Marble Cake

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This marble cake may look fancy, but its flavor is pure old-fashioned goodness.

Whether you call this a company cake or a coffee cake, the idea is the same: it’s meant to sit temptingly on the kitchen counter for several days, ready to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or shared with anyone who drops by. I have several wonderful cakes in this category–such as Zingerman’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake and Boy Bait–but this marble cake might be my favorite. With swirls of tender vanilla and fudgy chocolate cake, it looks fancy but tastes like pure old-fashioned goodness — and it appeals to kids and grown-ups alike.

Surprisingly, you don’t need two completely different batters to make marble cake; the chocolate batter is made from the vanilla batter. You simply take a third of the vanilla batter and mix it with melted chocolate and cocoa powder and voilà–that’s your chocolate batter! Be careful not to over-marble the batters or the flavors will get muddled; a few swirls around the pan with a knife will do the trick.

What You’ll Need To Make Marble Cake

marble cake ingredients

Most recipes for marble cake call solely for cocoa powder for the chocolate portion of the cake. I like to add real chocolate as well for a more intense, fudgy flavor; this makes the chocolate swirl portion of the cake taste almost like a brownie.

If you’d rather not buy a whole carton of buttermilk for this recipe, it’s easy to make your own. Simply add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Then add regular milk to the 1-cup line and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly curdled and thickened.

The Method

This butter cake is a “high-ratio” cake, which means that the weight of the sugar equals or exceeds the weight of the flour. Why does this matter? Instead of the more common “creaming” method (where the butter and sugar are beaten together before the eggs, flour, and liquid are added), high-ratio cakes can be made using the “high-ratio” or “quick-mix” method. This involves mixing all the dry ingredients with the butter and some of the liquid first, then adding the remaining liquid ingredients.

This method is not only faster and easier than the traditional creaming method, but it also yields incredibly tender and fine-textured cakes.

How To Make Marble Cake

sugar, cocoa powder, and water in pan

In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking until smooth.

adding the chocolate pieces to the chocolate mixture

Off the heat, immediately add the chocolate; whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

chocolate mixture

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk in bowl

Whisk and set aside. (Note that the mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that’s okay.)

whisked buttermilk and egg mixture

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 2 cups of sugar. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixer

Add the softened butter and half of the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute.

With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture until incorporated.

gradually adding the buttermilk mixtureIncrease the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.

finished vanilla batterTransfer about 2-1/2 cups of the batter to a medium bowl and add the chocolate mixture.

vanilla and chocolate batters in bowl

Whisk until smooth — that’s your chocolate batter.

whisked chocolate batterSpoon half of the remaining vanilla batter into a greased Bundt pan.

first layer of vanilla batter in Bundt panPour the chocolate batter over top.

chocolate batter layer in Bundt panFinish by spooning the remaining vanilla batter over the chocolate (don’t worry about covering the chocolate layer completely).

last layer of vanilla batter over the chocolate batterUsing a butter knife, swirl the batters together with a figure-eight motion, going three times around the pan. It may not look like the batters are swirled; that’s okay. It’s important not to overswirl.

swirled batter in Bundt pan

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. While the cake bakes, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, water, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.

cake glazeSet the baked cake on a cooling rack. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke about 40 holes in the bottom of the still-hot cake, going about 3/4 of the way down. Spoon or brush half of the glaze evenly over the bottom of the cake. If the glaze starts to pool on the surface, poke more holes to help it absorb.

Leave the cake on the rack to cool for 30 minutes.

glazed marble cake resting on rack

Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Brush the remaining glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake, letting it soak in as you go. (Go slowly so that the glaze gets absorbed.)

glazing top of marble cake

Let the cake sit for at least two hours before serving. Cut with a serrated knife.

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Marble Cake

This marble cake may look fancy, but its flavor is pure old-fashioned goodness.

Servings: One 10-in Bundt Cake
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 60 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes, plus a few hours to cool

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey's
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, best quality such as Ghirardelli, broken into 1-in pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

For the Glaze

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray a 10-in (12-cup) Bundt pan generously with nonstick cooking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking until smooth. Off the heat, immediately add the chocolate; whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside. (Note that the mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that's okay.)
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 2 cups of sugar. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the softened butter and half of the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.
  5. Transfer about 2-1/2 cups of the batter to a medium bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
  6. Spoon half of the remaining vanilla batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Pour the chocolate batter over top. Finish by spooning the remaining vanilla batter over the chocolate (don't worry about covering the chocolate layer completely). Using a butter knife, swirl the batters together with a figure-eight motion, going three times around the pan. It may not look like the batters are swirled; that's okay. It's important not to over-swirl.
  7. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke about 40 holes in the bottom of the still-hot cake, going about 3/4 of the way down. Spoon or brush half of the glaze evenly over the bottom of the cake. If the glaze starts to pool on the surface, poke more holes to help it absorb. Leave the cake on the rack to cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Brush the remaining glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake, letting it soak in as you go. (Go slowly so that the glaze gets absorbed.) Let the cake sit for at least two hours before serving. Cut with a serrated knife.

For the Glaze

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, water, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.
  2. Make-Ahead Instructions: This cake keeps well for several days. Once cool, store in a cake dome (or cover with plastic wrap) at room temperature until ready to serve.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This cake is absolutely the best!! Turned out perfect first time! I have your recipe book and have made many of the recipes. Loved every one!

    • — Doreen on November 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made this cake today but it stuck to the bottom of my bundt pan even after I sprayed and floured it. I think the reason may be that my pan is old and worn out. May I ask the name or brand of the bundt pan that you use and where I can purchase one? I would love to make this cake again! Thanks!

