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One Bowl Sourdough Chocolate Cake

A moist and rich chocolate cake using your discarded sourdough starter.

Use your discard sourdough starter to make this rich, moist sourdough chocolate cake topped with an easy and delicious chocolate frosting.

square slice of sourdough chocolate cake with fork cutting it

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There are so many things you can make with discard sourdough starter,  but this recipe it one every sourdough baker should have up their sleeve.  It’s easy to make, and only needs one bowl.  It’s rich and moist but not too sweet so it’s perfect for a snack as well as dessert.

The sourdough starter adds a richness to the cake that is somewhat like a cake made with buttermilk: not sour, but definitely delicious. You’ll love this recipe and you’ll want to save it for when your starter jar is looking too full.

🧂 Ingredients

cake ingredients laid out on white surface

For the cake

For the frosting

  • melted butter
  • cocoa powder
  • powdered sugar
  • milk


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • 13 x 9 baking dish
  • Hand mixer or stand mixer

👩‍🍳 Instructions

MakE the batter

grid of 4 process shots- mixing dry ingredients, adding wet ingredients, mixing batter, pouring in hot water into cake batter

This cake couldn’t be simpler. No need to pull out the stand mixer, unless you want to.

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 with the rack in the center. Prepare your pan with spraying with cooking spray. I always use a 9 x 13 so I can serve it right out of the pan.

Get a nice, big mixing bowl and combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) until they are well blended.

Then add in the wet ingredients except for the hot water (eggs, sourdough starter, sour cream, vanilla, and oil). The batter will seem very thick and lumpy. That’s okay, just stir it up the best you can.

Finally, add a cup of very hot (almost boiling) water and mix up the batter well. It will magically smooth out as you stir and look like a “normal” cake batter.

Bake, frost, and serve

grid of 4 images, pouring batter into baking dish, fully baked chocolate cake,  making chocolate frosting, spreading iced on cake

Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and smooth it out.

If your starter is still active, the batter may bubble up a little bit.  Don’t worry, it will all smooth out as it bakes.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes in the preheated oven.  Check for doneness using a toothpick.  Insert it into the center and if the toothpick comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.  The top may slightly crack.

Set it on a cooling rack and allow it to cool, right in the pan, until it’s room temperature.  Don’t frost it until it’s cool!

To make the frosting, combine 2/3 cup of cocoa with a stick of melted butter. Then add the powdered sugar and milk, alternating between the two and beating with an electric mixer until smooth .

Of course, if you have a different frosting you’d like to make, this cake suits many types very well. Cream cheese frosting or classic vanilla buttercream are two that we love with this recipe.

Serve it right out of the pan. No need to get fancy.

It keeps well for a few days either in the fridge or at room temperature.

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🔍 Faqs

Can you make this into cupcakes?

Absolutely! You should get about 24 cupcakes. Start checking for doneness at 20 minutes, and be sure to use cupcake liners.

Can I make this as a loaf cake?

Yes, but the recipe will fill about 1.5 loaf pans. You could always double it and get 3 loaves!

What if I don’t have sour cream?

You can substitute creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, or more sourdough starter?

❤️ The story behind the recipe

We first made this during the height of the sourdough craze. So many of our friends had asked for sourdough starters so we had multiple jars going. Two of my daughters had birthdays and we wanted to experiment with a delicious cake using the discard that wouldn’t take all day.

So many of my sourdough recipes take a lot of experimenting, but not this one. We got it right on the first try.

I hope you enjoy it.

📖 recipe

piece of chocolate cake
4.58 from 26 votes

One Bowl Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Print Recipe
A moist and rich chocolate cake using your discarded sourdough starter.
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:40 minutes
Total Time:1 hour
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For the cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup discard sourdough starter
  • ¼ sour cream
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the frosting

  • ½ cup 1 stick melted butter
  • cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • cup milk


  • Prep oven and pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center.  Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
  • Mix dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.   Stir until well combined.
  • Add wet ingredients. Add the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and sourdough starter.  Stir to form a thick batter.  Pour in the cup of boiling water and stir well until a smooth batter forms.
  • Bake. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs. (The top may crack.)
  • Cool. Cover cake with a clean tea towel and allow it to cool directly in the pan.  Cool completely before frosting.
  • Frost and serve. To make the frosting, combine the melted butter and cocoa in a large mixing bowl.  Add the powdered sugar and milk, alternating with each other, and beat with an electric mixer until a smooth frosting forms. Frost the cake and serve directly out of the pan.


If you have a smaller amount of sourdough discard to use, use 1/2 cup of discard and 1/2 cup of sour cream
Cake can also be baked as 2 rounds.


