Sourdough Chocolate Cake

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Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: One sheet cake, 18 servings

Recipe photo

Chocolate cake made with sourdough starter? Don't worry; you'll never taste the sour, just the rich, full flavor of chocolate. The coffee icing, with its pretty dark chocolate drizzle, takes this cake to another level. Read our blog about this chocolate cake, with additional photos, at Flourish.

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

star rating (96) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time: Overnight,
Yield: One sheet cake, 18 servings
Published: 01/01/2010




  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water


Tips from our bakers

  • Do you really need the espresso powder in the cake? Well, certainly it's not critical to the cake's structure. But we find espresso powder heightens chocolate flavor, just as vanilla does. You can't really taste either one; but each is a lovely accent to chocolate, bringing out the nuances of its flavor.
  • How do you tell when a cake is done? Start with the time it's been in the oven, certainly, but don't depend on that; ovens vary wildly in how they bake. Rely instead on the usual tests: is the cake barely beginning to pull away form the sides of the pan? Does it spring back when pressed lightly in the center (rather than your finger leaving an imprint)? And, most importantly, does a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center come out clean, or with perhaps only a few solid crumb clinging to it? Then, no matter what your timer says, the cake is done.


1) Combine the "fed" starter, milk, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. It won't necessarily bubble, but it may have expanded a bit.

2) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

3) In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa. and espresso powder. The mixture will be grainy.

4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5) Gently combine the chocolate mixture with the starter-flour-milk mixture, stirring till smooth. This will be a gloppy process at first, but the batter will smooth out as you continue to beat gently.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

7) Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes, until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

8) Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack to cool while you make the icing.

9) Sift the confectioners' sugar into a large mixing bowl, and set it aside.

10) In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and add the buttermilk or yogurt. Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water, add to the pan, and bring the mixture just to a boil.

11) Immediately pour the simmering liquid over the confectioners' sugar in the bowl, and beat till smooth.

12) Pour the warm frosting over the cake. If you wait too long and the frosting stiffens up, spread it over the cake.

13) Combine the chocolate chips, milk, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe cup. Microwave till the chips soften, then stir till smooth.

14) Drizzle/drip the chocolate over the icing. You can do this while the icing is still warm, or wait till it's cooled.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 piece Servings Per Batch: 18 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 500 Calories from Fat: 180 Total Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 40mg Sodium: 260mg Total Carbohydrate: 78g Dietary Fiber: 2g Sugars: 60g Protein: 5g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 03/09/2015
  • A.Dimond from Seattle, WA
  • I was surprised & excited to find a sourdough cake recipe, afterall I have been making mostly only bread with my 100 year old starter for 20 years. I made it for my family birthday celebration and all were pleased. My mistakes: when I let it 'rest' some of it may have gotten dry and never really mixed in very well, so white bits showed at the end. Also, I made 2 rounds to stack which worked fine, however this frosting was too sweet for my taste. ... next time something lighter! Everyone asked where I got the recipe! I said King Arthur Flour! Thank you!
  • star rating 02/16/2015
  • Darla from NM
  • Love this recipe! Combining the sourdough, milk & flour ---my sourdough must be thicker because it seems drier than the photos I've seen. I add a little water and it turns out great
  • star rating 02/12/2015
  • Chakwaina from KAF Community
  • Wonderful cake and icing but an inch and a half of icing on top of a cake is way too much. Next time I'll make half as as much icing.
  • star rating 02/09/2015
  • Jill from Blairstown, NJ
  • Wow. This cake might be worth gaining a few pounds. Because that is what will happen since the cake is huge and absolutely stupendous!. The only alteration I made was I decreased the sugar to 1 1/4 C, of which 1/4 C was coconut sugar. For the icing, I halved the recipe and instead of butter, I used coconut oil. Be careful when heating with the buttermilk, because my buttermilk curdled! But no worries, I just whisked everything into the sugar. I can't believe one reviewer called the icing "nasty". It tastes like coffee, and in my case the coconut oil flavor is divine. I would have used part coconut oil in the cake as well but 1 C of coconut oil is about $10. So I used grapeseed oil in the cake. Thank you for a great sourdough recipe. I am going to have just one more sliver now, to be sure how delicious it is...... Also, the cake was not completely cooled when I poured the icing over. We ate it warm. Pure love.
  • star rating 10/13/2014
  • Charity from Gray TN
  • Awesome, awesome cake! I have made this twice. Both times I let the starter, flour, and milk mixture sit for 6 hrs. I used butter instead of oil because that's what I had on hand. The first time I made it I used organic white sugar, second time I used 3/4 cup of honey. I will only use honey in the future. It was delicious! Both times I left out the espresso powder because I didn't have any.
  • star rating 07/24/2014
  • Tammy from Oregon
  • I must have done something wrong. I did use 1 cup of honey rather then sugar, so maybe that was the problem. It came out very dense, almostmlikema heavy brownie. The taste was just ok, but maybe had I made it fluffier the taste would have been better. What do you think? I sure likemthatbit is made from sourdough, so I will give it a try again. I do not like using sugar, but maybe I will make one with sugar and see what I get, then go from there.
    Yes, subbing honey for sugar definitely effects the outcome of your baking. The general rule of thumb is for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup of honey and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup. ~ MJ
  • star rating 05/21/2014
  • Aqswr from KAF Community
  • This recipe is fantastic! I admit I modified it to make it lower fat and lower sugar by using only 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce and using only 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup Splenda. I baked the cake in a bundt pan and did not use frosting. The cake did not need it. This will now be my favorite chocolate cake recipe. It is moist, chocolate-y and satisfying. I cannot say enough how great it is-- even with the low cal modifications!
  • star rating 04/24/2014
  • Lori from Suwon, South Korea
  • So, I made this recipe tonight for my hubby's birthday. I have been nurturing some sourdough starter for a couple weeks now. I had my ingredients in the bowl and had already added the baking soda when I realized the only cocoa powder I had was Dutch process (and for me, it's not a possibility to run to the store and grab the right stuff). So, I began to research the differences online. I was sure that there had to be a solution. Of course, KAF had the best information. It was too late for me to substitute baking powder for the soda (which I'll do next time in a pinch according to the Baker's Banter), so I decided to add a bit of vinegar--about 1/2 a tbls. I know the sourdough starter had acidity, but because this recipe clearly states NOT to use Dutch process, I decided I debated between adding a bit of baking powder or the vinegar, and went for the vinegar. The cake is moist and dark and delicious coming out of the oven. The only problem is the high domed center, which I fear will not frost well with the fluid icing. We will live! Thanks for all the great recipes AND baking education. You are my go-to site for all things leavened.
  • star rating 03/06/2014
  • CDS from California, MD
  • Cake is fantastic - rich chocolate flavor - perfect (5 stars). Icing is *nasty* (no stars). Make the cake, but choose a different frosting recipe.
  • star rating 02/24/2014
  • Kate from New York
  • Deliciously moist and chocolatey and the coffee frosting sets the chocolate off perfectly. Did not make the drizzle and didn't feel like it needed it. The frosting was very liquidy and pooled at the edges but I just kept pushing it up to the middle of the cake as it cooled and eventually set.
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