Sourdough – It’s not just good for bread.
I went to a friend’s house for lunch the other day and came home with a head full of good conversation and a jar of home-cultured sourdough starter. My friend followed the instructions here at Pinch My Salt and had a lively starter one week later, complete with enough to share.
I used the sourdough bread recipe from Pinch My Salt, which was in turn adapted from this one at King Arthur Flour and discovered that it’s not hard to turn one cup of starter into two delicious sourdough loaves. This was news to me; I’ve baked a lot of bread, but never sourdough. I thought it was very fussy and complicated, but it’s truly quite easy and forgiving.
This got me hooked on sourdough, and the jar of starter on my kitchen counter was growing exponentially. I gave jars of it away to anyone who’d take one, and I slowed my starter down by storing it in the fridge instead of out at room temperature. But still, I had more starter than we needed. I started feeding the extra to my hens (they love it), but I also started wondering what else I could turn it into. Pancakes, definitely. But what about cake? I found recipes, but I’ll admit that the idea didn’t sound so attractive. I love the tang of sourdough in bread, but I wasn’t so sure it would translate well to sweet baked goods.
I’m very happy to say that sourdough starter makes delicious cakes. Here’s the first one I tried, an adaptation of King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Sourdough Chocolate Cake. This cake is not sour, but it is moist all the way through and it stays fresh for days, thanks to the sourdough starter. This is not an instant gratification cake, as the starter needs at least 2 hours to join forces with the flour and juice, but that step can be done overnight.
Chocolate Orange Sourdough Cake
- 1 cup of sourdough starter ready for a feeding (meaning starter that’s been resting for 12 hours at room temp, bubbling and active, and now it’s ready to be divided and fed)
- 1 cup orange juice or milk of your choice (juice will give you more orange flavor, milk will make the cake a bit richer)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups rapadura or granulated sweetener of your choice (brown sugar lends a lovely depth if you’re going with cane sugar)
- 1 cup oil or melted butter (I used 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup unsalted butter)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons natural orange extract
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, “regular” cocoa, not Dutch process
- 1/2 cup egg – 2 large grocery store eggs, 3 eggs if you’re using the ones my backyard hens lay
- fresh zest from 1 orange
- Combine the sourdough starter, orange juice or milk, and flour in a large bowl, stirring everything gently but firmly to mix it all into a relatively smooth mass. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it aside to rest. If you’re in a rush, set it in a warm place for at least two hours; if you’re planning ahead, do this just before you go to bed, set it aside in a cool spot, and make time to finish the cake the next morning.
- Once your starter-juice-flour mixture is bubbling and looking lively, it’s time for the next step: Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease or line with parchment at 9″x13″ pan.
- In a clean bowl, blend sugar, oil/butter, extracts, salt, baking soda, and cocoa together. You can do this by hand with a whisk or spoon, or use an electric hand mixer. Either way, the resulting mixture will appear grainy; that’s OK.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition to create a smoother batter.
- Stir in the fresh orange zest – Do this part by hand with a spoon, as the zest will just wrap itself around the beaters on an electric hand mixer.
- Now it’s time to gently stir the chocolate mixture into the starter mixture. At first, this will look like a culinary train wreck. Keep at it and eventually the two will become one. Gentle strokes of a spoon and persistence will make for a lovely smooth batter.
- Pour the finished batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes, or until the center springs back under a light touch from your finger and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack.
- When the cake has cooled completely, add icing as desired, dust the top with powdered sugar, or just leave it plain. We like ours with the same creamy orange glaze we use on our Celebration Orange Chiffon Cake.
Creamy Orange Glaze
This glaze calls for a small amount of butter, but you can substitute ghee if you’re casein-free; ghee gives it an even richer flavor. You can also use a vegan buttery stick instead of either butter or ghee.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter, ghee, or your favorite vegan buttery replacement
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
- 2 – 4 Tablespoons orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- Freshly grated orange zest as desired (optional but beautiful)
- Combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla and other extracts in a medium bowl. Stir well, until most or all of the buttery lumps have been incorporated. Add the orange juice a bit at a time, stirring well between each addition, until you have a smooth, drizzly glaze. When you tip it from a spoon, you want it to hesitate just slightly, then run off the edge in a clean ribbon. If it’s not runny enough, add a bit more juice; if it’s too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar.
- Spoon the glaze immediately over the cooled cake, letting it run down the sides. Sprinkle the fresh zest on top if desired, as much or as little as you’d like.
It’s actually quite simple – It’s worth the wait for the starter to do its thing. This would be a perfect cake for a potluck or school party as it’s large enough to feed a crowd, delicious, and can easily be made a day or more ahead without any negative impact on its lovely moist texture or flavor; if anything, it tastes even better after a few days.