gluten free flour or spelt flour?

    1. Hi Jo,
      I think spelt would work well. I use spelt in my sourdough brownies. I don’t know about GF. I haven’t tried it. The baking powder-acid combo does the heavy lifting so gluten might not be necessary but I’m just guessing. Maybe make half a batch and see how that goes?
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thanks so much 🙂

    2. Hello!! I made it with Gluten Free flour yesterday (GF starter too). Used King Arthur Measure for Measure. It turned out pretty well. 🙂

  10. This looks delicious, Anne! I’m out of cocoa, will cacao work or will it be too strong?

  11. Wow. I love that it also uses just 1/4 cup cocoa powder. I’ll be trying this ASAP.

  12. Ayla Narciso says: Reply

    Hi. Can I use Carob Powder instead of cocoa powder?

  13. You don’t fancy giving us Europeans metric conversions? I struggle with cups 😘 Love the site though! I’ve learnt so much!

    1. Hi Lucy. I will work on that!
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Yay! Thank you 🙏

  14. I made it yesterday – delicious! Could the finished cake be frozen?

    1. Hi Amy,
      I’m glad you liked the cake! I haven’t frozen it but it should freeze well.
      Enjoy!
      Anne Marie

    2. It can definitely be frozen!

  15. I just made this. It is SO FLUFFY. Wow!!

    Here’s the weights I used:
    113g AP flour
    220g brown sugar
    25g cocoa powder (cocao powder works too, I used half of each)

    For my unfed starter, 1/2 cup weighed 118g stirred down. I’ve heard it varies.

    I actually halved the brown sugar because I wanted to add coconut whipped cream and didn’t want the end product to be too sweet. I gotta say, this cake was amazing and a wonderful way to use unfed starter instead of throwing it away. I need to find a way to add peanut butter or fruit in there for variation because I’ll likely be making this every week. Thank you so much for this recipe! 5*

    1. Hi Jenni,
      Thank you for the conversions! I’m glad you enjoyed the cake 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  16. […] to use this sourdough discard. Over at Zero Waste Chef, there sprouted a mouth dripping recipe for sourdough discard chocolate cake last month. And it’s vegan to boot! Make sure to check out some of her other sourdough […]

  17. Hi, I am very sugar conscious and was wondering to what extent I can reduce the sugar in this recipe. With regular recipes I often cut sugar by 50 – 70%. Thanks 😊

    1. Hi Mila,
      I haven’t made it with less sugar than I have written here. I would think it would turn out well with less and be more like sweet chocolate bread than cake. I don’t see why less sugar would affect the consistency but as I said, I haven’t tried it. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne Marie

    2. Hi Mila, I tried this with half the sugar and adding apple compote instead for the other half. Turned out amazing, texture and flavour wise!

  18. […] Marie of Zerowaste Chef has recipes for pretzels and vegan chocolate cake (bonus: she also has a tutorial on how you can maintain your sourdough starter without using any […]

  19. AntonellaS says: Reply

    This sounds amazing and a great allergen free option – is there a way to make it GF too, simply by switching flour and adding xantam gum or has anyone ever tried that? With GF (I am and so my starter) is always a bit trickier so any advice on how potentially make it work and not getting it too try would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  20. I made this cake for a combo birthday and mother’s day dinner and it was a hit. We all loved it, especially my mother in law who recently had to cut dairy out of her diet. I had some frozen berries so I added a little sugar and water to make a berry compote on top in lieu of icing. Sooooo good!

  21. This cake is SOOOOOO good!!! My partner and I made this together a few nights ago…he mixed the dry ingredients and I mixed the wet ingredients. We added chocolate chips into the batter instead of frosting on top. So delicious and simple. Thank you!

  22. Just wanted to say this cake is SO delicious! This may be my favorite use of starter. I want to research more Depression-era baking now. I left after making the cake and my family devoured half while I was gone AND my sister texted me to tell me how good it was. I also subbed butter in the coconut frosting and it turned out beautifully. I recently made your sourdough crackers and pancakes since I’m nursing a new sourdough starter and they all turned out so well. Thanks for the recipes! <3

  23. Wow, I made this last night in a loaf pan and it’s a shockingly chocolate rich pound cake-ish paradise. Only concern is I should have double up the ingredients 🙂
    Thank you for sharing!

  24. It’s cooling and the house smells AMAZING! I am toying with adding a light frosting. Any ideas?

    1. Just went back and looked and see you mention a coconut buttercream frosting. My husband is not a coconut fan (I am!) Today’s cake is a test drive for his birthday on Thursday. 😉

  25. Great recipe! The cake was delicious. Any suggestions for modifying into a brownie recipe? Thanks.

  26. I made this cake and wowed by it! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  27. Thank you for taking the effort to post the metric conversion! Be right back, going to try making it now!

  28. It sounds delishh I have to try your recipe 🤤

  29. I’ve made this twice, once as cupcakes and once as a cake. Both times it’s come out a bit overly fluffy AND is extremely underdone at the suggested bake times. Any ideas?

  30. My husband finished dinner and commented it would be nice to have chocolate cake for dessert. I’m new to sourdough starter and have lots of discard. I quickly searched and found your recipe. Ohhhhh myyyy! The cake was so moist and fulfilled my husband’s chocolate cake craving. Thank you for sharing!!! Will definitely make again.

  31. can you substitute part or all of the all purpose flour with almond flour?

    1. Hi Amy,
      I haven’t tried that so I can’t say for sure but I think it would work (and it sounds delicious!). I make vegan sourdough pancakes with a bit of almond flour, which makes a very nice consistency. I might try to sub part of the flour (maybe half?) and see how that goes and then maybe up the amount next time.
      Enjoy!
      Anne Marie

  32. Shalyn Holloway says: Reply

    I’ve made this twice now and it is dangerously simple. Knowing that I can have it ready in 30 minutes (and could probably finish it that fast too!) means it’s my go-to for chocolate cravings. I made a quick peanut butter and chocolate sauce to pour over the top. (1/2 C peanut butter, 1/4 C chocolate sauce, melt together) Cannot recommend this enough!

    1. Hi Shalyn,
      I also make it when I need chocolate asap! Thank you for sharing your sauce topping. That sounds splendid 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  33. The best ever chocolate cake. So appreciate your substitutes and explanations- would LOVE to have gram equivalents as our weights and measures are different from yours here. Many thanks

Leave a Reply