Quick Vegan Chocolate Cake with Sourdough Discard

sourdough discard vegan chocolate cake

Have your discard and eat it too

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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.

If you also find yourself without brown sugar but do have molasses and granulated sugar on hand, add about 2 heaping teaspoons of molasses to the wet ingredients and a scant cup of granulated sugar to the dry ingredients.

Of make your brown sugar in advance if desired. Use a fork in a shallow dish to mash together the molasses and sugar. I like to make a couple of cups at a time to make it worth my while. 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
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4.71 from 55 votes

Sourdough Discard Vegan Chocolate Cake

Course: Dessert
Servings: 12


  • 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


  • 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 large bowl.
  • Combine unfed discarded starter, water, vinegar, vanilla extract and olive oil in a separate medium bowl.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until moistened and pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 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.


  1. This cake tastes delicious with ¼ of chocolate chips or so added it. Mix them in with the dry ingredients.
  2. You can also make cupcakes. Divide batter among only 9 muffin cups of a standard, 12-muffin-size pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Check out my award-winning cookbook!

Learn more about my book here.

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86 Replies to “Quick Vegan Chocolate Cake with Sourdough Discard”

  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.


      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

    3. Taylor Metzler says: Reply

      Just made this today. I’m pleased — it’s moist and rich. I did a few substitutions, namely xylitol for the sugar (we can’t do a lot of sugar here, and I also didn’t use a full cup, which might be why my son feels it’s not sweet enough. Oh well.) and butter for the olive oil (I’ve read olive oil has a low smoke point and shouldn’t be cooked with? Plus, I just like the flavor of butter better ;)). Anyways, thanks for the recipe!

  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?

    1. I hadn’t thought of this, what a great idea… I’m making chocolate ones right now (in the oven) but I’m going to try carob next. I’m portuguese, and carob is a very traditional and affordable ingredient here… I love reading the comments in Anne Marie’s recipes, full of good ideas!

      1. I made it with carob powder, it works so well.

  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.
      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!

      1. super idea, Marta – will try this out today !

      2. Yes, worked out well. Took 100g apple sauce and 60g coconut sugar. Also chopped up some 80% dark chocolate and put those pieces on top. Delicious!

  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.

    1. Any recommendations to make this a lemon cake? I tried replacing the water with lemon juice and adding zest. While it came out very delicious, it didn’t come out very lemony.

  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.
      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

  34. Assunta Trischka says: Reply

    What do you think about baking this in a bundt pan?

    1. Hi Assunta,
      I think that’s a GREAT idea! And I’m pretty sure someone on Instagram shared a pic with me of the cake in a bundt pan.
      Anne Marie

  35. This honestly might be one of the best plain chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. It’s so wonderfully balanced. Not too rich, not too sweet. Mine unfortunate sank in the middle but that was my fault for opening the oven door. I added in some chocolate chips to the dry mix before adding in the wet. Perfect addition. I’ve already recommended this recipe to several friends! Thank you for coming up with something so simple and delicious!!

  36. that looks amazinggg!!! made me want to try this out😅 thanks for sharingggg, have a great dayyy!!🤗🤗🤗

    Follow @everythingtips for tips and recommendations if interested! It would mean a lot to me!🥺🤍

  37. I love this recipe and have made it 3 times this summer! I wanted to share some tweaks I’ve made in case other folks enjoy them. For a more brownie-like texture and taste: Double the amount of cocoa powder, halve the vinegar, replace the olive oil with canola oil (it has a more neutral flavour), and stir in some chocolate chips just before baking.

    1. Thanks for the tweaks GD. I’m glad you like the cake. I’ve been adding chocolate chips lately also. SO good!
      ~ Anne Marie

  38. I have already baked this twice in a week’s time and won’t be surprised if this becomes my ‘go to ‘chocolate cake recipe!! Thank you Anne😊. I substituted the flour with whole wheat flour and used jaggery instead of brown sugar, though I used just 3/4th cup of it. The end result was a beautiful, light, fluffy chocolate cake that’s so addictive and also healthy at the same time. Thanks again for the recipe 😊

  39. I don’t usually leave comments on recipes but I just had to come on here and say… this was so stupidly good! I made them into muffins, followed the instructions to a T, they were perfect at 15 mins. So moist and delicious too! Will definitely make into a cake next. Thank you for the lovely recipe!

  40. Thank you. This is exactly what I am looking for–I want to bake cupcakes for a little girl who is allergic to egg whites and I have a lot of sourdough discard.

  41. I had some toasted hazelnuts that needed to be used up, So I threw them into the batter and the result was sinful. I’m always looking for good discard starter recipes and I am DEFINITELY going to be making this one again. Thanks!

  42. Thank you for the fab recipe! I made muffins and tweaked the recipe….less sugar and added 70 percent chocolate bits….the result was super soft and yummy chocolatey muffins, which everybody loved! Made 10 muffins. ❤😋

  43. Not chocolatey enough for me. Would increase the cocoa powder by 2 tbsp and reduce the flour accordingly.

  44. I added the zest of an orange and it was amazing! Thanks for your recipes!

  45. This looks delicious! Wondering if I could ferment this for a while to get more health benefits? Any guidance would be appreciated. I was thinking overnight in the fridge?

  46. I make this cake quite often and it is always a hit! I was wondering what type of cocoa you use – I bought dutch processed today and then read that it shouldn’t be used in cakes with baking soda, but I believe with there being vinegar and the acidic discard in this recipe it should be okay?

    1. Suzy Guttman says: Reply

      I used dutch processed with mine and it was still great!

  47. Heather Spry says: Reply

    My husband discovered this recipe and has made it several times. It is just too yummy! We love how moist it is, as well as the slight crunch to the top. Cupcake style is our preferred way to bake these. Thanks for this tasty way to use up discard. Now to try your vegan panscakes!

  48. Suzy Guttman says: Reply

    I made this cake for my birthday yesterday and it was hit!! I feel like vegan dessert has a bad rep sometimes and even the dairy-eaters loved it. I added dark chocolate chips and substituted the water for strong coffee. Thank you queen Anne Marie so much for sharing this delicious recipe. I will be making this again and again. Much love ☺

  49. Leah K Froelich says: Reply

    This was delicious! I’m always a sucker for a baking recipe I can make in less time it takes the oven to preheat, but this was really a keeper. I just whipped up a simple donut icing and drizzled it over the top to keep things fancy but easy. Thanks!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Leah. What is donut icing? It sounds like something I need to try!

  50. Just icing sugar and cocoa powder mixed with a little vanilla and milk of choice. I’m seriously making this again tonight. My new go-to chocolate cake! Thank you!

  51. Hello, this looks amazing! Do you think it can be made into a christmas log (yule log)? Thank you!

  52. Best cake I have ever had! brilliant recipe, even my non vegan friends thought so!

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