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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yoke Mardewi's Sourdough Chocolate Cake

For Valentine's Day this year, I made my sweetie a Sourdough Chocolate Cake.  Sounds awful? Well, not necessarily.

 I was intrigued by the picture of the cake in Yoke Mardewi's book "Wild Sourdough: the natural way to bake." Intrigued as well by her description of the cake as having no detectable sourdough taste, not even by her young daughter.

Where do you want to go today?

Chocolate cake: a no-brainer

Unfortunately, it achieves this by being heavy on the fats and sugar, and extreme on the chocolate.  I guess I should expect that from a cake -- it is why I prefer bread after all.   I should mention at the outset that my wife bakes excellent cakes (usually from her family's German tradition, cakes like Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte or Haselnusstorte) that are not overly sweet, and are as far away from 'Duncan Hines' as you can imagine (she has also mastered pies from my mother's Scottish tradition, but that's another story).  So the bar is set rather high for cake in our household.

Yoke's Cake really had to be something extra special to compete. And in the final analysis, it wasn't the cake that won my wife's heart, but the fact that I had merely tried to make something special for her on Valentine's Day.  

The Recipe
Yoke's recipe is simple, and most people who enjoy North American Style cake will probably like the results. It is better than boxmix cake or store-bought cake (I don't think its as good as homemade ordinary cake, and certainly isn't in the same league as my wife's cake, which beats anything I have had anywhere).  I used spelt flour.
mis en place -- or is it?


more fats

sugar and cocoa: wait, wasn't I supposed to add apple?

Unfortunately, I can't recommend this recipe for beginning bakers (I am an absolute rank beginner when it comes to cake). There are items in the Ingredients List that are never mentioned in the Method section, and things in the Method section that never appear in the Ingredients List.   I hate that.  I had my apple all sliced and weighed and turning brown and didn't see where or when or even if I should add it.  There was mention of adding cream in the Method section but I hadn't set any out because it wasn't listed in the ingredients.  I left it out, assuming that Mardewi had meant to suggest it as an alternative and had simply forgotten.

My wife came home when I was just about to melt the chocolate for the ganache frosting, and she stopped me. "That's way too much chocolate," she said, seeing I was about to use 7 oz of chocolate (as the recipe called for) for my cake that was in a 9x9 pan.* "Use less than half that amount of chocolate."  I used half, and my wife was right, it doesn't require 7 oz of chocolate.

But I added the apple shreds where my "vast experience" in baking cake told me I might (I guessed), and I tried to keep the mixing to under three minutes like Yoke repeatedly warns. 

shredded apple added as an afterthought?

My cake didn't see an appreciable rise in the time frame Yoke suggested, but I suspect it is likely a bit colder here in Canada in February than her kitchen in Australia, so we won't hold that against her.  She said it would also rise in the oven, and I didn't see that (although the top did crack a bit, so I suppose there was some action underneath).  Still, the crumb turned out not too bad for a first try.

Yoke Mardewi has published two books on Sourdough Baking, and I have the first.  There are a few mistakes in the recipes in the first book, but I still find the book inspiring and full of ideas on how to use up my sourdough starter.

The cake sat for about a week before we (mostly I) got through it.  I preferred it a bit staled.

But I still prefer bread overall.

"I don't care for dark bitter chocolate," my wife told me.
And after all these years, I learn something new about her.
I thought all Germans preferred dark chocolate.  I'm guilty of racial profiling.
Notes to Myself
  • Maybe you can make a sourdough version of Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte.  But would you even want to try?
  • * Yoke's recipe calls for a tin 2" x 4" x 2 1/2" deep (20cubic").  That just seems wrongBut even when you correct her cm to inches conversion and make it 2.8" x 4.3"x 3.1", her volume is only 37.3 cubic", while mine was somewhere between 81cubic" (1" deep) and 121.5cubic" (1 1/2" deep).   My mixture would not have fit into a pan the size she recommends.
  • I'll be pretty leary before trying another of Yoke's recipes.  I suspect there are more mistakes in the book, and I'll have to be careful.  I still love the pictures and the ideas in the book, and if she were anywhere nearby, I'd want to take one of her classes.  I bet she could make it fun.


  1. I recommend the sourdough cake recipes from:
    They are light and reliable.

  2. I thought it was just my baking (and I'm a pretty good baker) but my attempt at this cake turned out dry and only just edible, with a good spread of butter, much more like a tea bread/cake than a cake cake, if you know what I mean. Such a good idea, shame about the recipe!
    I am so relived to hear other people's results from this book, I was feeling inadequate, but not any more! I think there are possibly a few teething problems with the book?
    If anyone has any better real sourdough cake recipes (i.e. not with baking powder, baking soda, not the ones where the starter is added but then not left to prove) then I'd love to try them. The link above is broken, which is a shame.

  3. Don't give up.

    The link Anja gave us is not dead -- not yet, I think. Just be careful not to include the period after her URL ( I wish links could be handled better in Blogger's comments sections. You can't even control linebreaks). If you are not a Polish speaker/reader, Google Translate is your friend. Here is a link with Google Translate telling us what's what:

    The translation is quite readable for Englishers (although it doesn't know what "piernikowo" means). You have to copy and paste that whole thing, and you will get there. Of course, Google Translate won't do OCR on the picture. I typed it in and ran it through Google translate, which says:

    "Ciasto czekoladowe na zakwasie" == SOURDOUGH CHOCOLATE CAKE

    "zastanawiałam się, nad ciastem dla miłośnika czekolady
    i w ten sposób powstał ten niby-murzynek bez drożdży
    i proszku do pieczenia"
    "I wondered over the dough for the chocolate lover
    and so did this quasi-negro without yeast
    and baking powder "

    And that appears to be exactly what you need -- although the pictures do suggest a tea bread/cake rather than a cake/cake. And, if you aren't using baking soda/powder you will have to work with yeast, either the wild stuff in sourdough, or experiment by adding some commercial stuff as you go -- and that all means time.

    Good luck!

    And let me know how it went. I'll personally probably wait until next Valentine's day.

    PS: Chleb's recipe looks like it uses a very interesting milk-elaborated sourdough. Since milk also contains exorphins, I am quite curious about this, although I've yet to try it :)