Calories: 373kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 150mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 292IU | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: desserts
Cuisine: American
Keyword: desserts with sourdough starter, sourdough chocolate cake, sourdough discard recipes
Servings: 16 pieces
Calories: 373kcal
Author: Katie Shaw
Did you make this recipe?If you loved it, please leave a review!

44 thoughts on “One Bowl Sourdough Chocolate Cake”

  1. I want to give this recipe a try & use my discard but have a question.
    1/4 sour cream is how the recipe reads —– is it safe to assume 1/4 CUP sour cream?
    Thank you very much! (I usually “scratch” my cakes from a box 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    The last chocolate cake recipe using SD discard was a bomb, so my family was skeptical when I threw this together last night. HAH! Showed them by baking a beautiful, moist, and delicious cake. I confess, I did add a bit of espresso powder to the batter, but that is my standard for all chocolate cakes. Thanks so much for the great recipe, I got to use 1/2 of jar #1 of discard (it compounds faster than I can bake!).

  3. 5 stars
    This cake turned out to be a wonderful treat! This recipe is a keeper. The ingredients are always in my kitchen and this comes together quickly and easily. Thanks!

  4. Any changes recommended to make this recipe into cupcakes? Or would you just follow the recipe as is and place in cupcake cups? This looks delicious!!!! I’m definitely going to add coffee!!!

    • I’d follow it as is! The only thing to keep in mind is I doubt they will form a dome on top. But if that doesn’t bother you, they should be adorable! Please let me know how it goes. 🙂

    • I made the one bowld sourdough chocolate cake as directed. Ended up with two dozen domed cupcakes. They ended up beautiful 🙂

  5. Hi! If I wanted to make this a vanilla cake, could I just leave out the cocoa powder or would I need to add more flour? Thanks so much!

  6. 5 stars
    Brilliant recipe. The only thing that I didn’t like was the smell of the vegetable oil which was very of putting. Can this be replaced by melted butter or something else?

  7. 5 stars
    I made this cake today. It is fabulous! I doubled the recipe, baked in loaf pans for 40 minutes on convection bake. Double the recipe made 3 nice loaves of cake. I thought it might not rise well because I did not decrease the baking powder. (I live at 6200 ft elevation) However it turned out perfect!
    I had a lot of discard to use up, made 9 loaves in all today.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  8. 5 stars
    I used an Americano instead of plain hot water and I didn’t have any sour cream so used creme fraiche that I had ~ OMG! I have been making chocolate discard cakes for some time and they generally end up with sourdough lumps ~ not this one. I also did two round cake pans so I could have a layered cake. Easy and yummy!
    Thanks ????

  9. 5 stars
    I am not a huge fan of chocolate cake but this one is soooo delicious I ate 4 pieces myself! By far the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made!

  10. I would like to make this dairy free. I can replace the milk with almond milk but what about the sour cream? Do you have a dairy free recipe using discard?

    • susie I have a sourdough lemon cake and banana bread that other readers have made dairy free with success. as far as this particular recipe, you could actually try using more starter instead of the sour cream. other than that I’m not sure.

  11. Thanks for this super easy discard recipe. Based on the comments, I added coffee and Kahlua liquor instead of just boiling water. It’s guy delicious flavor.

  12. 5 stars
    I have made this cake twice and my family loves it. I am currently baking it right now for my husband’s birthday. This cake is very moist and taste great!

  13. 5 stars
    Love the cake super easy. I am not sure if I did something wrong with the icing, since it was not smooth. I think I added the right amount of powdered sugar but maybe not. Very good will make again.

  14. Delicious! I use hot coffee instead of boiling water and Greek yogurt replaces sour cream. This is very similar to a chocolate cake I have made for years. I have made the cake twice and cream filled cupcakes once. Thanks for the recipe.

  15. I made this today as written. It only needed 35 minutes in my oven. The cake was really delicious. It was moist and not heavy. The icing was perfect! Thank you!

    • This cake and frosting were divine!! I made two of your recipes last night, this and the crunchy rolls, and you definitely did NOT disappoint. I got high-fives from my three kids and was astonished myself that I’d put something so delicious together on the spur of the moment. Hahahahaha!! Without doubt, I’ll be using your recipes for further guidance.

  16. I have discard and a birthday coming up…I am looking forward to trying this!
    One question, does my discard have to be recently fed?
    My discard is definitely not active but hasn’t gone bad as I keep a jar in the fridge that I add to as I discard from my starter and then pull from to make biscuits or crackers (which both call for unfed starter).


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