Chocolate Sourdough Cake

“How nice things taste out of doors!” sighed Diana comfortably. “That chocolate cake of yours, Anne . . . well, words fail me, but I must get the recipe. Fred would adore it. HE can eat anything
and stay thin. I’m always saying I’m NOT going to eat any more cake . . . because I’m getting fatter every year…….Diana slyly cut herself another “sliver” of the chocolate cake……..She picked up the plate which held the remainder of the chocolate cake. . . looked at it longingly . . . shook her head and packed it in the basket with an expression of great nobility and self-denial on her face.”

Chocolate, sweetness, a tiny tang from the sourdough, and a moist texture comes together in this delightful sourdough cake. Simple to make, it rises wonderfully in the oven through the natural yeast in the sourdough and the help of baking soda. I love not only it’s delicious flavor, but how easy it is to make! And like Diana from Anne of Green Gables, you will be reaching for a second piece.

I somehow missed out on the Anne of Green Gables series growing up. I know that I would have loved them if I had found them then. By the time I reached High School, I was reading more of the heavy weight novels of Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Leo Tolstoy along with biographies and non fiction work. I was truthfully a little bit of a book snob and wondered why people read “lightweight” books.

However, I was cured of my snobbishness when morning sickness and the heart defect of my first child added a lot of stress into my life. I didn’t want to curl up with a dark book, I wanted to read a happy one. And so, I found the Anne of Green Gables series and discovered that they were not just children’s books after all. While there are certainly a few funny characteristics of her writing style (some of her characters, like Dickens, can be pretty unusual), as Anne grows up she faces both the happiness and sorrows of life in a true to life form. The sorrow that Anne feels at the loss of her child and other life situations rang true to me (this isn’t surprising because the author also lost a child). She later faces a war with her boys on the battlefield. Even though L.M. Montgomery brought Anne through a realistic life, the overall atmosphere is not darkness, but hope and life.

These are the type of books you want to read when your own life is stressful and you just need a quiet hour of reading. They are suitable for children but I have found that I can enjoy them as well. They are well written and joyful, definitely a book series I look forward to sharing with my own daughters. I now have the tradition of reading through the series when I am bed ridden with morning sickness.

As far as where my own chocolate recipe came from, before I got married my Grandmother gave me a King Author’s Flour cookbook full of baked goods. One of the recipes that caught my eye was sourdough chocolate cake. I’ve always kept it in the back of my mind, and with my husband’s birthday this month, I thought it was time to try it. I couldn’t find that cookbook, but thankfully found the recipe online here. It really only took a few changes, such as having a longer soaking period (to reduce anti-nutrients), and upping the quality of some of the ingredients to make it a cake that I feel very comfortable serving!  This cake is definitely going to see our table many times!

Chocolate Sourdough Cake
I used this frosting to frost the cake. To make it softer, I simply added a few tablespoons of water to the mixture.

    1 cup of recently fed sourdough starter
    1 cup of raw milk, coconut milk tonic, or water (I actually used water, which won’t make as rich of a cake, but it still turned out great!)
    2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
    1 to 1 1/2 cups of whole cane sugar (such as rapadura), maple sugar, or palm/ coconut sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup of melted coconut oil
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    3/4 cup of cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
    1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
    2 large eggs

1) 3-18 hours before you are ready to finish the cake, make the sourdough mixture. Mix the sourdough starter, the raw milk, coconut milk tonic or water and the flour in a large bowl. Let sit at room temperature for desired length of time.

2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 by 13 pan.

3) In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa. and optional espresso powder. The mixture will be grainy. Beat in one egg at at time. Then gently combine this mixture with the sourdough mixture, beating until smooth. It will be gloppy at first, but will smooth out into a delightful batter.

4) Pour and scrape into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes up clean when poked in the middle of the cake. Let cool before frosting.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


  1. Bethany says

    I’ve just started experimenting with sourdough (adding grains back into my diet) and am SO excited to give this a try! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Hanni says

    I love the Anne of Green Gables series. I didn’t discover them until I was an adult either. I think they are the most delightful books that just put a smile on your face. Thanks for sharing the recipe too. Looks wonderful.

