If the name ‘sourdough cake’ sounds a bit odd to you – you are not alone. I don’t usually go looking for sour cakes either. But I decided to go with that name anyway, since the term sourdough refers to more than just breads that taste sour.
It implies that dough or batter was leavened naturally, with the help of wild yeast (aka sourdough starter), as opposed to store-bought dry yeast or baking soda/powder. Sour taste, unless specifically desired, is the result of excessive fermentation time, or/and temperature that’s too high during fermentation.
What is sourdough starter
Sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water. Flour has yeast and bacteria naturally present within it. And when we mix it with water, we create an environment favorable for growth of microorganisms. Naturally occurring enzyme amylase starts converting starch into sugar.
Bacteria, lactobacilli mostly, ferment (metabolize, or simply eat) sugar. The by-product of that fermentation is consumed by yeast. Again, the by-product of all that together is carbon dioxide, which is what leavens the dough. Much like commercial yeast, sourdough starter is added to dough where it works to give rise to breads.
Sourdough starter makes breads and cakes a lot more nutritious. It breaks down grain proteins and sugars into simpler compounds. It also enriches dough with by-products of its metabolism – additional vitamins and minerals that were not originally present in the flour.
Rye is more nutritious than wheat
Rye contains a lot of phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B1. It is remarkable because of the ratio of magnesium to calcium, which is 4:1. Magnesium is important because it is essential for calcium absorption but most people don’t get nearly enough. Calcium, on the other hand, is consumed in excess. But when it’s not able to be properly absorbed by our bodies – it gets deposited along the joints causing arthritis, within arteries leading to atherosclerosis, etc.
Rye is extremely hardy, and can withstand harsh weather and pests without human intervention. It’s a probably a good idea to include it into your meal rotation – it has not been subjected to genetic hybridization and treatment by glyphosate, like regular wheat.
Ok, it’s healthy-ish, but does it taste good?
I love it, and so does my family. It’s a lot like brownie, moist and decadent, with a little chewiness from the hazelnuts. I usually make it in a mini bundt pan but I bet it would be just as good served like brownies. Using whole grain rye flour, as opposed to the refined kind, does not affect the taste or texture. Plus rye has a unique ability to bind moisture, which keeps my sourdough cake fresh and moist longer.
Healthy is a very subjective notion. Some would say this cake is not healthy because it has sugar, or butter, or milk, or flour. I say – healthy is delicious homemade food made from wholesome ingredients. The key word being delicious. In my mind, there is nothing healthy about ‘healthy’ food that makes you gag when you eat it.
HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH CAKE
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons (85g) butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter (how to make rye sourdough starter)
1.25 cups (150g) whole ground rye flour
1/2 cup (50g) hazelnut flour or almond flour (slightly toasted is best)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Combine 3/4 cup milk, 6 tablespoons butter and 2/3 cup sugar in a small sauce pan. Simmer until sugar melts. Allow to cool.
Whisk in an egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Add 2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter, whisk until starter dissolves.
Add the rest of the ingredients, mix until no dry spots remain. The batter will be thick.
Cover and leave at room temperature for 8-10 hours. The batter doesn’t change or rise much, the signs are airy and lighter look, and pockets of air when you scoop it.
When ready to bake, place batter into a greased pan (I’m using this small bundt pan). Preheat oven to 400ºF (in that order).
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until internal temperature registers at 190ºF.
- ¾ cup milk
- 6 tablespoons (85g) butter
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter (how to make rye sourdough starter)
- 1.25 cups (150g) whole ground rye flour
- ½ cup (50g) hazelnut flour or almond flour (slightly toasted is best)
- ½ cup raw cacao powder, sifted
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Combine ¾ cup milk, 6 tablespoons butter and ⅔ cup sugar in a small sauce pan. Simmer until sugar melts. Allow to cool.
- Whisk in an egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Add 2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter, whisk until starter dissolves.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, mix until no dry spots remain. The batter will be thick.
- Cover and leave at room temperature for 8-10 hours. The batter doesn't change or rise much, the signs are airy and lighter look, and pockets of air when you scoop it.
- When ready to bake, place batter into a greased pan (I'm using this small bundt pan). Preheat oven to 400ºF (in that order).
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until internal temperature registers at 190ºF.
If you are wondering about milk and egg sitting out at room temperature, my take on it is there is a lot of enzymatic activity taking place during fermentation so I'm not worried about spoiling.
I think it's good enough on its own and doesn't really need a glaze. I used one for the photo, because well, it just looks cool, but normally we eat our rye sourdough cake without one.