Sourdough Chocolate Cake with Espresso Icing

Are you looking for a simple way to use your sourdough starter besides baking bread? Do you like an intense chocolate flavor enhanced by espresso in a cake and in the icing too? Then this recipe  is your answer.

You won’t taste any sour in this cake just the deep, full flavor of chocolate. The espresso is obvious in the icing and personally I loved the pairing with the chocolate.  Probably the best homemade chocolate cake I have ever made or tasted.

The cake is perfect and moist with a delightful chocolate flavor. The icing turned out to be a little thin, so more confectioners’ sugar needs to be added to get the right consistency or cut back on the liquid. A cream cheese icing would be delicious as well if you do not care for a coffee icing. Or if you really like a total chocolate flavor try your favorite ganache.

This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour and is now my favorite chocolate cake.

I have a number of sourdough recipes – just search “sourdough” and you will find over a dozen bread, pancakes and sweet recipes.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake with Espresso Icing, Adapted

Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 cup “fed” sourdough starter (see comment below)
  • 1 cup milk, (whole, 2% or evaporated – I did use evaporated)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa (not Dutch process)
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 large eggs

Combine the starter, milk and flour in a large mixing bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours. It may not bubble but it might expand a bit. Mine bubbled slightly and also expanded slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan.

In another bowl, beat the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa and espresso powder. The mixture will have a grainy look to it. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined.

Add the chocolate mixture to the starter mixture and stir until smooth. It will be a little hard to mix at first, but the batter will smooth out as you continue to gently combine the ingredients. Be patient…

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (my oven it was 30 minutes), or until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake and set on a rack to cool.


  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar (will probably need more to get the right consistency or cut back on the liquid)
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1-1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp. hot water

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the buttermilk. Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water; add to the pan and bring the mixture just to a boil.

The recipe says to immediately pour the warm icing over the cake. I prefer to let it stiffen up a bit and spread it over the cake. I found the icing to be too thin so more sugar needs to be added.


  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup

Microwave the chocolate chips, milk and corn syrup until the chips soften; stir until smooth (about 30 seconds). Drizzle over the icing. It looks better if you wait for the icing to harden and then drizzle the chocolate.

Comment: Because this recipe has added leavening (baking power and baking soda) you do not have to feed it just as long as it is healthy and ready to go. Because my starter was not as “active” as I would have liked I did feed it and left it on the counter over night. If it was in “bad shape” I would probably have fed it for a couple of days. It just depends…

Remember that sourdough baking is as much art as it is science. There are different ways to revive, maintain and feed your starter – you just have to figure out what works best for you.

Recipe by

My Rosebud is “fed”, bubbling and ready for this cake! The starter, flour and evaporated milk also bubbled a little and it did expand as well.



Linking to Fiesta Friday #196 and the two co-hosts this week Antonia @ and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

51 thoughts on “Sourdough Chocolate Cake with Espresso Icing

  1. Even from the photo only, I can tell this is an incredibly tasty chocolate cake! Adding espresso icing can only make it better. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the patience to keep a sourdough starter alive, so I can only salivate at the photos… 🙂


  2. Wow! I am very much impressed with this one! I didn’t know that sourdough starter can bbe used in making chocolate cake, too. I bet this tastes amazing! Thank you for bringing at Fiesta Friday table, Aunt Juju. Enjoy the party!


  3. This is so right up my alley! Sourdough is the only type of bread I eat and make a lot of… but apart from using the starter in bread, crackers or pancakes… I have never considered putting it in a cake. Chocolate cake! Where have you been hiding this recipe all this time Aunt Juju! ps. So glad I can print this recipe btw! Thanks for sharing!


  4. Yes and yes! Awesome recipe Judi, your cake looks divine! I love the usage of sourdough starter in your cake, how interesting! Thank you for sharing over at Fiesta Friday, I know everyone will be drooling!


  5. I love this one Judi and can’t wait to try it. I’m still having fun with my starter and keep more than I should. I love that you have Rosebud. Mine is Phoebe and also originated from Selma’s starter. I plan on posting a tribute to her one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Julie – I told you I would eventually post this recipe. It really is worth making especially if you like chocolate (which I know you do – who doesn’t?) with an espresso finish. It’s a good way to use Phoebe instead of making bread. Selma’s “Twinkle” has produced lots of good recipes on my blog – makes my recipes more special. Give it a try 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh wow Judi, this is amazing! I think you’ve surprised all the bloggers who love sourdough bread. This chocolate cake looks intense with the colors and flavors, I’d love to have been there for a piece 🙂 I remember Selma asking me if I wanted some starter, and I declined at the time, wish I hadn’t now 😦


    • Thanks so much Loretta – I think I like the desserts (such as this cake) more than the bread I’ve made. I do like my chocolate… Should I ever dry some of my own starter I will offer to send you some and you can have a third generation of Selma’s starter 🙂


    • Thanks – it was very moist and top notch delicious. Of course anything chocolate and with a not too sweet espresso icing and I am happy. Of course using my sourdough starter is an added plus – not sure what it does but I am sure it improved the flavor and texture 🙂 Also, the starter comes from Selma’s Twinkle – so I am always thinking of her and the kindness she showed me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ohh. I didn’t know Selma long, nor well, but she had such an impact on so many lives, including mine. Selma always had the kindest comments to make and I always felt when she hosted FF that she thoroughly read each post and was very specifically talking to me the person, never just an off the cuff generality. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Bravo, Judi! 👏👏👏 I think you’ve come up with the BEST use of excess sourdough starter! I need to revive mine. I hope it’s still alive, I’ve been neglecting it, yikes! You really should submit this somewhere, pretty sure you’ll win! Btw, are you up for cohosting next week, FF198?


  8. I wondered if your sourdough starter was from Selma. I think a lot of FF friends have her starter and it makes me happy to think Selma is still cooking with us. How creative to use it in a dense, moist chocolate cake with that perfectly paired peanut butter icing Judi! Yum.


    • Thanks Johanne – A long time ago I casually mentioned to Selma that at the time I did not have any starter even though I have made bread over the years. Her immediate response was to say “I will send you some of my starter” and she did. This small act of kindness has kept my Rosebud (daughter of Twinkle) going. She would be delighted that I am using it to make sweets as well as bread. By the way it is an espresso icing but peanut butter would be an excellent choice 🙂


  9. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #197 - Fiesta Friday

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