Sourdough Vanilla Cake

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Just a simple, everyday cake that’s easy enough for snacking but good enough for a birthday. Don’t worry, this sourdough vanilla cake doesn’t taste sour at all. The sourdough starter adds a slight tang, almost like buttermilk.

One bowl for the cake and one for the frosting is all you need. No need to pull out the big mixer either. 😉

I hope you enjoy this sweet sourdough recipe, a perfect use of your excess starter.

finished plate cut and placed on plate.

Sourdough Vanilla Cake

A comforting classic cake with the subtle tang of sourdough.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cooling time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Serving Size 20 pieces

Equipment

  • 9 x 13 Pan
  • Electric Mixer

Ingredients 

Cake

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

Vanilla Frosting

  • ½ cup melted butter 1 stick
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • Prep oven and pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
    empty cake pan on marble counter.
  • Mix dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well combined.
    mixing bowl of dry ingredients.
  • Add wet ingredients: Add the vegetable oil, eggs, increased 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.
    oil and other wet ingredients added to dry ingredients.
  • Add boiling water. Pour in the cup of boiling water and stir well until a smooth batter forms.
    batter before and after adding hot water.
  • Bake. Pour into the 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.
    cake pan with vanilla batter before and after baking.
  • Cool. Cover cake with a clean tea towel and allow it to cool directly in the pan. Cool completely before frosting.
  • Frost. To make the vanilla frosting, combine the melted butter and vanilla extract 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.
    pyrex dish with frosting ingredients and mixed frosting.
  • Serve. Frost the cake and serve directly out of the pan.
    overhead view of finished and frosted sourdough vanilla cake.

When you need a sweet and simple cake that uses your sourdough discard, I hope you’ll turn to this recipe.

side view showing texture of homemade vanilla frosting.

🥣 Discard starter + pantry basics

Nothing fancy is needed for this recipe! I bet you’ve already got everything you need.

  • Sourdough Starter: The star of this recipe! Sourdough starter adds a subtle tang and depth to the cake, setting it apart from typical vanilla cakes. It doesn’t need to be bubbly or active. Straight out of the fridge is fine!
  • Boiling Water: An unusual but crucial ingredient that ensures the cake’s moistness.
  • Sour Cream: It contributes to the rich, creamy texture of the cake, balancing the sourness of the starter.
ingredients laid out on marble counter.

Here’s the equipment you need

  • 9 x 13 Pan: Ideal for the size and shape of this cake.
  • Electric Mixer: Ensures smooth batter and frosting.
  • Mixing Bowls: Separate bowls for dry and wet ingredients simplify the process.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: For precise ingredient measurements.
  • Toothpick: To test the cake’s doneness without causing much damage.

I always use an electric hand mixer but you could just whisk everything if you really wanted or needed.

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One of the best things about this recipe is how basic it is: no fancy tools or ingredients at all.

✨ Tips for the best cake

It’s hard to mess up this recipe but here some tips to make sure it’s a success!

  • Mixing Method: When combining wet and dry ingredients, avoid over-mixing. This could lead to a dense cake.
  • Baking Time: Keep an eye on the cake after 35 minutes. Overbaking can dry out the cake.
  • Cooling. Allow the cake to completely cool before frosting it. This prevents the frosting from melting.

And wrap it up with encouragement and link to an authoritative article about how to do one specific important technique.

🥫 Storage and make ahead instructions

The leftover frosted cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cover it with plastic wrap or keep it in an airtight container to maintain freshness.

Freezing:

  • This cake can be frozen for up to 3 months, either frosted or unfrosted.
  • For unfrosted cakes, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil before freezing.
  • If the cake is already frosted, freeze it uncovered first until the frosting is firm. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil.
  • To defrost, remove the cake from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then, bring it to room temperature before serving.

This recipe makes a lot, so you might end up freezing some.

Making Ahead:

  • The cake itself can be baked a day or two in advance. Just wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature.
  • The frosting can also be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to use it, let it come to room temperature and give it a good stir before applying it to the cake.

❤️ More sourdough desserts you’ll love

Every sourdough baker is looking for more discard recipes. If you’re anything else us, you’d prefer them to be sweets!

  • A rich and indulgent Sourdough Chocolate Cake. The tangy sourdough twist perfectly complements the deep chocolate flavors.
  • Brighten your day with a slice of Sourdough Lemon Cake. It blends the zesty tang of lemon with the subtle sourdough notes for a refreshing treat.
  • For a cozy morning treat, try the Sourdough Coffee Cake. The classic coffee cake is reimagined with a delicious sourdough twist. This adds a unique depth to its cinnamon-spiced crumb.
  • Embrace the flavors of fall with a Sourdough Pumpkin Cake. It’s a delightful fusion of rich pumpkin and sourdough. It creates a moist, flavorful, and utterly comforting dessert.

I hope you love this recipe! It’s so versatile, and you can top it with berries, sprinkles, a different frosting, or anything else you’d like.

3 pieces of cake on blue and white plate.
Sourdough Vanilla Cake
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