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a large Sourdough Discard Carrot Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting restign on a wooden surface with fresh carrots

Sourdough Discard Carrot Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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  • Author: Whip & Wander
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cool Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 15 servings 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Oven / Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


This Sourdough Discard Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting boasts a moist and tender crumb that includes a generous measure of sourdough discard. The sweetness of fresh spring carrots is complemented with fresh orange zest along with warming cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and an optional (but encouraged) measure of walnuts and raisins. Swirls of brown butter and vanilla bean-flecked cream cheese frosting adorn the top adding a buttery sweetness with just a hint of orange.



For the sourdough discard carrot cake:

  • 240 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 400 g (2 cups) white granulated sugar
  • 8 oz (1 cup) canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 250 g (1 cup) unsweetened applesauce
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 270 g (1 cup stirred down) 100% hydration sourdough discard
  • 1 lb carrots, shredded (use freshly-shredded carrots, not pre-shredded)
  • 100 g (1 cup) roughly chopped walnuts (may sub for pecans), optional
  • 80 g (1/2 cup) seedless raisins, optional
  • Butter, for greasing pan

For the brown butter cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz (1 block) full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 8 oz (about 1 3/4 cups) confectioner's (powdered) sugar


For the sourdough discard carrot cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 177 C. Line a 13 x 9-inch cake pan with pan (or (2-3) 9-inch cake pans depending on your preference) with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and any visible inner sides of pan with butter. Reserve to the side.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Reserve to the side.
  3. In another large bowl, combine the sugar, canola oil, applesauce, orange zest, and vanilla. Using a whisk or a hand mixer, whisk or blend until well combined. Then add the eggs and whisk or blend again until well combined.
  4. Add the sourdough discard to the wet ingredients, and using a silicone spatula, gently fold into the wet batter until well-combined. You do not want to overwork the sourdough discard or your crumb will not be as tender.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients for a couple of turns (there should still be some major flour steaks at this point). Then add the shredded carrots, and (if using) the nuts and raisins. Continue folding the ingredients until they are just combined, with no remaining flour streaks.
    • The reason you want to add the carrots, nuts, and raisins in before the flour has been completely worked into the batter is for two reasons: 1. That the small amount of coating from the flour will help keep these heavier ingredients from falling to the bottom of the cake when baked, and 2. that the batter does not get overworked by mixing those ingredients in after the flour has been completely folded in.
  6. Pour the batter into your cake pan (or evenly among your multiple smaller cake pans) and transfer to the oven. If using a 13 x 9-inch pan, the cake will need about 60 minutes of baking time. If using (2) 9-inch cake pans, the cake will need about 35-40 minutes of baking time. If you split the batter between (3) 9-inch cake pans, I would start checking for doneness at the 20-25-minute mark.
  7. To check that the cake has baked, first look for visual cues. The top should be nicely golden and the edges of the cake should have pulled away from the sides of the pan just slightly. I like to gently press the top and see if it springs back. If the cake is nice and squishy it’s a good indicator that the cake is fully baked. If it’s still jiggly or your fingertips leave dents, it’s an easy indicator that it’s not done yet. The next thing I like to do is to take the internal temperature of the cake. For dense cakes like carrot cake, you’re looking for an internal temperature between 200-210 degrees F / 93-99 C. This is the thermometer I use in my kitchen.
    • One popular way to test a cake’s doneness is to insert a toothpick or skewer into the cake and if it comes out with batter or crumbs it’s recommended that you continue to bake further. However, because carrot cake is so moist and dense this is not a great indicator for checking its doneness. Though you definitely want to continue baking is you see liquid batter, a few crumbs on the toothpick or skewer are totally normal. If you continue baking until you see no crumbs, you’re likely to overbake the carrot cake.
  8. Allow the cake(s) to cool completely before frosting, at least 2-3 hours.

For the brown butter cream cheese frosting:

  1. Brown the butter. Set a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and allow to melt, stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally. As the butter melts it will begin to foam. Watch the pan closely during this process as the color will quickly change from buttery yellow, to golden, to toasty brown. Once the butter has reached a stage where it is golden brown, remove it from the stove immediately and carefully transfer it to a large heatproof bowl to cool. I like to allow the butter to cool to room temperature before continuing because it helps yield a thicker, creamier frosting. However, if you want a thinner, slightly more icing-like frosting you can let the butter cool for a few minutes and then proceed.
  2. Once the butter has cooled, add the cream cheese to the bowl, and using a hand mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until reasonably smooth. Then add the orange juice, vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla bean paste), and salt and blend again until smooth. Finally, sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and blend again until smooth and fluffy. I like to use an offset spatula to frost my cake once cooled.

*Leftover cake should be refrigerated and should keep for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge or 3 months when stored in an airtight container in the freezer.


Nutritional information on Whip & Wander is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.


  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 623
  • Sugar: 49 g
  • Sodium: 313 mg
  • Fat: 32 g
  • Saturated Fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 71 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Cholesterol: 81 mg