  3. Erica says

    Kimi, is your sourdough starter made with rye flour, or something else? This looks so good I want to do it right! 🙂

  4. Carolyn says

    MY-OH-MY That does look good. I am going to give that one a whirl this weekend with my gluten free sourdough starter and rice flour instead. My family will think I love them again!!

  5. says

    Oh my goodness I wish I could eat that right now!! Anne and Diana have been on my mind all week and so it’s only fitting. Now what in the world is coconut milk tonic?

    • KimiHarris says

      I should put a link in there for that. It’s basically watered down coconut milk. 1 can of coconut milk, full fat, and 2 1/2 cups of water mixed together.

  6. Jen says

    Thank you for the Anne reference! I love Anne of Green Gables. Being from PEI, I pretty much have to;) I loved her books because she wrote them in a way that made me come to view Anne as a friend. A friend of mine used to work at Green Gables, and she told me it was a regular thing for visitors to be shocked that Anne wasn’t a real person. I’m sure her and Diana would have loved your cake.

  7. Beth says

    Sounds and looks divinely decadent! I’d welcome any ideas for an egg-free version for a child with a sensitivity. Dairy and egg allergies, actually, which is a tall order.

  8. Jean says

    Just wondering about your sourdough starter – do you have any tips for keeping it alive when you don’t bake that often? I find that it’s somewhat of a commitment once you start one and just don’t know if I want to make the plunge to take care of the starter.

    • Jessie says

      I went to a sourdough workshop in my area done by folks from Denmark who have a strong tradition of sourdough breads. This couple simply saves a bit of sourdough from the current batch and freezes it. They thaw it when they are going to bake again. That way they aren’t constantly feeding it.

  9. Joselyn says

    I want to try so many of these recipes, but the “coconut” ingredients spoil it. My husband is allergic to coconut. Any suggestions on a substitution?

    • KimiHarris says

      In this recipe any light flavored oil would work for the coconut oil. I wonder if maybe melted butter would work well too?

  10. Emily says

    Looks fabulous! I just wanted to share that I loved that you talked about Anne of Green Gables too. I read them when I was a lot younger and my mom had also bought me ‘The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook’! I still have it, although it is pretty old and falling apart. It has the ‘Chocolate Goblins Food Cake’ in it with ‘Chocolate Fudge Frosting’. You should check out the Anne of Green Gables PBS series too sometime, the one with actress Megan Fellows … they are wonderful, great for sick or rainy days. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  11. Laura says

    I love the Anne Movies! My friend and I are road tripping it up to PEI next month to see everything that is Anne. We are going to see Anne the musical and Anne and Gilbert the musical. I am so excited. I have never read the books but i grew up on the movie.

  12. Julie says

    When I get blue I turn to Anne Shirley of Green Gables for a quick shot in the arm too! Your post today is a real delight, as Anne would say “You have given me hope”! You should also get the dvd’s of the movie for when you are not feeling good or when the rainy days force you inside. You sure don’t have to be a young person to enjoy them. The recipe for the sourdough cake sounds delicious. I think all you need is some of Mirelda’s raspberry cordial to wash it down with!

  13. says

    Anne was a dear friend of mine growing up. When I found those books by L.M. Montgomery, I felt I’d discovered a dear friend – a kindred spirit. 🙂
    Love the excerpt about the cake.
    Yours looks amazing! 🙂

  14. Ashley says

    This sounds divine! I am taking the sourdough eCourse over at GNOWFLINS and can’t wait to try this. One quck question–I have never been able to find espresso powder. Where do you get yours?


  15. says

    I believe it is because traditional cocoa is acidic and will react with the soda and yeasts to help leaven the cake. Dutch processed cocoa is de-acidified and will not yield the same rise (though I have used Dutch processed and the cake is fine).

  16. says

    Your cake sounds amazing! My mom tried reading the Anne books to me growing up but I didn’t have the attention span for them at that time. I got back into reading them when I was a teen. The movies are wonderful as well, though they hardly follow the books.

  17. Jennifer says

    Love your site! Can’t wait to try some of the recipes, I just need to find out where to buy some of the special ingredients. Anyway, I have a few questions. A lot of my friends use coupons, but if I cook from scratch as much as possible, would coupons really help? I can see you cook from scratch, do you use coupons? Also do you ever makes white sauces? I am looking for a healthy white sauce for several reasons. What is the best source of fat? Olive oil? Or perhaps there is a non fat alternative? Nutrition can be mind poggling! I have the hardest time making sense of the good and the bad.

