Adapted from Ina Garten’s classic carrot cake, my recipe gets a quick upgrade with leftover sourdough discard and fragrant chai spice. I grate the carrots in advance, skip the walnuts and raisins, and bake the cake one day before serving. So moist & fluffy!
This sourdough carrot cake recipe is absolutely spot on. The texture is unapologetically moist, like something you’d get from a fancy bakery. It tastes sweet. It smells good. The chai spice takes it to the next level. And the classic cream cheese frosting? You know, the homemade kind (not the one in the red can!)? I’ll tell you what: the addition of smooth mascarpone cheese makes it even creamier and dreamier than ever. My sourdough carrot cake is an excellent sourdough discard recipe to have in your repertoire. And it’s super easy to make.
Sourdough Carrot Cake Ingredients (You Will Need):
For the cake
- Olive oil
- Extra-large eggs
- Sourdough starter (see note)
- Pure vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Chai spice
- Baking soda
- Fine sea salt
- Grated carrots, about 3 large ones
- 1/2– 1 cup (75 g– 150 g) raisins (optional)
- 1/2– 1 cup (60 g -120 g) chopped walnuts (optional)
For the frosting
- Mascarpone cheese
- Cream cheese
- Powdered sugar
- Fine sea salt
For the toppings
- Pastel chocolate eggs (optional)
How to Make Sourdough Carrot Cake: A Few Basic Tips
This carrot cake recipe is pretty straight forward: combine the wet and dry ingredients, grate some carrots, mix everything together, and bake. On the flip side, it’s messy. All carrot cakes are messy. You’ll never have enough counter space, grating carrots by hand is a royal pain, and all those pesky bowls and egg shells pile up faster than junk mail.
TIP #1: Use a stand mixer. This isn’t rocket science obviously (and yes, you can still do it by hand). But when given the choice, an electric mixer is preferred to beat air into the eggs and sugar. Plus, the mixer does the rest of the work which leaves you free and clear to do other things, like check your phone.
TIP #2: Grate the carrots ahead of time. Per Ina’s recipe, shredded food processor carrots won’t work (if they’re too wet, the cake might fall). And those store-bought julienned ones that come in a bag? Won’t work either. Here’s my solution: grate your carrots ahead of time with a box grater and you’ll stress less on baking day.
TIP #3: Use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Everyone has a rectangular baking pan at home. And the best part? It’s easy to transport wherever you go.
What Makes This Carrot Cake Special?
- Made with sourdough: Using sourdough discard is perfect for carrot cake. Flavor-wise, you can’t really taste it; the spices take center stage. But including sourdough discard is a practical way to use up something you’d otherwise throw away. It adds a wonderful, bouncy texture to the cake. PS: If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can make your own here.
- Flavored with chai spice: Most carrot cakes are made with ground cinnamon only. To me, it’s not enough. If you want to create the sourdough carrot cake of your dreams, try using chai spice. It’s a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice and sometimes, black pepper. Chai spice also gives the cake a dark, rich, gingerbread color. Pumpkin spice would be a suitable substitution.
- Ditch the add-ins (if you don’t like them): Does the mere mention of raisins, walnuts, coconut flakes, and pineapple stress you out? Totally normal. For this recipe, I ditch the traditional add-ins so my kids don’t freak out and it tastes perfectly fine. What you do here is up to you. The cake will be delicious either way.
Can You Make Sourdough Carrot Cake In Advance?
Sure! In my opinion, carrot cake tastes even better the next day. To do so: bake the cake and leave it unfrosted, covered at room temperature for one day. Make sure whatever you use to cover the cake, such as plastic wrap or foil is not touching the actual surface- it will rip right off. See my sample schedule below.
- Friday Night: Wash, peel, and grate carrots after you get home from work (assuming you don’t have a wild party to go to). Cover and chill. Dig out your 9x 13 pan and line with parchment paper. Feed your sourdough starter. Go to bed.
- Saturday Morning: Bake the cake. Cool, cover, and leave out at room temperature. In the evening, remove the mascarpone and cream cheese to soften overnight. This is for the frosting. If you’re experiencing super hot weather, please do not do this. Just gently microwave it the next day (I don’t have a microwave).
- Sunday Morning: Make the frosting. Ice cake. Decorate. Pat self on back.
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) olive oil
3 extra-large eggs (70 g each), at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 g) leftover sourdough starter (see note)
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 tsp chai spice
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 cups (300 g) grated carrots, about 3 large ones
1 level tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2– 1 cup (75 g– 150 g) raisins (optional)
1/2– 1 cup (60 g -120 g) chopped walnuts (optional)
For the Frosting
8 oz (226 g) mascarpone cheese, softened
8 oz (226 g) cream cheese, softened
2 cups (250 g) powdered sugar, sifted
fat pinch of fine sea salt
For the Toppings
Pastel chocolate eggs (optional)
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (a hand held mixer works too), combine the sugar, oil, eggs, sourdough starter, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until light yellow and slightly thickened. This will give the cake a little lift.
In a separate bowl, sift together the 2 cups of flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture; mix on low speed.
Wash, peel, and grate the carrots with a box grater (this can be done 1 day in advance, covered and chilled until ready to use). Combine the carrots with 1 tablespoon of flour; mix well. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Add the carrots to the batter and fold in with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared baking pan,
Bake the cake on the center rack for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting and decorating with the pastel chocolate eggs.
For the Frosting
In a stand mixer, add the softened mascarpone and cream cheese. Sifted the powdered sugar directly over the bowl. Add the salt. Mix on medium-low speed until wonderfully light and creamy. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
For best results, use a 100% hydration starter, fed with equal parts flour and water by weight. Its batter-like texture is the perfect match for this carrot cake. If you’re using a thicker, low hydration starter the texture of the cake will be too dry.
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