Cupcakes & Small Cakes

Autumnal Muffins {sourdough style}

Orange zest, poppy seeds, banana, chocolate, an underlying warmth of ginger – I don’t know why but the combination of these ingredients says autumn to me.

I know that it isn’t technically autumn for another week (according to some, and it probably depends where in the world you are / live) and in all honesty I had these muffins planned for later in the month, but …

The categories to choose from on the Great British Bake Off last week were:

  • European yeasted cakes
  • Swedish princess cake
  • A multi-layered creation involving a lot of sugar work

Given my experience of making fudge last week I was in no hurry to wrestle with sugar again quite so soon. Also, with a few other things on the agenda over the weekend, a multi-layered cake or one that required several different stages (aka Swedish princess cake) wasn’t all that appealing either.

Which left me with European yeasted cakes.

autumnal muffins 3 - the pink rose bakery

I briefly flirted with the notion of making a Sachertorte. But no sooner had I begun to flutter my eyelashes than I realised it was a non-starter for the reasons mentioned above. Too many layers and processes.

What I decided to focus on was yeasted cake, rather than anything classified as European.

My mind was having the debate which I’m sure many have had – “yeasted cake? Isn’t that just another way of saying enriched bread, like brioche?”

I found a very helpful page on the Shipton Mill website that said yes, yeasted cake in olden times was bread that contained more sugar and fat than usual (sounds like brioche to me), but it also mentioned that cakes were traditionally risen with yeasts before such modern inventions like baking powder came along.

Thanks to my day at River Cottage I now have an everyday bread recipe that is made with a sourdough and a little fresh yeast. And it was this recipe that I set about adapting to make something sweeter, a little richer and also with a hint of spice.

The results, I have to say, were very tasty. But it was still very definitely bread rather than cake.

autumnal muffins 2 - the pink rose bakery

As those of you who have used sourdough before will know, in order to keep it going you have to remove a bit of the starter and feed what is left with flour and water at least once a week. I tend to make bread every other week (so that I have one week with bread and the next with none, otherwise I find it is too much) but I diligently feed my starter every Friday. Most weeks I make little buckwheat pancakes with the bit that I remove, but occasionally I will make muffins. In order to try to get ahead of the game, I decided to make muffins this week as well as the bread.

And the more I thought about it over the weekend, the more I came to the conclusion that these muffins fit the description of yeasted cake better than the spiced fruity loaves I made.

So I have swapped them around. The bread will make an appearance later in the month. Today we are munching on muffins.

I love these. Really I do. Not only are the flavours so comforting, but the sponge is lovely and soft, they are not too sweet (you can increase the sugar a little if you prefer things on the sweeter side) and they are perfect with either a cup of tea or coffee as a snack or for breakfast.

I may have had these for breakfast for the past two days.

Everybody loves cake for breakfast.

autumnal muffins 1 - the pink rose bakery

Because I am sure I must have bored you with my long-winded explanation as to why these muffins have appeared earlier than they were intended. Or depending on your point of view, before the leaves have well and truly turned orange, here is the recipe. Notes on how to make and keep a sourdough starter are at the bottom.

Autumnal Muffins {sourdough style}

  • Servings: 6-7 muffins
  • Print


For the sourdough sponge:

  • 25g buckwheat flour
  • 25g sorghum flour
  • 3 dessert spoons sourdough starter
  • 1 heaped tsp flaxmeal
  • 100ml lukewarm water (filtered or boiled and cooled)

For the muffins:

  • all of the sourdough sponge from above
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 50g mashed banana, plus 7 slices to top the muffins with
  • 50g coconut sugar, or soft light brown sugar
  • 3 pinches sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • zest of a clementine
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 40g dark chocolate chips


  1. 6 to 12 hours before you want to make the muffins, you need to make the sourdough sponge. Place all the ingredients for the sponge in a small bowl and mix well. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm-ish place until needed. The end result will be a well aerated mixture with lots of bubbles visible when you pull the top back with a spoon. A little of the water may separate, this is fine.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius / 160 Fan / 350 Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with cases.
  3. Cut 7 slices of banana and set aside for decoration (this is optional). In a clean bowl mash 50g of banana with the butter (you can eat any remaining banana if you wish) until well combined. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, ginger, clementine zest and bicarb and mix together well.
  4. Beat in the egg.
  5. Add the ground almonds and poppy seeds and mix in, followed by the sourdough sponge.
  6. Add the vinegar and beat well. Quickly add the chocolate chips and stir to distribute.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling them 3/4 full. Gently press a banana slice into the top of each muffin.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin completely. Store in an airtight container.


I use rice flour to make my sourdough, but theoretically you can use whatever flour you wish, however different flours will produce a different taste. Brown rice flour is recommend where possible, as it contains more natural yeasts, however it can be difficult to get hold of some that is certified gluten-free, which is essential if you are coeliac. I use Dove’s Farm Rice Flour, which is certified and a mixture of both brown and white rice flour.

It is also important to use either mineral water, filtered water or water that has been boiled and cooled as the chlorine in tap water can inhibit the growth of the natural yeasts.

Day 1 – Mix together 60g brown rice flour and 90g luke warm water in a bowl or plastic container. Cover with a bag or plate and leave in a warm place. After 24 hours, add the following:

Day 2 – 45g brown rice flour and 60g luke warm water. Stir well and cover again. After 24 hours, add the following:

Day 3 – 45g brown rice flour and 60g luke warm water. Stir well and cover again. By now the mixture should be starting to bubble and smell a little yeasty. After 24 hours, add the following;

Day 4 – 90g brown rice flour and 120g luke warm water. Leave for another 24 hours and then it is ready to use or store.

To store the starter – transfer to a tupperware or plastic container (please don’t use glass in case it all gets a bit active) and keep in the fridge. Allow it to come up to room temperature before using if you are using it on a non-feeding day. Feed regularly, at least once a week, more if using it every other day or so. If I am making something small then I will remove what I need then feed the starter with 45g flour and 60g luke warm water, leave it at room temperature for roughly 12 hours to allow the yeasts to wake up and get bubbling again before returning it to the fridge. If I am planing on making a lot or some bread then I will feed it with 90g flour and 120g luke warm water (leaving it at room temperature for 12 hours as before). This should be enough to keep your starter healthy and usable. Feeding it is important as it promotes the growth of the good yeasts which help keep bacteria in check. Lack of feeding will cause it to go mouldy. However, sometimes even when feeding it, mould can appear. If you see any spots of green, purple, orange or black mould / furry bits then I’m afraid you will have to throw it away and start again.

© The Pink Rose Bakery 2014

Adapted from a River Cottage recipe.


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