    • — Cindy on November 12, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sorry to hear it stuck, Cindy. This is similar to the bundt pan I have. I assume you’ll have better luck with a new pan. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made this over the weekend. Delicious!!! I’m a chocolate fan, my husband not so much, but he loved this. Next time I will take cake out at 60 minutes (vs 65). Was a little hard to determine doneness when toothpick hit some of the more gooey chocolate so I kept it in the oven a few more minutes. My oven bakes pretty accurately so I should have trusted my instinct that it was done in 60 minutes. And as much as you’d like to dig in immediately after unmolding, DO let the cake rest the 2 hours. This is a very tender cake and the chocolate parts need time to firm up. Jenn, another winner!!!!!

    • — Mindy on November 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Again,

    I haven’t tried the marble cake yet, but I’ve made it twice since I read the recipe last week. It’s fun to make! I’ve been busy all weekend baking and freezing for Thanksgiving and beyond. I have ten 26-year-old women coming for a college “reunion” two weeks after Thanksgiving…my daughter and her friends don’t want to give up the tradition, yay me, haha.

    My question is this: Why, in this recipe, do you have the dry goods in the mixer and add the liquid to it, when usually, we cream together butter and sugar before adding flour mixture and alternating with egg/milk mixture? I’m so curious! Does it change the crumb of the cake significantly? I would imagine it does because we seem to be beating it a lot more than a typical cake recipe calls for…inquiring minds want to know!

    Thanks,

    Ruthie

    • — Ruthie on November 11, 2019
    • Reply
    • That’s a great question, Ruthie. This is a “high-ratio” cake, which means that the weight of the sugar equals or exceeds the weight of the flour. Instead of the more common “creaming” method (where the butter and sugar are beaten together before the eggs, flour, and liquid are added), high-ratio cakes can be made using the “high-ratio” or “quick-mix” method. This involves mixing all the dry ingredients with the butter and some of the liquid first, then adding the remaining liquid ingredients. This method is not only faster and easier than the traditional creaming method, but it also yields incredibly tender and fine-textured cakes.

      • — Jenn on November 11, 2019
      • Reply
  • I was trying to figure out what dessert I was going to make to go along with Sunday dinner. This recipe called for ingredients I already had in the pantry so I gave it a shot. I cut the sugar by 1/2 because I don’t care for really sweet dessert. OMG!!! This recipe was spot on!! It is so delicious and moist, I am a fan and so is my family. Thanks for completing our Sunday dinner. 🙂

    • — Ali Hicks on November 10, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made the Marble Cake today!!It is absolutely awesome!

    • — Gelly on November 10, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’ve been using your recipes for years and love too many to name…a couple of my favorites are the Big Italian Salad and grilled chicken breasts…yum!

    For this cake, I’d love to reduce the sugar without losing texture/consistency…how much less can I get away with?

    • — Ruthie on November 9, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Ruthie, So glad you like the recipes! You can get away with reducing the sugar by 1/2 cup without impacting the texture/moisture of the cake. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made the Marble Cake the same day I received the recipe and made it exactly as your recipe states. It is absolutely awesome! My cake looks just like the photo and the flavor and texture is fabulous—so moist, tender, and chocolaty. I WILL be making it again. Your site is my go-to when looking for beautiful, delicious food.

    • — Donna on November 8, 2019
    • Reply
  • definitely I will try this delicious cake. I was waiting for a long time till you create Marble Cake. what size would you recommend for loaf pan? i want to cut the cake more like square looking shape?

    • — Edith on November 8, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Edith, You’ll need two 8-1/2 by 4-1/2 loaf pans. Please LMK how it turns out if you make it! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi. Please clarify the size of the Bundt pan to use. At the top of the recipe it says 10″, but in the body it says 12″. Maybe it doesn’t matter? Thanks!

    • — Linda on November 8, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Linda, Sorry for any confusion. A 10-inch bundt pan holds 12 cups, which is what the instructions indicate, but I can understand why it would be confusing. I’ve updated the recipe to make it more clear. Hope you enjoy if you make it! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Love your recipes and they are my go-to’s for Always Good dishes. Your Marble Cake looks excellent as well, although I have yet to give it a try. I am always looking for Holiday food gifts for friends and am wondering if this cake might be a good choice and if it would translate well in a mini bundt pan? How would the baking time alter? And also if you have a source for small bundt pans.
    Thank you so much!

    • — Susan Whitfield on November 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, While the marbling step may be a bit more challenging in minis, I think it’s doable. What size are the mini pans? (That would help to determine the amount of time they need in the oven.) And I don’t have mini bundts but I really like my standard-size Nordic Ware bundt pan.

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2019
      • Reply
      • I have a mini bundt pan that I bought several years ago from Pampered Chef. It’s stoneware…I bet they still carry it.

        • — Ruthie on November 9, 2019
        • Reply
  • Just curious, what is the purpose of the butter glaze? How different is the cake without applying it?

    • — Cynthia Barnett on November 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Cynthia, The cake is good on its own but the glaze adds wonderful flavor, moisture, and a slightly crisp texture on the outside of the cake. It really does take the cake up a notch (and also helps it keep much longer). Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I am looking forward to trying this recipe after making your marbled banana bread! I am wondering if I can substitue the buttermilk with sour cream? Thanks so much!!

    • — Trish on November 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Trish, You can but I would thin it with a bit of water or milk to get it to the consistency of buttermilk.

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • Can’t wait to make this…it is the Kentucky Butter Cake with the addition of a chocolate layer…yum! I have never made a marble cake and know this one will be delicious! Will review it after I make it. Thanks for another great recipe.

    • — Karen T on November 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hope you enjoy it, Karen! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2019
      • Reply

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