Apple Cake Battle: Swedish versus Sourdough Apple Cake

There was a reason I baked two very different apple cakes this weekend. The Swedish apple cake was for this week’s reddit 52 week baking challenge: week 22 – Scandinavian. The sourdough apple cake was for me.

As it turns out, these cakes are a great example of why I identify with the Ugly Duckling Bakery name.

The Swedish apple cake (left) was from a Dorie Greenspan recipe. The cake on the right is my sourdough apple cake (recipe below).

three quarters of a sourdough discard apple cake on a wood cake stand
unbaked Swedish apple cake in a pan
unbaked sourdough apple cake in a pan

If you were to choose a slice from just one of these cakes, which would you pick?

a beautiful baked Swedish apple cake
a baked sourdough apple cake on a cake rack

The Swedish apple cake was beautiful. My sourdough discard cake looks …. rustic. But it’s the sourdough apple cake that wins the apple cake battle hands down.

This sourdough apple cake was inspired by a combination of the Apple Snacking Cake from the Flour Bakery Cookbook and my sourdough discard apple muffins. This cake is fragrant, moist, and densely packed with apples and other goodies. And very very ugly.

As uglyducklingbakery, I’ll choose substance and taste over style every time!

chopped apples, raisins, and pecans on a cutting board

FAQs about this sourdough apple cake recipe

Do I have to weigh out my ingredients?

No. But there is so much variation in how people measure that you are much more likely to get a reliable result if you weigh your ingredients. I still have a deal that I’ll send a basic kitchen scale to the first ten U.S. readers who sign up for my newsletter and leave a comment to promise they will start weighing out all of their ingredients!

Which apple should I use for this sourdough apple cake?

I used a HunnyZ apple because it remains firm when cooked and has a strong apple flavor. You could use a tart apple (e.g. Granny Smith, Pink Lady) or any sweet apple, as long as it stays firm when cooked.

Disclosure: I was recently given two boxes of HunnyZ apples to play with by the folks at Gee Whiz. The HunnyZ is a cross between a Honeycrisp and Crimson Crisp apple.

Can I use all-purpose flour in this sourdough discard cake?

Yes, cake flour is just a lower protein flour and therefore forms less gluten. You could use 100% all purpose flour in this cake. You just want to avoid over-beating the batter once you add the sifted dry ingredients.

Can I use other nuts in this cake?

Of course. The obvious substitution would be walnuts, but almonds or hazelnuts could also be lovely.

Can I use another dried fruit instead of raisins?

There’s nothing special about raisins. You could use golden raisins or cranberries or chopped prunes or figs. Whatever you like.

I don’t have a sourdough starter for this sourdough discard cake. Is there something else I can use?

A 100% hydration starter is equal amounts of water and flour. If you don’t have a starter, just add an additional 4oz (113g) of flour to the dry ingredients and an additional 4oz (1/2 cup) of buttermilk or other liquid.

What can I substitute for buttermilk in this sourdough apple cake?

I would reach first for yogurt, but you could also use milk or an unsweetened non-dairy milk.

.My sourdough starter has a different hydration level, can I still use it?

Yes, you’ll just need to calculate the amount of water and flour in your starter.

Can I freeze this sourdough discard apple cake?

Yes, you could freeze the cake or cake slices, but it keeps so well at room temperature and it’s soooo good, that it’s hard to imagine wanting to freeze any!

Can I decorate this cake?

Sure. The cake is great on its own, but feel free to dust it with powdered sugar, or frost it with a cream cheese buttercream frosting. I was even thinking that a caramel buttercream would go well with this cake.

the sourdough discard apple cake batter in a mixing bowl

Sourdough apple cake

Servings 12
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • Stand mixer or hand mixer


  • ½ cup (65g) bleached all purpose
  • ½ cup (65g) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp ground ginger
  • 12 tbsp (6oz/170g) unsalted butter, softened plus additional for greasing the pan
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (144g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 8 oz (227g) 100% hydration unfed sourdough discard
  • ½ cup pecans, broken or chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 3 medium to large apples, cored, peeled, and chopped into ~1/2" cubes


  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Butter a 9" round cake pan, line it with parchment, and then butter the parchment.
  • In a small bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and ginger.
    1/2 cup (65g) bleached all purpose, 1/2 cup (65g) cake flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a medium to large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the softened butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down as necessary.
    12 tbsp (6oz/170g) unsalted butter, softened, 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, 3/4 cup (144g) dark brown sugar
  • Add the eggs one at a time, then the buttermilk, and then the sourdough discard, mixing at medium speed for about one minute after each addition.
    2 eggs, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 8 oz (227g) 100% hydration unfed sourdough discard
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed or by hand until combined.
  • Add the pecans, raisins, and apples, and mix.
    1/2 cup pecans, broken or chopped into small pieces, 1/2 cup raisins, 3 medium to large apples, cored, peeled, and chopped into ~1/2" cubes
  • Pour/spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and even it out using a spoon or spatula. It will come up close to the top of a 9" round.
  • Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean of batter. You may need to check a few areas to be certain given how much apple and other goodies are inside.
  • Cool completely, and then remove from the pan. Serve plain, with a dusting of confectioner's sugar, or with a light buttercream frosting.

What’s next?

If you make this sourdough discard cake recipe, please leave a comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram.

Check out the uglyducklingbakery cake archives where you can get fancy with this purple velvet cake or go simple with a blackberry lemon loaf cake.

Or check out other apple recipes.

Follow uglyducklingbakery on your favorite social media platform.

Sign up for the uglyducklingbakery newsletter and join the uglyducklingbakery family.

Previous challenges:
Week 1: New Year new recipe – blueberry galette
Week 2: seasonal – Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit pound cake
Week 3: Great British Bake Off – Kate’s sticky toffee apple caramel cake
Week 4: Australia – sausage rolls
Week 5: bite sized – cookies
Week 6: Chinese New Year – mushroom bao
Week 7: new tool – baguette baker
Week 8: chocolate – chocolate peanut butter bonbons
Week 9: timed bake – under 1 hour! chocolate chip scones
Week 10: allergy/diet restriction – macarons
Week 11: quick breads – kale and cheese quick bread
Week 12: signature bake – purple cow bread
Week 13: enriched breads (kale and cheese babka fail)
Week 14: childhood favorite –fudgy triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting
Week 15: decorating challenge – purple velvet cake
Week 16: crispy crunchy – bacon cheddar popcorn
Week 17: p52 of your favorite cookbook, or your favorite blog – chocolate peanut butter drip cake
Week 18: pâte à choux – bacon cheese puffs
Week 19: veggies turned sweet – red velvet beet waffles
Week 20: plating – chocolate chip cookie (butter challenge)
Week 21: Birthday Party! – chocolate orange cake

Next week: Layers

a slice of sourdough discard apple cake on a plate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.