Sourdough Carrot Cake
This post may contain affiliate links, including those from Amazon.com, which means we earn a small commission off your purchases. And here's the thing: We only mention services and products that we think are truly worth your attention, whether they're free, paid, or otherwise. This site relies on YOUR trust, so if we don't stand behind a product 110%, it's not mentioned. Period.
As many of you know, I have a love affair with sourdough. It took me a long time to try it, but once I did and realized just How Many Uses it had, I set out to find every use for it I possibly could.
Cake is one of my favorite uses for sourdough, without a doubt. I find using sourdough tenderizes the crumb, heightens the lovely cakey flavors without adding any sourness at all, and it makes the flour easier to digest.
Our Black Forest Cake, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, Cranberry-Orange Sourdough Muffins, our sourdough variation of Pumpkin Bundt Cake, and this sourdough carrot cake all testify to the worthy tryst of a good sourdough starter and cake.
This cake makes liberal use of warm spices and moist carrots. For our youngest son's recent birthday, we topped it with the cream cheese frosting listed here, but for an afternoon tea time, you could certainly dust it with homemade powdered sugar instead. How very dainty and civilized!
Sourdough Carrot Cake
very loosely based on King Arthur Flour‘s recipe
Also, I don't tend to like nuts, raisins, or pineapple in my carrot cake. If you do, however, feel free to add in 1/2 cup of each to this batter.
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar or sucanat
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely grated carrots
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sourdough starter, butter, coconut oil, and the flour. (The butter and coconut oil should be barely warm but still liquid.) Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°, grease a 9×13 pan (or 2 8-inch round pans), and grate carrots and set aside.
Scrape sourdough mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer, then add the cane sugar and vanilla and mix on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, followed by the carrots.
Reduce speed again to low and add the spices, salt, and baking soda, making sure everything is well-incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your pans) or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Real Food Cream Cheese Frosting
This is my take on classic cream cheese frosting, which typically uses vast quantities of refined powdered sugar. This version uses maple syrup and arrowroot powder, and oh, my lands, it is seriously addictive. (Be ye warned.) This frosting also appears sans nuts on our Red Velvet Lentil Cupcakes.
Enough to dollop on top of 12-16 pieces of cake. Double quantities if you want to frost or fill the cake.
1 cup cream cheese, slightly softened
1 cup butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup maple syrup (more to taste)
1/4 cup very finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1-4 tablespoons arrowroot powder (optional) – if frosting is too sticky from the maple syrup
Cream cream cheese and butter together until smooth and slightly fluffy. Add in maple syrup and walnuts and stir until everything is well-mixed. Add arrowroot powder if needed.
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Bring to cool room temperature before using for ease of serving.
I’m from England so could you please tell me what a sourdough starter is or how does one make it? Many thanks. Heather
A sourdough starter or a sourdough culture, as it’s sometimes known, is just a bit of flour, water, and yeast that is reserved and added to new baking projects as the leavening – that way no commercial yeast is needed.
The easiest way to get a sourdough starter going is to either kype a bit from a friend or to buy a dehydrated starter. You can also start one from scratch by mixing water and flour together in a jar and letting it sit out for a few days to collect yeast from the air – there’s a tutorial on that method at Nourished Kitchen.
Have fun discovering sourdough! It took me a while to try it, but once I did, it was a whirlwind love affair. I hope the same for you. 🙂
This looks so good! What a fun recipe to make in a weeknight or for company!
Will any sourdough started do?I always have a rye starter in my fridge but would need to adapt some if rye is not suitable, Thanks
Hmmm…. that’s a good question. I’m sure in terms of leavening and all, it would be just fine. The only issue would be with taste. So, if you’re okay with notes of rye in your carrot cake, I’d say absolutely! It might actually add a nice nutty taste. Then again, it might not. I don’t know – I’ve never tried!
If you don’t want to use rye, it would be fairly easy to change the starter. Just take out a bit of your rye starter and give it three feedings with whatever new flour you want to use. By the end of the third feeding, you will have very little rye left in the starter and it will be made up of almost entirely the new flour.
By the way, if you’re looking for another use for your rye starter, our sourdough rye bread is great for Reuben sandwiches and Sourdough Reuben Picnic Buns. 🙂
Hello there! This immediately caught my eye as I also adore using sourdough and I adore carrot cake in general. So my question is though, in looking at the KAF recipe that you used as a guide, they don’t feed the sourdough or give it a proofing time like you do. I’m just curious your reason for adding that 8-12 hour step into the process. Did you try it without initially and then find it was necessary?
No, I actually include that proofing time in order to give the rest of the flour that’s added to the recipe a chance to soak and sour, which makes it more digestible. (Read more here –> https://nourishingjoy.com/soaked-sprouted-or-soured-the-healthy-way-to-treat-your-grains/)
As for the fed sourdough, I’ve just found it makes for better rise on the cake – it doesn’t turn out quite as dense.
I hope that helps! (And enjoy – the cake really is fantastically yummy!)
I can’t wait to try your carrot cake recipe! I had just looked at the King Arther version and was horrified at all the oil and sugar in it. (also, I’m not interested in all the extras either).
I think I need to set up some cake to ferment! Thank you for posting your version.
I am making this for my mother’s birthday dinner celebration but don’t have access to Sucanat or evaporated cane sugar. I have turbinado sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup. Can any of those be used and if so, what would be proper proportion?
