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The Best Sourdough Chocolate Cake Recipe

This chocolate sourdough cake is filled with creamy chocolate frosting and topped with a rich chocolate ganache. It is the perfect way to use your sourdough discard starter and makes the best chocolate cake. 

bird's eye view of sourdough chocolate cake.

​Sourdough starter discard

This sourdough discard chocolate cake is the perfect recipe for using your excess sourdough starter! It’s a rich chocolate layer cake and makes a wonderful birthday cake or cake for any occasion.

The great thing about sourdough discard recipes is that you can save up all the starter discard in a jar in the fridge and use it when you want. Other sourdough starters discard recipes include puff pastry and overnight sourdough pancakes.

This sourdough cake recipe doesn’t rely on the yeast in the starter the way that sourdough bread does. It uses the acid produced by the Lactobacillus bacteria in the starter.

This starter hasn’t been fed in a while or passed its peak and is now very acidic. That’s not good for sourdough bread, but it’s great for this sourdough chocolate cake (or red velvet cake!)  Don’t have a starter yet? Learn to make your own starter with this sourdough starter recipe.

slice of sourdough discard chocolate cake.


The actual amounts of the ingredients for this tender chocolate cake recipe are written in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Here is a rundown of what you need.

  • Sugar – There’s a mixture of granulated and brown sugar for sweetness and moisture. 
  • Large eggs – Eggs act as a binding agent, providing structure and stability. They also add moisture and fat.
  • Vanilla paste or good-quality vanilla extract – Vanilla adds depth of flavor, enhancing the chocolate.
  • Discard sourdough starter – The sourdough discard contributes a unique, slightly tangy flavor, balancing the sweetness of the cake. The acid in the starter creates a tender cake. 
  • Vegetable oil. Oil creates a really moist cake. You could use light olive oil, liquid coconut oil, or neutral-tasting vegetable oil.
  • Salt – Enhances all the flavors.
  • All-purpose flour – The base of the cake.
  • Whole milk – Loosens the batter.
  • Cocoa powder (this can be natural cocoa powder or dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • Baking powder and baking soda – The leavening agents in the cake.
  • Hot coffee. I use instant espresso powder dissolved in boiling water. If you’re not a fan of coffee, don’t worry, you won’t taste it. The coffee helps to strengthen the chocolate flavor. If you want to leave it out, it can be substituted for hot water.

Fermented chocolate cake

Make the batter the night before and leave it to ferment in the fridge. This helps break down the starches in the flour and helps with digestion. Cover the bowl of cake batter tightly. This is an optional step.


This sourdough chocolate cake is best baked in two 8-inch round cake pans. It can, however be baked in one larger pan and sliced in half, but it will bake more evenly when baked in two.


Grease and line the cake pans with parchment paper.

the ingredients for chocolate cake, eggs, sourdough starter, cocoa and flour on a white bench

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter, eggs, vanilla, oil, milk, and sugars.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and fold gently for a minute before pouring over the hot coffee.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients briskly together but don’t over mix the batter.

close up of two baked sourdough chocolate cakes on a black rack

Pour the chocolate cake batter into the greased cake pans and bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the top of the cakes springs back when touched.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and placing them on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-temperature butter until light and creamy. 

Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and salt to the butter. 

Whisk on low speed to incorporate them, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Once incorporated, switch to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for another 1-2 minutes until it’s light and fluffy.


Switch to a rubber spatula and stir the buttercream in a spreading motion to smooth out some bubbles. 

Spread ¼ of the buttercream on one cake round so it reaches the edges. Add the second cake round on top. Top this round with another ¼ buttercream and spread it out with an offset spatula.

Use the remaining buttercream to cover the edges of the cake, and use a dough scraper to smooth it out.

Chocolate ganache

The ganache topping is optional but adds a real decadent touch to the chocolate cake and it’s perfect for chocolate lovers.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just simmering. Take it off the heat and add in chopped chocolate. Let them melt, then stir them together until glossy.

Leave the ganache to cool and thicken before pouring it on the cake so it can spread in a thick layer.

ganache poured on sourdough chocolate cake.


Why use sourdough in a chocolate cake?

Sourdough starter adds a subtle tanginess to the cake, making the chocolate flavor more complex. Plus, it helps to leaven the cake, making it light and tender.

Can I use unfed sourdough discard for this cake?

Yes, unfed sourdough discard works perfectly for this recipe. It’s a great way to use up, discard and minimize waste.

How long can I store the cake?

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-4 days or, in the fridge for about a week. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Just make sure to wrap it well to prevent it from drying out.


