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Sourdough Starter Discard Cake with Banana and Dates

Bread Baker’s Date and Banana Tea Cake

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  • Author: Jennifer Latham
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 loaf cake
  • Category: Dessert, Breakfast, Brunch
  • Cuisine: American


The starting point for this bread was whole-grain spelt flour. It doesn’t shine in spite of being made with whole grains; it shines because it is made with whole grains. It gets much of its sweetness from molasses and dates, so it has more complex notes than white-sugar-only cakes. It also has a slight, pleasant tang from the buttermilk and the sourdough discard, which adds to the complexity. This is a rich, moist, dark, sultry version of banana bread that fits squarely in the cake department.

(This recipe is adapted from Tartine Book No. 3)


  • 85g / 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 80 g / ¾ cup walnuts (optional)
  • 150 g / 1 ¼ cup whole grain spelt flour (see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 80 g / ¾ cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling
  • 133 g / 1 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 170 g / ¾ cup mashed ripe bananas (from about 2 small or 1 1/2 large), plus 1 whole banana, for
  • topping (optional)
  • 75 g / 1/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 112 g / ½ cup ripe sourdough starter or sourdough starter discard
  • 53 g / 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 100 g / 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  2. Spread the walnuts (if using) in an even layer on a sheet pan. Toast until fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely. Roughly chop the walnuts.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk in the sugar. Add the chopped date pieces and toss to coat (this keeps them from clumping together in the dough.
  4. In a separate large bowl, using a large fork, mash and stir together the melted butter, bananas, buttermilk, sourdough starter, molasses, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour mixture and the walnuts (if using). Using a large spatula, stir until well combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan. If you like, you can slice a banana thinly longwise and lay the slices over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar over the top.
  5. Bake until the center of the cake feels set, 60 to 70 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. 
  6. Run a butter knife or offset spatula around the sides of the pan to make sure the cake is loose, and then unmold the cake and put it on a plate. Let the cake cool completely. The cake will keep well wrapped or in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. I think it’s actually best on day 3.


If you can’t find whole grain spelt flour, whole wheat flour will also work well.