top of page
  • Writer's pictureMcKenna

the upside-down sourdough orange cake

Prep time: 40min

Bake time: 30min

Serves: 8-12

IT'S HERE. I've been waiting for over a month to share this recipe with you. This cake was created for my first-ever baking workshop - Sourdough Sweets & Fermented Treats, & now I can finally share it publically!

Last week, a group of wonderful ladies joined me for a day of baking & all things sourdough. It was a really joyful day. We talked about the health benefits of fermentation, how to make a sourdough starter, & fun ways to use up the mountain of discard that you'll inevitably accumulate. Throughout the workshop, we made 3 desserts & snacked on lots of food, including fresh sourdough bread. Everyone went home with desserts, bread of course, & a cookbook with all of the recipes we made (and more!).

By the end of it, I was quite blown away at how perfect it went & the curiosity that everyone brought. It was a special day that really affirmed the pull I've been feeling to host in-person workshops & bake with others. That said, here's to many more very soon!

Upside-down sourdough orange cake

about this cake

When I was creating the event menu, I had 2 recipes in mind - both solid choices. But it needed a show-stopper. Something new, something I hadn't tried before, or shared with anyone else.

At the time, I was craving something citrusy to commemorate Spring... like a cake! One you could pair with tea on a sunny Sunday morning. And of course, it needed to use sourdough discard. Then... I had it. An upside-down sourdough orange cake. With poppyseeds. And homemade candied oranges.

I'll admit, I felt a bit outside my comfort zone with this one. I'm a chocolate lover through & through so when I had the urge for citrus, the nerves hit me. But sometimes, you just have an inclination. And after the first test came out a huge success (this rarely happens), I knew it was a winner.

on to the recipe...

If you have sourdough discard lying around, you can make this recipe today! No waiting required.

Here's what you'll need:

Flour: All-purpose + almond flour

Fruit: Oranges

Sourdough discard: From the fridge, chilled

Sweetener: Coconut sugar, maple syrup

Fat: Ghee, olive oil, coconut milk

Additional: Poppy seeds (not necessary but fun to have!)

arranging the orange slices:

Begin by greasing the bottom of your cake pan with ghee or coconut oil. Make sure your oranges are sliced & ready to go. Start by placing one slice against the bottom edge of the pan - half of the orange will fold up the side, & the other half will be flat with the bottom of your pan. This is why it's important to have thinly sliced oranges, they'll hold their shape better. Continue placing the orange slices around the edge of the pan until the crease is fully covered. Next, begin filling in the middle. I didn't arrange these oranges in any particular order, but, I would recommend stacking a few slices on top of one another to make sure all of the gaps are filled. By the end, you shouldn't see the bottom of the pan at all. Set aside & follow the next steps below.

Candied orange slices


Oranges: You'll need 3 oranges in total, 2 will be sliced thinly, the other will be for zesting / juice. Feel free to add a blood orange to the mix for some color variation. There's no need to peel your oranges since they'll be candied - they won't be nearly as bitter to bite. Just be sure to wash them really well.

Slicing the oranges: I recommend using the sharpest knife you have to get the oranges as thin as possible. If you own a mandolin, that works great too. For an easier cut, place your oranges in the fridge for at least an hour before to help them firm up.

Flour selection: This recipe is not like the usual gluten-free recipes you'll find here. I didn't want to mess with finding the perfect ratio as it can be a challenge. So, this recipe uses organic, all-purpose flour mixed with almond flour for a nutty flavor. The fat from the almond flour, as well as the ghee, coconut milk, & olive oil, help to reduce the blood sugar spike from hyper-palatable foods, such as cakes & other desserts.

Sugar: Coconut sugar is my go-to sweetener, about 90% of the time. I was a bit hesitant with this recipe because of the citrus & wanting to create a lighter, spring-time dessert. But I was pleasantly surprised. I found the richness of the coconut sugar actually enhanced the oranges & added complexity to the taste. Nutritionally speaking, it's lower on the glycemic index & provides a small dose of nutrients like non-heme iron, calcium, & zinc.

Ghee / olive oil: Personally, I wouldn't substitute these if you can. Ghee is close to butter, so you could try that, but the water:fat ratio is slightly different so you may get a different texture. You could replace the olive oil with avocado oil for a neutral taste; however, I find the olive oil is quite nice paired with the oranges.

Coconut milk: I went with full-fat coconut milk, not coconut cream (this will change the texture). Make sure to use a can that has been set at room-temp, rather than the fridge. Mix the can thoroughly before adding your milk to the recipe.

Upside down sourdough orange cake


9 x 2 in cake pan

very sharp knife or mandolin

small - medium saucepan

measuring cups / spoons



Orange topping:

3 oranges, 2 will be sliced thinly

1 c water

1 c coconut sugar

1 Tbsp ghee

1 tsp vanilla


1 c all-purpose flour

¾ c coconut sugar

½ c almond flour

5 Tbsp ghee, unsalted & softened

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

⅓ c canned coconut milk

⅓ c sourdough discard

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp poppy seeds

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

¾ tsp salt

2 eggs

juice of ½ large orange

zest of 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with softened ghee & set aside.

Using a very sharp knife or mandolin, cut the oranges crosswise into ⅛ to ¼-inch thick slices (discard any pieces that are too thick).

Combine the water & coconut sugar in a small saucepan & bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully add orange slices into the saucepan & simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes or just as the peels turn translucent.

While the oranges are simmering, prepare the batter. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder & salt until no clumps remain. Set aside.

Check on the oranges. Once translucent, use a spoon to move orange slices to a plate. Turn the stove up to medium heat & continue cooking the sugar for 20 minutes or until noticeably thickened. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t bubble too much.

While simmering, continue with the flour. Using a standard mixer, beat the eggs at medium-high speed until light & foamy, about 2 minutes.

After 2 minutes, add the orange zest, juice of the orange, vanilla, & sugar then continue beating until well incorporated. Next, turn off the mixer & check on the sugar. If ready, turn off the stove & stir in the vanilla & butter. Set aside.

To the mixer, add the softened butter, oil, sourdough discard & milk, continue mixing on medium speed until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Turn off the mixer & add the dry ingredients. Mix by hand until there are no dry clumps of flour.

Arrange candied orange slices decoratively in the bottom of your cake pan. *NOTE, save extra orange slices to fill bare spots on your cake after baking if needed.

Pour the sugar mixture into the prepared cake pan, covering the oranges.

Spoon the batter into your prepared cake pan to not disrupt the orange topping. Bake for 27-30 minutes or until the top of the cake is just barely golden.

Move the cake to a wire rack & let it set for at least 15 minutes.

Using a butterknife, go around the edge of the pan, loosening the cake from the dish. Be careful not to press the oranges down, go slow. Flip your cake upside down on a serving platter & give it a good wack to loosen the bottom.

Add extra orange slices to fill in any bare spots on your cake.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm or at room temp.

Upside-down sourdough orange cake


Don't have a sourdough starter?

I created a FREE guide with everything I wish I knew when I grew my first starter. Here's a step-by-step guide with printable pages, recipes, timelines, troubleshooting, & more!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page