A simple, step-by-step recipe for THE BEST moist and fluffy sourdough gingerbread cake made with sourdough discard. It’s so soft it will melt in your mouth! My secret ingredients include toasty brown butter, vanilla extract and luscious sour cream.
I will go on record stating that Nigella Lawson’s gingerbread recipe, and I’m referring to her gingerbread “cake” not the cookie (or the house) is the best the Internet has to offer. Every time I make it, I get rave reviews which is confusing because gingerbread is not my specialty. Sourdough is my specialty, so I’ve combined the two into a sensuous gingerbread cake that begs to be made all year round, not just the festive season.
Sourdough discard is a key ingredient, which adds a lovely depth of flavor. You can use active sourdough starter too, which gives the cake an extra lift. Your choice. Your cake. Does it taste sour? No. The addition of baking soda neutralizes any off-putting “sour” notes that naturally occur within the sourdough starter itself. Works like a charm in all of my sourdough discard recipes.
Diving Deeper: For more info on baking with sourdough discard, read Sourdough Discard 101: Recipes & Faqs Answered.
My sourdough gingerbread cake tastes sweet, but not cloyingly so, with the heady scent of familiar holiday-spices: ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I go the extra mile and brown the butter for a subtle nutty flavor. One full cup (200 g) of sour cream makes the texture incredibly soft and moist, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a stand out ingredient for sure.
Finally, when you read through my recipe pay close attention to the mixing method. There’s no creaming of the butter and sugar first, or waiting patiently next to a stand mixer. The entire batter is melted and mixed in a pot! Yes, a pot. The kind you put on a stove to make pasta or oatmeal (or both). I truly believe this method, particularly the order in which the ingredients are mixed, is responsible for the cake’s signature moist and fluffy texture (just like my sourdough banana bread). You’ll see. But first, molasses.
Regular Molasses Vs. Blackstrap: What’s The Difference?
To make gingerbread, you’ll need molasses. There are a few different types on the market. Molasses is a dark, thick, rich syrup made from boiled sugar cane. I tested regular molasses and blackstrap molasses which are similar but different.
Regular molasses is sweeter, contains more moisture, and is less acidic. Blackstrap molasses is darker and more bitter. Choose regular molasses for this gingerbread recipe such as Grandma’s brand. In comparison, Wholesome brand blackstrap molasses was not my favorite in this cake. Too strong. Too rich. I didn’t care for it in gingerbread cookies either.
Can You Make It Ahead?
Yes. In fact, this gingerbread cake gets better as it sits. Bake in the morning, to serve in the evening. Or, bake the cake the night before for a stickier, denser texture. For either option: cover the pan with foil and leave out at room temperature. Just make sure the foil doesn’t touch the surface of the cake or it will stick and pull off the top.
Sourdough Gingerbread Ingredients: You Will Need
- All purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Fine sea salt
- Sour cream
- Large eggs
- Sourdough discard or active sourdough starter
- Regular molasses (Grandma’s)
- Light brown sugar
- Water (or stout beer, such as Guinness)
- Ground ginger
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground cloves
- Pure vanilla extract
How To Make Sourdough Gingerbread: Step-By-Step
Step #1: Prep The Flour & Sour Cream Mixture
- Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
- Whisk the sour cream, eggs and sourdough starter in a separate small bowl; set aside.
Step #2: Make The Brown Butter & Molasses Mixture
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it becomes light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to stir often, so you can see the little brown bits forming on the bottom of the pot. Golden bits = flavor! Remove pan from the heat.
- To the brown butter (off heat): add the molasses, brown sugar, water, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract. Mix well to dissolve the sugar. The texture will be very runny.
Step #3: Combine The Gingerbread Batter
- Add the sifted four mixture to the pot.
- Whisk thoroughly to dissolve any lumps, but don’t over do it.
- Add the sour cream mixture.
- Whisk to combine.
Step #4: Bake The Gingerbread Cake
- Pour the gingerbread batter into a 9×13 inch/ 23×33 cm baking pan lined with parchment paper. The texture will not be very thick; it should look like runny sour cream.
- Place the baking pan on the center rack. Bake @ 350 F/ 180 C for 35 minutes or until a toothpick (or dry spaghetti strand) comes out clean when inserted.
- Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling or cut into slices and serve warm.
Tip: To get parchment paper to lay flat in the baking pan, scrunch it up, and briefly run it under the tap. Then open it up, shake off the water and line the pan. Thank Jamie Oliver for this tip.
How To Serve Sourdough Gingerbread Cake
Just like a classic black dress, this gingerbread cake can be dressed up or down, easily. If I’m making this for my family as a casual snack cake, I’ll cut it into chunky squares and dust with powdered sugar. To doll it up, say for a festive holiday occasion, I’ll add whipped cream and raspberries and serve in individual cupcake liners. You’ll find the individual servings very cute and convenient. People are more likely to eat them all when presented this way!
More Sourdough Discard Recipes To Try!
- Best Sourdough Pancakes
- Ultimate Sourdough Banana Bread
- Crisp Sourdough Waffles with Cinnamon-Sugar
- Easy Sourdough Discard Crackers
Best Sourdough Gingerbread Cake
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 40
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: (1) 9×13 inch cake
- Category: Sourdough Discard Recipes
- Method: Oven-Baked
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
A simple, step-by-step recipe for THE BEST moist and fluffy sourdough gingerbread cake made with sourdough discard. It’s so soft it will melt in your mouth! My secret ingredients include toasty brown butter, vanilla extract and luscious sour cream. Recipe adapted (with changes) from: Nigella Lawson.
