Sourdough Carrot Cake Bars with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

By Amanda Paa – Updated March 21, 2024
5 from 4 votes
These moist and soft carrot cake bars are made with sourdough discard, warm spices, and toasted pecans! They're a delicious use for your leftover sourdough starter and very easy to make with a bowl and a whisk. The maple cream cheese frosting is the perfect, creamy match to the tender crumb. These bars can be eaten from your hand, no plates needed!
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sourdough carrot cake bars cut into small pieces

Why I Love This Recipe:

I crave carrot cake in springtime like I do ginger molasses cookies at the holidays. There’s something about the warm spices, brown sugar, and sweet, fresh carrots that welcomes the turn of seasons and flavors.

With only two of us, a layered carrot cake is too much, so I developed these Sourdough Discard Carrot Bars that make an 8×8 pan of absolute deliciousness that never lasts more than 2 days in this house. They transport well, so I often bring them to gatherings and have yet to bring any home.

The bars are incredibly moist, light, and flavorful. The stars of the show are cinnamon, ginger, and carrots, playing alongside sourdough discard, which gives it even deeper flavor and the perfect crumb. Each bite has lovely texture from the toasted pecans and carrots, and the swoop of creamy maple frosting on top.

I was adamant that these would have enough structure to eat from your hand rather than a plate, the true definition of a bar. And they do!

Easy to Make

You don’t need a stand mixer for this recipe, just a bowl and a whisk/spatula. And the ingredient list is user friendly; I kept the inclusions to just carrots and toasted pecans so you don’t have to buy pineapple or raisins. Plus, I think that keeps the flavor profile focused on the carrots and maple.

What role does sourdough discard play in this recipe?

Sourdough discard doesn’t make these bars tangy or sour. Instead, it makes them fluffy and soft because it increases the acidity of the batter, which weakens the gluten in flour. And because it has already been fermented, the gluten in the sourdough discard itself has also been weakened. It has the same effect in this fabulous Sourdough Discard Pumpkin Bread and Sourdough Rhubarb Cake.

The other thing discard does in baking is bring out the flavors of other ingredients in the recipe. This is due to the naturally occurring alcohols that develop in sourdough starter, and alcohol is a flavor enhancer. That means the main components of this cake; cinnamon, ginger, and carrot – really shine.

carrot cake bars with frosting piled on top

Main Ingredients for Sourdough Carrot Cake Bars

  • Sourdough Discard
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Eggs
  • Oil
  • Carrots
  • Sour Cream
  • Cinnamon and Ginger
  • Granulated and Brown Sugar
  • Pecans
carrot cake bars with maple cream cheese frosting

How to Make Sourdough Discard Carrot Cake Bars:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and sugar until combined. Add sour cream, sourdough discard, and vanilla, and whisk again until combined.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add to bowl with the liquid ingredients, and stir about 8-10 times to get some of the flour absorbed, but not all. Distribute carrots evenly over the top of the batter and, stir a few times, then add the pecans, and stir again until lightly distributed. You don’t want to overmix.
  3. Pour into an 8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 28 to 30 minutes, until toothpick has just moist crumbs attached when you poke through the cake.
  4. Let bars cool completely on a wire rack. Frost with maple cream cheese frosting and cut into bars.

How Long Does Sourdough Discard Last in the Fridge?

You can keep sourdough discard in your refrigerator for about 10 days. The discard will become more sour the longer it stays in the fridge.  For that reason, when I’m making something sweet like these bars, sourdough chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin scones, where I don’t want the sourness to come through, I use discard that is less than 5 days old.

carrot cake bars cut into squares

More Sourdough Discard Recipes:

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sourdough carrot cake bars cut into small pieces

Sourdough Carrot Cake Bars with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

These moist and soft carrot cake bars are made with sourdough discard, warm spices, and toasted pecans! They're a delicious use for your leftover sourdough starter and very easy to make. The maple cream cheese frosting is the perfect, creamy match to the tender crumb.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time :12 minutes
Cook Time :28 minutes
Yield: 12 bars
Author: Amanda Paa

SCALE:

Ingredients

  • 65 grams neutral oil such as sunflower oil, grapeseed, canola, coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 90 grams brown sugar
  • 65 grams granulated sugar
  • 80 grams sourdough discard, preferably room temperature
  • 75 grams sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 80 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 150 grams finely grated carrots
  • 50 grams finely chopped toasted pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 168 grams (6 ounces) softened, full fat cream cheese
  • 35 grams (2 tablespoons) softened, unsalted butter
  • 75 grams (3 1/2 tablespoons) pure maple syrup
  • pinch of fine salt (little less than 1/8 of teaspoon. important, do not forget)

Equipment

  • 8-inch square cake pan

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and sugar until combined. Add sour cream, sourdough discard, and vanilla, and whisk again until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add flour mixture to the liquid ingredients, and stir about 8-10 times to get some of the flour absorbed, but not all. Distribute carrots evenly over the top of the batter and, stir a few times, then add the pecans, and stir again until lightly distributed. You don’t want to overmix, you should just barely get the flour streaks to disappear.
  • Pour into an 8-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 28 to 30 minutes, until toothpick has just moist crumbs attached when you poke through the cake.
  • Let bars cool completely on a wire rack.
  • For the frosting, add cream cheese and butter to a medium size bowl. With a hand mixer or spatula, beat well until combined and smooth (I prefer hand mixer). Add maple syrup and salt, beat again until smooth and lightened. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed.) Frost with maple cream cheese frosting and cut into bars. Store bars in refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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March 21, 2024

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12 comments

  1. Rachel

    What can we substitute sour cream with? Greek yogurt? Hate sour cream. Lol

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Rachel! You won’t taste the sour cream in the cake, but full fat greek yogurt will work.

  2. Diane

    5 stars
    I just made the carrot cake this afternoon. Very good!! And very easy to make. I like that it only made a 8×8 pan. But I will still have to freeze a portion of it.
    I also made your Jalapeño,Cheddar Sour dough bread. That was also very delicious. Just wondering if I could double that recipe. I always like to make a loaf for me and also one for my son and family. Some recipes do not turn out if doubled.
    Thanks Amanda for your recipes.

    • Amanda Paa

      hi diane! so glad you enjoyed these bars. for the jalapeno cheddar sourdough, you could double, but split the dough when you go to shape into two loaves. if you doubled the recipe and made one loaf from it, it would be too big to manage.

  3. Dawn M

    Can I add crushed pineapple, raisins, and coconut, as I do with another carrot cake recipe?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Dawn! The recipe hasn’t been developed for those add-ins, I think it would be too wet.

  4. CK

    5 stars
    Delicious, my husband can’t stop eating it. We even like it without the frosting. Very moist & easy to make.

    • Amanda Paa

      Glad to hear that CK! We have the same problem in this house, they’re too good! thanks for making the recipe.

  5. Maria Morelli

    I would love to make theese but my discard is old , do you have a suggestion for omitting the discard? Pls thanks

  6. Nancy

    5 stars
    With a hand mixer or spatula, between until combined and smooth.

  7. Bobby_C

    5 stars
    This is a great way to use up sourdough starters.
    I am wondering why the author switches between metrics and imperial units? The cake batter ingredients in grams and ounces of cream cheese and tablespoons of butter in the icing. It’s kind of annoying having to switch units.

    • Amanda Paa

      Updated. ☺️