Here’s a delicious – and easy – way to use up your discard when feeding your sourdough starter – make a moist sticky bun sourdough coffee cake with a caramel pecan topping for breakfast, snacking, or dessert!
If you want to keep the starter on the counter for awhile to strengthen it or you’re waking up a starter that’s been stored in the fridge, you will have what’s called “discard.” This is often not strong enough to make bread, or is a smaller amount, or you’ve already got a freezer full of bread.
That’s where recipes like this sourdough coffee cake (and also these delicious crackers, english muffins, and waffles) come in handy. Because if it’s one thing we don’t want, it’s to actually throw away the discard, no matter the name – we’ve worked hard for it, right?
What exactly is sourdough discard?
I wish it were called something else because while you do have to remove at least half or more of your starter before feeding again to keep the yeast active and growing strong, the discard just means the portion you remove – hopefully to use in something. (Note: This is different than when you’re making your starter from scratch – during that week you do need to dispose of the starter you remove, as it’s not finished enough to eat until the end of the process.)
If you’re keeping your starter at room temperature for awhile and feeding once or twice a day, you will have to remove all but 1/2 cup or so before feeding again, which will leave you with a cup or more (depending on how much you’ve fed) of discard.
And even if you’re reawakening a refrigerated starter, you may need to feed 2-4 times before using in bread, creating a cup or two of discard. That’s when you want to have a recipe like this!
Sticky Bun Sourdough Coffee Cake
For this recipe you can use your sourdough starter in pretty much any state: just fed, fed the day before – or some you removed and put in the fridge for a day until you had time to deal with it.
Yep, that’s a thing if you keep your starter out for a week or two and are feeding daily – you can get overrun with it and not have time or the desire for long-fermenting bread recipes. Ask me how I know, lol.
In addition to sourdough starter you’ll need:
- brown sugar
- pecans (or walnuts)
- whole wheat pastry flour (unbleached all purpose will work as well)
- salt and baking soda
The simple caramel nut topping is made by melting butter and sugar together with a bit of honey and spreading that in a buttered dish before topping with chopped nuts.
What size pan and type of pan do I use?
So, I really had to experiment with this to get the right amount of topping that wouldn’t overflow onto the bottom of the oven (yep, I took one for the team and needed to clean my oven!).
Here are three types of pans you can use with the pros & cons of each:
- Deep dish pie plate. This is my preferred pan, as it’s round to fit on a platter and deep enough not to overflow. However, the sides are sloped for pies and it will need to be cut in triangles, so if you don’t want that, try one of the following.
- 8×8 square baking pan. This pan will give you the square sides, ability to cut into squares, and is also deep enough to keep most of the topping in. It’s harder to find a platter big enough to turn it out onto and so is more difficult to flip (square peg into a round hole kind of thing?)
- 9-inch cake pan. It’s round again so able to fit on a plate, but this would be my last resort, as you will probably get more of topping overflow.
I still hedge my bets with all of them by placing a large cookie sheet on the lowest rack under the cake to catch any drips.
Okay, after your caramel layer is in the pan of your choice, you simply mix up the batter add it to the pan.
My tip here is this: spoon the batter evenly over the caramel layer and then use a spatula to spread evenly. That way you won’t be fighting the butter-sugar mixture as much as you spread.
You can see above that the baking soda is already working, so you’ll want to work as quickly as you can to get it in the oven.
As for baking, do a toothpick test to make sure the center is done, then place the baked cake onto a cooling rack for a few minutes to settle before doing the flip.
Flipping sticky bun anything always makes me a bit nervous, but this turns out easily! Just be sure to have a pair of good hot pads and a plate big enough to hold the cake and overflow of caramel.
After flipping, use a spatula to scrape any caramel and nuts that remained in the pan back onto the cake. We don’t want to miss any of that goodness.
This cake is really best the day it’s made, like most caramel-pecan upside down cakes and buns. But I have found that it freezes well. I cut it into pieces and freeze between pieces of parchment paper.
When you’d like to serve it again, let it defrost in the fridge overnight and then sit on the counter the next day until you’d like to serve it for breakfast, brunch or tea.
We’ve also found that for a single piece, a 20 second hit in the microwave is pretty ideal.
Of course that is if there’s anything left after serving this yummy sticky bun sourdough coffee cake!
Easy Sticky Bun Sourdough Coffee Cake
Caramel Pecan Topping:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1/3 cup melted butter or oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Make Caramel Pecan Topping:
- Butter a 9-inch deep dish pie plate, 9×9 inch square pan, or 9-inch cake pan* and heat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, and honey just until the butter is melted (do not let boil). Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts. Set pan aside while making cake batter.
- Add starter, melted butter or oil, and egg to a large mixing bowl and stir well. Add remaining ingredients, stirring just until combined.
- Spoon dollops of batter over the caramel nut topping in the pan and then use a spatula to smooth it evenly.
- Bake coffee cake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs and topping is bubbling on sides. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.
- Loosen edges of cake with a knife and invert a large platter over the cake. Using hot pads, grasp edges of cake pan and flip over. Remove pan and spoon any topping in pan back onto cake.
- Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.**
More Sourdough Recipes to Try
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