  18. Carolyn says

    Well, I made this chocolate cake yesterday evening using my gluten free starter and freshly ground rice flour. It turned out spectacular if one has to eat gluten free. My family dove in before I even thought about frosting it. It is truly that good!!! Since we don’t eat many sweets, we cut the rest up into serving size pieces and flash froze them, so they can have a little treat in a couple of weeks. Thank you so very much for adapting the recipe for us!!!

    • says

      I would love to do this with a gluten free starter and gluten free flour. Can you post how to start the gluten free starter AND any changes you made to the recipe? Thanks!

    • Michelle says

      I also do sourdough gluten free—or am learning to–and have successfully adapted several of Wardeh’s recipes. I’m still new and am learning myself, but ithere is a real lack of recipes/info on the internet on this subject. Perhaps there is a place where we could share info/recipes with others who are interested. Wardeh is doing a Sourdough e-course right now that has some forums. Maybe there is a place there Wardeh?

      • says

        There are several people who are adapting the eCourse lessons for gluten-free. The forum is the perfect place to discuss it, and I would be happy to set up a special area for you all to talk about it! I’m excited that you’ve adapted some recipes already — I know others would love to hear what you’ve done. Great idea, Michelle!

        Another resource is a book, “The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking” by Sharon Kane. It is sold at Cultures for Health:

      • KimiHarris says

        Michelle, it would be great to have a place that is open to everyone to enjoy. I would love to set up a forum where you could share information like this. Until then, perhaps you could share what you have been learning to adapt gluten free goods here? I will email you. 🙂

  19. Becky says

    I just made this for my son’s 4th birthday today and it was a hit! 🙂
    I spent forever searching for a healthier cake for our family and I’ve finally found one. Yay!
    Oh and I love Anne of Green Gables. I spent much of my childhood wishing I had been named Anne with an E. 🙂

  20. Carissa in KS says

    This was wonderful!!! I made it for our son’s third birthday. Using an egg substitute and a frosting recipe from Go Dairy Free, it made his first dairy-free birthday a success. Thank you!!

    • Elise says

      Can you tell me what egg substitute you used? I am really new to the no-egg thing and can’t seem to find much info on what substitutes to use…

  21. Christina says

    Hey, looks wonderful. I was searching and searching for this recipe. I thought it would be under sourdough but it’s not tagged as sourdough, or baked goods……so I thought I’d mention that in case you want to add a couple more tags to make it easier to find. 😉 Thanks for the wonderful recipe!!

  22. Julie says

    In November my husband was diagnosed with a glioma (brain tumor). Upon investigation, we discovered the Budwig Diet Protocol and our diets changed. He has missed, really missed chocolate and sweets. My daughter told me of this website and together we made this cake. It looked spectacular: was moist, appealing and smelled wonderful. BUT, the conversions we found to incorporate stevia instead of the sugars did not adequately sweeten. Now, he was happy for the “dark chocolate” taste and with honey drizzled over his slices. The next test will be substituting honey. Let’s hope it works!

  23. says

    I am planning on making this recipe today, but I have a couple of questions. I have looked on the internet for rapadura sugar, but it seems like it is hard to obtain. Also, what is it about the cocoa powder that is undesirable to use ‘Dutch Processed’? I have Dutch Processed and I think I have the other kind as well. I need to have a recipe using sourdough, as I need to use a little bit of the starter each month so I can replenish it and keep it going.

  24. Rachel says

    Made this today and really liked the flavor! It did turn out pretty crumbly though. Anything I could do to change that?

  25. Sile says

    This sounds and looks delicious!

    I have a question about sourdough, however. What is the starter supposed to smell like? Awhile ago we were given a starter by my father in law, and I fed it for awhile and followed his instructions, but I got worried about the smell. It smelled like paint thinner to me. Is it supposed to smell like that? I ended up throwing it out, fearing it had gone south. I haven’t bothered with sourdough since then, and now I’m finding out it’s actually really good for you, so I wanted to try again. I’d be grateful for any input! 🙂

  26. Jenna says

    My boyfriend and I made this and it was truly amazing. I’m not a fan of chocolate cake but oh my… This was something else and had a rich deep flavour. Thank you for sharing!

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