Sourdough Gingerbread is soft with a deeply spiced flavor that's not too sweet. This old fashioned cake is perfect for anytime of day, and no one will know it's made with sourdough starter discard unless you tell them!
Why this recipe works
- Soft gingerbread that's full of flavor
- Tips to keep your gingerbread from sinking
- No one will know there's sourdough starter discard in the batter!
This is rich gingerbread with a secret.
I’ve been trying for years to recreate old fashioned gingerbread that mimics one I had many years ago, and I think I’ve finally got it.
Even better, in my never-ending search for recipes in which to use my sourdough starter discard, it can be used in this recipe without detection.
Yup, I now make Sourdough Gingerbread.
Sourdough items can be sweet
Well, as long as the baked good you’re making has a strong enough flavor, unfed sourdough starter can be substituted into a sweet recipe successfully.
While I wouldn’t use sourdough starter discard in vanilla cupcakes, I’ve used it to make Sourdough Pumpkin Cake and Sourdough Spice Cake. Imagine the possibilities!
How to adapt a recipe for sourdough starter discard
My discard has a 50/50 ratio of flour to water. So, to substitute in 1 cup (227g) of starter (a convenient amount as that’s my weekly discard), I remove 1 scant cup (113g) of flour and ½ cup (113g) water from the recipe amounts.
Adding sourdough starter discard to a recipe does introduce a slight tang, but again, for strongly flavored items it’s not a problem.
I adapted this Sourdough Gingerbread recipe from Epicurious’ Old-Fashioned Gingerbread with Molasses Whipped Cream. This recipe, like most quick breads, comes together quickly and can be made in different forms, as a cake, loaf, or even muffins.
What you need
The major flavor in gingerbread is...molasses.
Ha, I bet you thought I was going to say ginger! Well, you're not wrong. Ginger and other baking spices are present and help to give gingerbread its distinctive flavor.
But like with Molasses cookies or Shoofly Pie, it's the molasses that provides its big flavor to this quick bread recipe. Use a mild-flavored (light), not blackstrap variety . The flavor is bold enough.
How to make the best gingerbread recipe
This Sourdough Gingerbread recipe comes together quite easily.
However, there is an important change to a normal quick bread recipe...when to add the baking powder.
Step 1: Combine the initial wet ingredients
Start by creaming the sugars and butter together, then adding the molasses, eggs, sourdough starter, and baking powder (photo 1).
Why, you may wonder, are we mixing in the baking powder in the batter here?
One complaint I had with the original recipe (along with others) is that the gingerbread sank in the middle. I did some research and found that maybe that gingerbread recipe called for too much baking soda.
That solved the problem a bit, but not completely
According to Tasting Spoons, “to keep [the] gingerbread recipe from sinking in the middle, [add] the baking soda with the wet ingredients and [mix] the batter to strengthen the flour. [This gives the] gingerbread a more sturdy texture while maintaining its moistness.”
So not only did I reduce amount of baking soda to ½ teaspoon, I add it in with the sourdough starter discard. That solves the problem.
Step 2: Mix in the dry ingredients
From here on out, the recipe continues in the normal way.
Mix the flour and spices together in a small bowl, then add the flour mixture into the batter, mixing until combined (photo 2).
Step 3: Add the cream and boiling water
Nothing too complicated here. Just use a low speed on the mixer so you don't splash (photo 3).
Step 4: Bake in the correct sized-pan
It’s important that you use a proper sized pan for this gingerbread recipe as it will overflow if you’re not careful. You can use a 9- x 9-inch baking pan or 2 standard loaf pans (photo 4), but don't use smaller pans.
Placing the pans on a half-sheet baking pan before placing in the oven helps to catch spills, just in case. You don't want to have to clean the oven along with the dirty dishes.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions that you might have...
If your gingerbread still sags after adding the baking powder in with the wet ingredients at the beginning, it could be the strength of your flour. Try using a flour with a higher protein level like King Arthur Flour's all-purpose flour, which has an 11.7% protein content (one of the highest for all-purpose flours). You could also substitute ¼ to ½ cup (30 to 60g) of bread flour (a stronger flour) for some of the all-purpose flour.
Sure! For mini loaves, use 6 to 8 mini loaf pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Just remember to fill the baking pans about halfway full so you won't overflow them, and bake them on a half-sheet baking pan, just in case.
Of course. Just increase the flour by 1 scant cup (113g) and the boiling water by ½ cup (113g).
Gingerbread like it was meant to be
This gingerbread is soft, with a deeply spiced flavor yet not too sweet.
It's yummy on its own, but add lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and you’ve really got a scrumptious dessert.
Actually, Sourdough Gingerbread is good for anytime of day, breakfast, brunch, or afternoon snack. It's up to you whether to add the whipped cream.
Gingerbread with a secret...I won't tell if you won't!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
When you maintain a sourdough starter, you have a dilemma. What do you do with your unfed sourdough starter discard? I've got lots of suggestions for sweet and savory ways to use your fed sourdough starter and the sourdough starter discard. Here are a few samples...
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Old Fashioned Sourdough Gingerbread
- parchment paper
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup molasses, mild-flavored (light), not blackstrap
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sourdough starter discard, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon baking soda, see Recipe Notes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup water, boiling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9- x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, then spray with baking spray.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or hand mixer), beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in large bowl until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses, then add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl as you go. Add the sourdough starter and baking soda to the batter and blend on low speed until everything is just combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed until just combined. Finally, stir in the cream, then the boiling water on low speed, again until the batter is just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
- Place the pan on a half sheet baking pan to catch any overflow. Bake the cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.
- Cool the cake in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
- Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!