Old fashioned gingerbread is soft with a deeply spiced flavor that's not too sweet. This gingerbread 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 old fashioned gingerbread that's full of flavor
- Tips to keep your gingerbread cake from sinking
- No one will know there's sourdough starter discard in the batter!
This is rich homemade gingerbread cake 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.
Furthermore, in my never-ending search for sourdough starter discard recipes, I've found it's great in bagels, pretzels, and English muffins. And, since sourdough discard also can be used in sweet items, like banana bread, spice cake, and even chocolate chip cookies, this Sourdough Gingerbread cake recipe is a winner!
You'll need the following ingredients to make this sourdough gingerbread recipe:
Molasses: The major flavor in gingerbread! 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) molasses, not the blackstrap variety. The flavor is bold enough.
Spices: Ginger, cinnamon, and cloves are present and help to give this simple gingerbread recipe its distinctive flavor.
Baking soda: The presence of baking soda as a leavening agent in a gingerbread cake recipe isn't surprising, but when you add it is. See the Pro Tip below for details.
Sourdough starter discard: Sourdough discard is unfed sourdough starter, i.e. the amount you remove from your crock before feeding the remainder (I do this weekly). Its presence here is just for a way to use the discard so as not to throw it away. The flavor in this gingerbread cake is strong enough to mask any noticeable tang.
See the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
How to make old fashioned gingerbread
Step 1: Combine the initial wet ingredients
Start by creaming the sugars and butter together, then mixing in the molasses (photo 1).
Add the eggs (one at a time), then mix in the sourdough starter and baking soda (photo 2). See the Pro Tips below for the reasons we're adding the baking soda in this step.
Step 2: Mix in the dry ingredients, heavy cream, & water
Mix the flour and spices together in a small bowl, then add the flour mixture into the batter, mixing until combined. Finally, stir in the heavy cream and boiling water on low speed so you don't splash (photo 3).
Step 3: Bake the gingerbread (in the right 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, but don't use smaller pans.
Placing the pans on a half-sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper 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.
Bake the gingerbread at 350°F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean (photo 4). Cool the cake in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
You can leave the gingerbread on the counter for a couple of days in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap. If it’s in the fridge, make sure it’s wrapped well so it doesn’t dry out. For longer storage, freeze wrapped well in plastic wrap and a ziplock bag.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions that you might have...
If your gingerbread still sags after adding the baking soda 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 60 grams) 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 (113 grams) and the boiling water by ½ cup (113 grams).
Pro Tip: When to add baking soda to gingerbread
Why, you may wonder, are we mixing in the baking soda in the batter with the wet ingredients?
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 now add it in with the sourdough starter discard. That solves the problem. Score!
Gingerbread like it was meant to be
This sourdough gingerbread cake is soft, with a deeply spiced flavor yet not too sweet. It truly is the best recipe for gingerbread there is! 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 (and maybe even a drizzle of gingerbread syrup!).
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 some ideas to get you started:
Good news for sourdough bakers! I've published an e-book that allows you to discover a new method to feed your starter with less flour, making your baking both sustainable and scrumptious. Learn how to have the right amount of starter for your favorite sourdough bread recipe, and explore various bread baking pans to level up your baking game. Plus, dive into a bonus recipe for a naturally-leavened sourdough bread using unfed starter that will fit into your busy schedule for fresh bread any time. Head over to my shop and get your copy today!
And if you sign up to receive my weekly featured recipe email, I'll send you the recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. Enjoy!
I hope you like this recipe! Do you have any questions I can help with? Let me know! Or, if you made the recipe, I'd love for you to leave a comment and rating. Thanks!
Old Fashioned Sourdough Gingerbread
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 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.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl for a hand mixer), beat the brown sugar, butter, and granulated sugar until smooth, about 3 to 4 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 heavy cream and 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 gingerbread for 40 to 50 minutes, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean.
- 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!
- Storage instructions: You can leave the gingerbread on the counter for a couple of days in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap. If it’s in the fridge, make sure it’s wrapped well so it doesn’t dry out. For longer storage, freeze wrapped well in plastic wrap and a ziplock bag.