Apple Cake Battle: Swedish vs. Sourdough Apple Cake

This sourdough apple cake is a great example of ugly duckling baking at its finest. Because my motto is that recipes from the ugly duckling blog taste delicious but look homemade.

The sourdough discard apple cake is fragrant, moist, and densely packed with apples, pecans, and raisins. It’s easy to make. And it is very very ugly.

The story

I baked a Swedish apple cake for the 2021 Reddit 52 week baking challenge: week 22 – Scandinavian. The cake (left) was from a Dorie Greenspan recipe.

three quarters of a sourdough discard apple cake on a wood cake stand

The cake on the right is my sourdough apple cake (recipe below). This sourdough apple cake recipe was inspired by a combination of the Apple Snacking Cake from the Flour Bakery Cookbook and my sourdough discard apple muffins.

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?

Swedish apple cake with spiral apples.
Brown plain sourdough apple cake on a cake rack.

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

About sourdough discard

Sourdough discard is the extra starter you have after you’ve fed your sourdough starter. Instead of throwing it away, you can use discarded starter in other recipes. Discard makes recipes slightly tangy.

You can obviously use sourdough discard in breads using commercial yeast – like this sourdough discard bread. The discard gives flavor but you need the commercial yeast to make the bread rise. You can also use sourdough discard in pancakes and waffles and muffins like these sourdough apple muffins.

Tip from the wise quacker: if you don’t have a starter, just add an additional 4 ounces (113 grams) of flour to the dry ingredients and an additional 4 ounces (one half cup) of buttermilk or other liquid.

Tips and tricks

Step by step

The cake is packed with apples, nuts, and raisins. Use any apple that 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.

chopped apples, raisins, and pecans on a cutting board.

To make the cake, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and ginger together into a small bowl. Then the recipe follows the typical “creaming method” often used in cakes. You cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs, buttermilk, and sourdough discard.

Then add the sifted dry ingredients. Try to avoid over-beating the batter once you add the dry ingredients, because you don’t need to develop the gluten.

Stir the apples, pecans, and raisins in by hand. The batter will be very thick and stiff when you spread it into the pan. I promise it’s supposed to be that way!

the sourdough discard apple cake batter in a mixing bowl.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean of batter. Cool completely and then remove the cake from the pan. Serve and store at room temperature for up to one week, if it lasts that long.

Variations and substitutions

  • Use 100% all purpose flour. Cake flour is just a lower protein flour and therefore forms less gluten.
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use an equal amount of yogurt. Or make homemade buttermilk with the same amount of milk plus a teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • Sub in a different nut. The obvious choice would be walnuts, but almonds or hazelnuts would be lovely.
  • Sub in a different dried fruit. There’s nothing special about raisins. You could use golden raisins or cranberries or chopped prunes or figs. Whatever you like.

FAQs

Do I have to weigh out my ingredients?

No. But I always encourage you to use a kitchen scale because there is so much variation in how people measure, especially flour and sugar. Your cake is most likely to come out right if you weigh your ingredients.

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 4 ounces (113 grams) of flour to the dry ingredients and an additional 4 ounces (one half cup) of buttermilk or other liquid.

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 this sourdough apple cake 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.

Related recipes

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

Or check out other apple recipes like this lemon apple curd, apple blackberry pie, strawberry apple pie, or my simple but delicious unsweetened strawberry applesauce.

Sourdough Apple Cake

5 from 1 vote
Category: Cakes
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 323kcal
The sourdough apple cake is fragrant, moist, and densely packed with apples and other goodies. And very very ugly.
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • Stand mixer or hand mixer

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (65 grams) bleached all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (65 grams) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, softened plus additional for greasing the pan
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (144 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) 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 about one half inch cubes

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Butter a 9 inch 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.
    ½ cup (65 grams) bleached all purpose flour, ½ cup (65 grams) cake flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅙ teaspoon 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 to 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down as necessary.
    12 tablespoons (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, softened, ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, ¾ cup (144 grams) 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, ¼ cup buttermilk, 8 ounces (227 grams) 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.
    ½ cup pecans, broken or chopped into small pieces, ½ cup raisins, 3 medium to large apples, cored, peeled, and chopped into about one half inch 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 inch round pan.
  • 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.

Notes

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

Nutrition

Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 199mg | Potassium: 167mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 1mg
Love this recipe?Mention @Uglyducklingbakery or tag #uglyducklingbakery!

What’s next

If you make this sourdough discard cake recipe and love it, please don’t forget to leave a comment and rating.

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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

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