  • Sourdough Chocolate Orange Cake: Add the zest of an orange into the batter, and replace half of the milk with fresh orange juice. The citrus flavor pairs wonderfully with chocolate.
  • Sourdough Mocha Cake: Go heavier on the coffee to add mocha flavor. Add a tablespoon of instant coffee powder to the batter to give your cake a rich mocha flavor.
  • Chocolate raspberry cake: On the first layer of cake, spread out some of the frosting, then pipe a wide ring of frosting around the edge. Spoon in a layer of raspberry compote. Add the second layer of cake, and continue frosting with chocolate buttercream.
  • Sourdough Mint Chocolate Cake: Add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to your cake batter and 1 teaspoon peppermint extract to the chocolate buttercream frosting.

Related recipes

Keen to make some other delicious recipes? Try this sourdough red velvet cake or other sourdough recipes that are not bread, like sourdough croissants or homemade sourdough waffles.

a knife spreading chocolate ganache on a cake
a slice of sourdough chocolate cake with a piece removed with a fork on a white plate

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Yield: 8 inch cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This rich sourdough chocolate cake is the perfect way to use your sourdough discard starter.


Cake batter

  • 220g (1 3/4 cups*) all-purpose flour
  • 70g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 180g (3/4 cup) vegetable oil
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sourdough discard starter
  • 130g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 130g (2/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 240g (1 cup) milk
  • 120g (1/2 cup) hot strong coffee

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 226g (1 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 300-375g (2 1/2-3 cups) powdered sugar
  • 30g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk or cream at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Chocolate Ganache

  • 125g (1/2 cup) pouring cream
  • 150g (5oz) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), grease, and line two 8-inch round cake pans.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set it aside.
  3. Whisk together the sourdough starter, eggs, vanilla, oil, milk, and sugars in a separate bowl.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and fold gently for a minute before pouring over the hot coffee.
  5. Mix briskly together but don't over-mix.
  6. Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Chocolate Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-temperature butter until light and creamy. 
  2. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and salt to the butter. 
  3. Whisk on low speed to incorporate them, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Once incorporated, switch to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for another 1-2 minutes until it's light and fluffy.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until just simmering. Take it off the heat and add the chopped chocolate.
  2. Leave it to sit for 5 minutes, then stir until it is glossy and all the chocolate has melted. Let it cool down until it thickens before pouring on the cake.


* The cup sizes given are US-sized cups. Note that these are smaller than metric. For best results, use a kitchen scale and grams.

The calorie count for this recipe is for one serving of sourdough chocolate cake. It does not include the frosting or ganache topping. 

The batter can be made the night before and left to ferment in the fridge. This helps with breaking down the starches in the flour.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 300Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 12gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 301mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 2gSugar: 24gProtein: 4g

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  1. Any chance you can give the weights in grams too? Or an idea of what one cup of flour weighs to you?

    1. Hey, I have added all my weights in grams too. Such a good point, as I forget how much it can change depending on country/cups size/ measuring style! Thanks 🙂

  2. Hi, I’m just up to Day in making my first starter. Can you use the discard from Day 3 for this recipe? 😊

    1. Hey, I think you could though it won’t as acidic as more mature sourdough starter so the cake may not be as light. I think it will still work though.

  3. We made this tonight and my kids would not wait for it to cool and be iced. Everyone loved it! We’ll see how they like it tomorrow with ganache on it. Thank you! Love finding recipes to keep the sourdough starter in use.

  4. Hi! I’m just starting with sourdough, and am using your starter recipe. When you say 100% hydration in this cake recipe what do you mean exactly? Just that amount of starter from your starter recipe or do I do something different?

    1. I just mean the starter itself was fed equal parts water and flour in weight 😊. So if you’re using my starter recipe, then yeah it’s just that.

  5. Hi!
    I’m interested in making the cake and it looks delicious. However, it looks like there is a chocolate ganache over the buttercream yet it is s not listed in your ingredients or description anywhere. Can you help? Is there a ganache poured over or a separate chocolate frosting on top of the butter cream?

    1. Heya, it’s a seperate ganache that’s poured over the buttercream at the end. It’s 3/4 cup cream heated until steaming, then it’s taken off the heat and 1 cup of chocolate chips are added and left to melt for 5 minutes before being stirred in to create a glossy chocolate mixture. Leave it to cool for a little while to slightly thicken, the pour it over the cake 🙂

  6. Question before I begin. Can I possibly use white chocolate chips for the Ganache & color it with food coloring for a blue finish? 😄

    1. Hey yes you can use white chocolate for the ganache, yum! Though for the colouring part I’m not sure at what stage is best to add the colour but I’m sure there is plenty of information out there for that 🙂

  7. Dio i need to feed the discard sourdough starter and let it be active before use? For use:

  8. Have you tried baking the chocolate cake in a Bundt pan? I thought that might be nice too. I’m going to try it. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Super delicious. It’s just my boyfriend and I, so I cut the recipe in half. The cake isn’t overly sweet which I liked. Didn’t use the frosting or anything but I’m sure it adds a wonderful sweetness.