- 300 g (2 cups) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
Sour Cream Mixture:
- 200 g (1 cup) sour cream
- 2 large eggs (about 108 g cracked weight)
- 60 g sourdough discard or active sourdough starter (about 1/4– 1/3 cup)
- 180 g (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 220 g (3/4 cup) regular molasses (such as Grandma’s, not blackstrap molasses)
- 200 g (1 cup packed) light brown sugar
- 240 g (1 cup) water or stout beer, such as Guinness
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2. tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Whipped Cream & Berries To Serve (optional)
- (240g) 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
A Few Notes, Tips & Substitutions:
- Nigella uses Guinness in her original gingerbread recipe. It’s good. But so is water if you don’t have beer.
- Nigella uses golden syrup (instead of molasses). If you’d like to do this, it’s an even swap. The flavor is not as rich and spicy; it’s more sweet and buttery. I LOVE doing a 50/50 blend of golden syrup and molasses.
- If you are not a sourdough baker, or you do not have sourdough starter on hand to make this recipe, just leave it out. The batter is very, very forgiving without having to make additional adjustments.
- For gluten free, first you’ll need a GF sourdough starter (or exclude it altogether). Use King Arthur Measure For Measure GF Flour. It’s a 1:1 substitute.
- Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Line a 9×13 inch/ 23×33 cm baking pan with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
- Whisk the sour cream, eggs and sourdough discard together; set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until it turns light golden brown (not dark brown). Remove pan from the heat.
- To the pan of melted butter (off heat): add the molasses, brown sugar, water, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. The texture will be runny.
- Add the flour mixture to the pan. Whisk to combine. It will be lumpy at first; this is OK.
- Add the sour cream mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Whisk to combine.
- Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan.
- Bake on the center rack for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick (or dry spaghetti strand) comes out clean when inserted.
- Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling (just lift it out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang as handles).
- To serve, dust with powered sugar and cut into squares. Alternatively, serve with whipped cream and raspberries.
For The Whipped Cream: Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the powdered sugar. Run the machine on medium-high until soft peaks form.
Gingerbread Storage Notes: Cover cake (in pan) with foil and store at room temperature, up to 3 days. Make sure the foil doesn’t touch the surface of the cake; it will stick to the top. Leftovers can be wrapped tightly and frozen. Reheat gently to serve.
Keywords: sourdough, sourdough discard, gingerbread, molasses, Nigella Lawson, dessert
Absolutely delicious. I’ll never look at another gingerbread recipe again. Soft, moist, spicy, everything you want it to be.
I’ve made this cake twice now and both times it’s gone rubbery! I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I don’t think I overmixed it, I’ve been really careful not to but I’m clearly doing something wrong.
The taste is good though, it’s clearly me and not the recipe!
Emilie Raffa says
Hi there! It’s most likely over mixing. This develops the gluten too much, causing the texture to be tough. But it could also be your starter. First, check the consistency: is it very thick? Like cake batter? You’ll want a starter that’s slightly thinner, like waffle or pancake batter for best texture (add more water to your starter if necessary). Otherwise you’ll get a chewier final texture. Also: what type of flour is your starter made from? You’ll have different results with a white flour starter vs. a whole wheat starter etc.etc. Oh and I almost forgot: don’t over bake! Hope this helps :)
Thanks Emilie, sounds like my starter was too thick! I will try again!
Awesome cake. I made these little beauties for dessert for xmas eve last night with the whip cream and raspberries. Such a cute presentation, only to be outdone by the flavor and moistness of the cake. For a two bite morsel, it was a big hit. It’s a keeper.
Emilie Raffa says
Excellent! I’m so happy you made this recipe. Aren’t the squares so cute all dressed up with whipped cream and berries? My kids were surrounding me like vultures when I was photographing this post… Thanks again for your feedback, Annier. Happy New Year :)
Kristen K says
The name says it all! I had been planning to make a gingerbread cake for over a week, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I was pretty excited when I saw my procrastination had paid off and one of my trusted bloggers had just posted a recipe the day before, that – bonus – also allowed me to use some discard. I can report this cake is indeed delicious. I made it yesterday and had it with whipped cream for dessert. It did get even better after sitting overnight (…and I also say it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy it sprinkled with some powdered sugar as a Christmas morning breakfast treat). Recommended!
Emilie Raffa says
Hi Kristen! Thanks so much! I’m glad you liked the gingerbread cake (there’s nothing like last-minute holiday procrastination, right? I’m totally with you). We have been eating leftovers for breakfast too, with salted Kerry Gold butter and powdered sugar. Next up: salted caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s.
Amanda M. says
This is perfection! I was going to make gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve, but opted for this gingerbread treat instead when it came across my IG stories. I used water (no stout beer on hand) and Grandma’s molasses & made the recipe exactly as written. The cake smelled divine in the oven – a wonderful holiday aroma! It came out easily with parchment paper (and the crinkle / wet trick to get the parchment paper to lay down is clutch)! The cake is light and fluffy and perfectly spiced without being too sweet. A cream cheese frosting would be great if you want something sweeter. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee!
Emilie Raffa says
Hi Amanda! So great to hear! How fabulous is that parchment paper trick? I was watching a Jamie Oliver Christmas special while wrapping gifts, when I first learned about it. My ears perked up like a dog, lol. Wetting it (lightly) is key. Cream cheese frosting sounds lovely, too!
She does it again! This gingerbread cake looks amazing and I plan to make it with my daughters after Xmas. I also get very hungry after going on to the Clever Carrot site… lol.
On the right side the pictures of pizza and other food make me stop and stare at the creative photographs….then the videos! Awesome and I am behind in wrapping thanks to this fun!!!
Keep it up Emilie and thanks! I just love supporting your work! You deserve it!
Emilie Raffa says
Haha… thank you CMR! You are so kind! 🙏