Sourdough Discard Vegan Pumpkin (or Squash) Ginger Cake

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Because I couldn’t find a sugar pie pumpkin to bake this cake over the Thanksgiving weekend, I bought a kabocha squash instead. I swap pumpkin with kabocha squash all the time. They both taste delicious and several of my readers have told me that they actually prefer squash for baking. It’s 2020. Roll with it. Use whatever you can find. Well okay, not whatever… don’t substitute parsnips for pumpkin in this, although that might taste good too…

Speaking of swaps, I haven’t bought brown sugar in almost a year. The store near me that carries brown sugar in bulk has locked up its bins like gold bullion-filled safes. But I have lots of molasses on hand, so for the cup of brown sugar in this recipe, I use a scant cup of granulated sugar and about 2 teaspoons of molasses. I mix the sugar in with the dry ingredients and the molasses in with the wet. Like so many of the swaps I’ve made over the years in order to cut waste, I find this one improves the taste.

As with my pumpkin pie recipe, I use fresh ginger in this cake. Once you go fresh, you never go back. My food tastes better and I can drop one more item (dry ground ginger) from my supply list since I absolutely must stock fresh ginger at all times for ginger beer, Indian dishes, tea and more. This recipe alone can free up two jars’ worth of space in your pantry. (Jars are a legit zero-waste unit of measurement.)

Sourdough starter discard: How old is too old?

I hear this question constantly.

Every time I feed my sourdough starter Eleanor, I stir the starter that I remove into my discard jar in the refrigerator. I bake with this discard a couple of times a week—at least. So, I constantly recycle the discard in the jar and rarely change the jar unless I use up all the discard, at which point I finally wash the starter-encrusted jar. (I have never had a problem with mold in my discard jar, another common question. Go here for more sourdough starter FAQs.)

If you’ve kept a jar of discard in the refrigerator for months without recycling it in this way, it will taste too sour for this cake (and for the chocolate and carrot versions). But you can revive it by feeding fresh flour and water to a couple of spoonfuls of it. After one feeding, it will not be up to speed for leavening bread but it will work in discard recipes like this one.

The baking soda reacts immediately with the added vinegar and the sourdough discard; pour the batter into the prepared pan immediately

Use up all the pumpkin or squash

Remember to save the seeds from your fresh pumpkin or squash and roast them for a tasty, healthy, seasonal snack. You’ll find a simple roasted pumpkin seed recipe here. If you have leftover purée, make pumpkin dal, fresh pasta or soup or toss a bit of purée into a batch of hummus.

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Sourdough Discard Vegan Pumpkin (or Squash) Ginger Cake

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unfed discarded starter straight from the refrigerator, stirred down
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin or squash purée see note
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar white, cider, or strong homemade
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe coconut buttercream frosting if desired

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9-inch round metal baking pan.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt. Mix well.
  • In another bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, combine unfed discarded starter, pumpkin or squash purée, vinegar, vanilla extract and olive oil.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until moistened and pour batter immediately into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake have pulled away from the edges of the pan. Cool the pan on a baking rack.
  • If frosting the cake, allow it to cool completely first.

Notes

  1. 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).
  2. I almost always cook my whole pumpkins or squash in a pressure cooker, which results in wetter flesh than pumpkin or squash roasted whole in the oven. If the batter seems too dry, add a small amount of water to it (start with 1 tablespoon).

11 Replies to “Sourdough Discard Vegan Pumpkin (or Squash) Ginger Cake”

  1. it all looks amazing!

  2. lifeofanearthmuffin says: Reply

    Yum! I am a sucker for any pumpkin recipe, and I love that this prevents food waste. Will definitely need to try it out!
    Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? Life of an Earth Muffin

  3. Eating this warm out of the oven right now. It’s delicious but the texture wasn’t quite like the chocolate discard cake. I used a roasted kuri squash, and my overall mixture was way too dry. I had to add water to get all the flour to incorporate, and I should have splashed in a little more. Regardless, I love this cake!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      Thank you very much for the feedback on the recipe. My kombucha squash was quite wet (I used a pressure cooker) so I cut the water completely out of this version. I’m going to make a note about roasted versus pressure cooked squash. Roasted is drier (and as a result, I think, tastier). I’m glad overall you like the cake 🙂
      ~ Anne-Marie

  4. Rebecca Clemmer says: Reply

    I made this last night with canned pumpkin and needed to add a couple tablespoons of water to make the batter the right consistency. I didn’t use frosting, but sprinkled the cake with crystal sugar before baking.
    Good cake! I’m thinking about the addition of chocolate chips, or some chopped walnuts if I make it again.

  5. I made this last night and it is INSPIRED. My son has become vegan and we have had many a baking experience haunted by the evil spirits of vegan baking – usually the stolid soggy centre and the friable crumbly crumb. We discovered “reverse creaming” i.e., mixing the oil into the flour first, and this helps … a bit. But I had really thought that sponges without the stabilising structural help of eggs were fated to be like that. Until last night that is.
    I am all excited. I think my cake problems are over. I will try the carrot variety and maybe the chocolate, though the same vegan son rejects most post-colonial elements like chocolate. If we can’t grow it nearby it doesn’t belong in the cake, so yes, even spices are a challenge (though you can do a lot with dried powdered citrus peels (we live in France, and though Nice is almost 1000 km away it’s still “local enough”), dried powdered spruce needles and fennel seeds.
    I also have a jar of blended baked beets in the freezer and I bet this would be excellent with beets in the place of the squash.
    Thank you SO MUCH!!

    1. Hi Jacqui,
      I’m so glad you like the cake! Several years ago, when my daughter made us a non-sourdough version of the chocolate cake, I was stunned when she told us it is vegan. This year, I had the idea to add starter to it. I have also been thinking about making one with beets. That sounds delicious. Hyper-local is a noble goal and I think (hope) we are headed more towards it. Your creative use of citrus, spruce needles and fennel seeds is inspiring 🙂
      Bon weekend,
      Anne-Marie

  6. Your (daughter’s) chocolate cake recipe is what I know as “cockeyed cake”, indeed, I think, a depression era recipe. We made that when chocolate was still on the “can be consumed” list… I’ll let you know how the beets go when I do it.
    And my (Danish) husband thinks that this squash one tastes just like a traditional Danish honey cake. He brought out his 1917 published cook book and showed me the recipe after he tasted the cake. It’s magic!!

    1. Thank you. I look forward to your beet cake results 🙂 I am going to look up the Danish honey cake. I’m so glad you all like the squash cake.

  7. Hi Anne-Marie,
    I made this with beet puree at it is excellent (allspice, cinnamon, star anise and ground orange peel for the spice and hazelnut oil instead of olive). I use beets a lot (beet- in place of carrot cake) and it is always a disappointment to me that the shocking magenta batter bakes up to an ordinary brown. There were just the occasional flecks of beet colour from the residual beet chunks in the not-too-uniform puree. But there you have it. I might try sweet potato next.

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