Sure! Either of the dry sugars should be fine – the turbinado would likely be the closest flavor-wise, but the brown sugar would work too. 😉 I would use the exact amount called for in the recipe – you shouldn’t need to adjust it unless your sugar is super-fine, in which case reduce it by a 1/4 cup or so. 🙂
HELP! I’m just in the starter/butter/oil/flour stage and the end result is VERY THICK!. Is this going to become more liquid-like over the next 8-12 hrs???
Yes, it is fairly thick at that stage – definitely depends on how thick your sourdough starter was to begin with. But as long as everything is mixed, don’t worry about it, as yes, it will become slightly more pourable as it sits. But the batter IS fairly thick, so no worries!
This is wonderful!!! I had never tried making sourdough carrot cake before, and the King Arthur recipe in my cookbook doesn’t allow for a soaking time. The way you adapted it works beautifully, and I’m positive it has much richer flavor than their method can give! My young kids gobbled their pieces, and loved the tangy flavor. We ate it with no frosting tonight, but I’m going to serve it to guests tomorrow, with whipped cream as a topping. Thank you!
Does the 1 cup of starter need to be fed before I add in the butter/oil and flour to rest for 8-12 hours? In other words, can I take it straight from the fridge or should I proof it first? Thank you!
Preferably, yes, it should be fed and domed, meaning you’re measuring it when you’ve let it grow until it’s domed but it hasn’t yet started to deflate. This will result in the best texture, crumb, and rise in the cake.
However, if you’re in a considerable hurry – say, you’re trying to get the cake mixed before you run out the door in the morning so you can finish it when you get home – then using it straight from the refrigerator is acceptable, assuming you have fed it in the last 2-3 days. It won’t ruin the cake, but it will affect the texture and the rise.
If you’re using starter that hasn’t been fed in a while, it can also affect flavor. If the starter doesn’t have enough oomph (namely, a plethora of happy yeast ready to work for you), then it will be a somewhat flatter cake with possibly a slightly sour tang.
I hope that helps!
Hi! I’m new to baking with sourdough…can you please tell me what the consistency of the starter, butter, oil and flour is supposed to be like after it sits out for 8-12 hours? Cookie dough-like? Or different? Thanks!!
Hmmm… it will be firm, but cookie dough-like is a good description. Depending on your type of flour and your climate, however, it may be a bit softer. Basically, it likely won’t be pourable, but it should be soft enough that you can fairly easy mix in the rest of the ingredients.
The third sentence in the directions is not necessary. I got to that point and stopped, then looked up the King Arthur version. It is not necessary to let the batter “rest for 8-12 hours”. Just continue on beyond that with the next steps & bake as directed. VERY moist & delicious, no frosting needed!
Except that the whole point of letting the dough rest for those hours is to break down the anti-nutrients in the grain in order to make it more digestible, especially for those who have grain or gluten sensitivities. You absolutely may skip that rest time and the recipe will totally work, but it won’t yield as digestible a final product.
That said, I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorites. 🙂
Hello, I dont have coconut oil Can I use Butter?
Yes, absolutely! The crumb may be just slightly denser, but it will be delicious nonetheless.
Hi Kresha, last week I was looking for recipes to use my leftover sd starter and found this recipe and tried it, well I just wanted to say thank you because it’s absolutely delicious and soft, I only added some pineapple and raisins. Thank you again
Excellent! So glad you liked it. It’s one of my favorites, for sure. 🙂
I normally don’t take the time to comment, but this was delicious! I have finally found my birthday cake! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. Carrot cake has always been my favorite. Due to GI issues I haven’t been able to have flour in my diet unless it is soaked with a fermented yeast or sourdough starter, so this recipe is the holy grail! Thanks again!
I followed the recipe exactly, baked mine in a fluted bundt pan for 55 minutes and it turned out wonderfully, likely the best carrot cake ive ever had; great recipe its my go-to from now on; well done and thanks a bunch
Hello how many round cake pans does this recipe make?
As stated in the recipe, it makes two 8-inch round cakes (although you’re welcome to use two 9-inch pans as well – they’ll just be thinner, so you’ll likely need to shorten the baking time by 5-10 minutes).
I can’t wait to try this! Do you use the frosting in any other recipes?
Thanks for sharing! How far ahead of time can we make it?
Wonderful sourdough carrot cake recipe! This was my 2nd time making this recipe so I made a couple of adjustments: I quadrupled the cinnamon & doubled the nutmeg; used brown sugar instead of cane sugar, and added 1 C of chopped walnuts. I also let the starter after mixed with flour & fats to cold ferment for 20 hours. I then used it directly & followed the steps from there. Absolutely moist, flavorful & not too dense. I will come back to use this recipe repeatedly. Thank you!
Oh, thank you so much for your feedback!
And I’m glad you love it as much as we do. Personally, I like it even more than “regular” non-sourdough carrot cake!
Thank you again.
I have been looking for a sourdough carrot cake for so long, and this one is perfect! The whole family loved it. I also tried making this recipe but substituting parsnips for the carrots, and it came out perfectly as well! Such a wonderful texture and flavor.
I with this recipe had a metric option. I prefer to weigh my ingredients. I will cherry pick your inspiration for this cake and bring elements to another recipe. Thank you.