  10. This is officially the best chocolate cake I have ever made! I have been looking all over for the perfect chocolate cake and my sister has been making sourdough in lockdown so we have been trying many discard recipes. It was so moist and had a perfect rich flavour. I made a chocolate whipped cream which I put inside the cake and all of my family adored it. I will be checking out more of your recipes for sure!

  11. I would love to try this but I don’t have discard sourdough. What happens if you use regular sourdough starter?

    1. Hey Ginny, the more acidic the starter the better the rise in this cake, so you can just leave your starter to rise and deflate before using it 🙂

  12. Can i use butter or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil? If so what would be the measurements? Thank you!

    1. If I do the long ferment in the fridge, should I wait to add the baking powder and soda until I bake it? And, can this ferment on the counter instead of the fridge if my house is cold?

    2. You might get a higher rise if you wait to add them in but I’ve usually ferment once it’s already in there and still get a good rise :). You can ferment it on the bench instead

  13. The picture shows two layers but the directions indicate one nine-inch round or two seven-inch pans. A boxed cake mix usually makes 12 servings but requires two eight-inch pans.
    There are no instructions for assembly.
    In the nutritional listing a serving size is 1 gram???
    Please clarify.

    1. Hey, there are instructions on icing the cake in the actual post. If using one cake tin it can be sliced in half to make two layers. You can also use 2×8 inch pans if you like.
      The nutrition info is for one 1/12 cake slice, not including the icing. It’s using a calculator that for some reason says 1 gram and I’m unsure how to change that! so i had already added information about the serving size in the notes under the recipe. 🙂 Thanks

    2. EDIT to above comment:
      I have been baking nearly 60 years (also taught cake decorating and confectionery arts for many years) and my older daughter’s first birthday was celebrated with a chocolate sourdough cake – she’s turning 50 this year! In all those years, you can only imagine how many recipes I have tried, and I must, quite truthfully, say I never found a better chocolate cake recipe than this one! Sourdough or otherwise.
      As one other reviewer mentioned, I used two 8″ round pans and that was perfect for the amount of batter. The cake kept very well at room temperature for a week. I did use a different recipe for the icing, though. All in all, this cake deserves at least 8 stars out of 5 in my opinion. 😉

  14. Thanks for posting! I am always looking for new ways to use my sourdough starter. Made this yesterday – my recommendation is to split between two 8 or 9 inch pans. I used one 9 inch pan and the center took much longer to bake than the edges, making the outer part of the cake a bit dry and chewy while the center was lovely and moist. I look forward to making this again!

  15. I just pulled them (used two) out of the fridge and turned the oven on. I can’t wait to see the results, oh my!

  16. Hi, thanks for this (and your other recipes). Just wondering whether you use Dutch process cocoa or the non-Dutch kind for this recipe? I believe Dutch process is neutral pH whereas the other kind is acidic, so choice may affect rising. But perhaps it doesn’t matter that much since acidity is taken care of by the starter and cream of tartar in baking powder (and acidity of starter varies a bit anyway. Thanks!

    1. Heya Mike, I’ve used both natural and Dutch processed cocoa in this cake and haven’t seen a noticeable difference 🙂

  17. Made this yesterday and wow! The best chocolate cake I’ve ever made, or eaten!! Saving this recipe forever. Thanks!

  18. This sounds so delicious. I can’t wait to try it. I was wondering if the recipe would work with 3/4 c. melted butter instead of vegetable oil. I am trying to get away from using seed oils like canola, etc.

  19. Do you think you get a better cake if you leave batter in fridge over night to ferment?

  20. I only have cacao for the icing. Have you substituted that before? How much would you recommend?

  21. Due to a wheat sensitivity, we need the fermentation. How long can it stay in the refrigerator? Is overnight 8 hours or can it be longer? Thanks!

  22. I want to try making cupcakes with the batter ingredients instead of a layered cake. How long would you recommend baking the cupcakes for?

    1. Hey Amy I’m not exactly sure how long they would take to bake but perhaps around 18-20 minutes. Test that they’re ready by gently pressing their tops and they should spring back 🙂

  23. Hey there, just wondering what you can use in place of the hot coffee – hot water or milk? Hubby doesn’t like coffee but the rest of this cake sounds like a dream!

  24. The brief statement at the top of the recipe says cook time of 45 minutes, but then at the bottom of the instructions it says 25-30 minutes. This is rather confusing and should be amended if wrong.

  25. For the directions for the buttercream, it says to add the vanilla. But the list of ingredients doesn’t show vanilla. How much is supposed to go in?

  26. Is us supposed to be that you make the buttercream topping for the sourdough chocolate cake AND the ganache?

  27. Is this suitable for vegetarians? I have vegetarians coming to a kid’s birthday party. I am keen to bake this as my kids love this recipe.

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