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Marble Cake

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

Marble Cake

With swirls of tender vanilla and fudgy chocolate cake, this marble cake looks fancy but tastes like pure old-fashioned goodness, and it appeals to kids and grown-ups alike. It’s essentially a marbled version of this award-winning Kentucky Butter Cake. Surprisingly, you don’t need two completely different batters to make marble cake. 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. 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.(Other high-ratio cakes on the site include pound cake, yellow cake, and rum cake.)

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, 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 zig-zag 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, and vanilla. 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

  • ½ cup natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey's
  • 2½ cups sugar, divided
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, best quality such as Ghirardelli, broken into 1-in pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

For the Glaze

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ 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, ½ 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 2½ 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 zig-zag 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.
  8. While the cake bakes, make the glaze: 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.
  9. 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 ¾ 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Note: If you’d like to make your own buttermilk, check out the easy method here.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Calories: 443
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 66 g
  • Sugar: 45 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 223 mg
  • Cholesterol: 87 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I made this cake recently for my daughter’s and grandson’s birthday celebration. It was a HUGE hit! Beautiful and delicious! I did drizzle with chocolate frosting instead of the glaze. I will be baking it again, maybe next time trying the glaze. Thank you!

    • — Jan M. on February 20, 2024
    • Reply
  • My kids loved it. I thought it was a bit heavy on the chocolate and would probably reduce the amount of chocolate batter if I made it again. I’d also use less of the syrup because it was a little too sweet.

    • — Jen on January 17, 2024
    • Reply
  • Unfortunately, It’s way too sweet… This is so sad because I followed the recipe step by step, I used the same semi-sweet chocolate as the direction and it did look good when it came out from the oven. But no one could eat it, I took a bite of it and the sweetness was very overwhelming and no one in my family was willing to eat the rest.

    • — mourin on December 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • The chocolate batter did not stay smooth and eventually congealed into small clumps. I continued with the recipe nonetheless and the cake was still delicious (chocolate in any form is yummy), but I can’t figure out why the chocolate batter turned out the way it did. Could it be because I used Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate and not Ghirardelli’s? Or maybe I over whisked it? Thx.

    • — Lina on December 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Lina, I haven’t heard that before, but what you’ve described would not have been caused by using Baker’s chocolate or overwhipping. I’m wondering if perhaps the chocolate mixture cooled off too much and seized up when mixed with the batter. Was the chocolate mixture pretty cool by the time you added it?

      • — Jenn on December 21, 2023
      • Reply
  • I didnt like it at all! Its too heavy

    • — Rawan Alkhadhra on November 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • so i can make this into a 2 layer cake and frost?

    • — Nidhi on November 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes, I’d use two 9-inch round pans.

      • — Jenn on November 17, 2023
      • Reply
      • Lovely recipe. I reduced the sugar significantly though.

        • — Alisha on February 9, 2024
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn….
    I will be frosting the cake. Should I still add the sugar glaze and what chocolate frosting would you recommend making. Thanks for all of your terrific recipes!

    • — Ellen Boshe on November 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Ellen, Yes, I’d still use the glaze even if you frost it. If you want chocolate frosting, you could use the frosting from this recipe. For a vanilla version, this would work nicely. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Yummy 😋 😋 😋 😋 😋

    • — Georgia on October 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent marble cake. One of the best cakes I have made in a long time. I made half the recipe and I baked it in a 5 cup Bundt loaf pan and it came out perfect. Nice and moist. I will be making it often.

    • — Jayne on October 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • Followed the recipe to the letter but it came out dry as dust. So disappointed! Even with the glaze soaked in, the cake was terribly dry.

    • — Elyse on October 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Could I half the recipe if I’m using a 9 inch pan? Thanks

    • — Deepa on September 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Deepa, I think that should work. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on September 5, 2023
      • Reply
      • So I decided to find a Bundt pan as fast as I could cause yours looked so beautiful and scrapped the 9-inch pan idea! I found a smaller Bundt pan and had extra batter but OH MY GOD THE CAKE IS DIVINE – and the chocolate bits do taste close to brownies! Love this Jenn!

        • — Deepa on September 7, 2023
        • Reply
  • I made this cake for my son’s birthday using three 8-inch cake pans, and it was excellent! I used the glaze as instructed and it was very moist, but also sturdy enough for a 3-layer cake. I will continue to use this as my go-to birthday cake recipe! Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on August 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • I moved from Los Angeles to Iowa and the thing I miss most is Aunt Joy’s marble cake. Hers has the most delicious chocolate frosting that has a hint of espresso or coffee flavor. I’m gonna make this. Do you have a frosting that you can recommend?

      I can’t wait! This looks incredible.

      • — Julia A Higgins on December 25, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Julia, this would be nice with a ganache frosting. You can use this recipe (use the one specified for glaze/fondue) and add the optional espresso powder. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it!

        • — Jenn on December 27, 2023
        • Reply
  • Does the baking time or temperature change if I’m just using a regular cake pan?

    • — Terri on June 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Terri, by regular cake pan, do you intend to make it into a layer cake? If so, I’d use two 9-inch round pans. I’d bake them at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 7, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi! Has anyone tried using this recipe for cupcakes? Time/temp difference? Thanks so much!

        • — Chris on July 13, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Chris, I haven’t made these into cupcakes but I think it would work. I’d keep the oven temp the same and start checking them at 20 to 22 minutes. Please LMK how they turn out!

          • — Jenn on July 13, 2023
          • Reply
  • I am reading the recipe for Marble Cake. I wanted to make sure that the baking temperature is indeed 325. Thank you.

    • — Elaine S on June 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yep, that’s correct. Hope you enjoy the cake if you make it!

      • — Jenn on June 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hey there! In the instructions before the recipe, you mention salt as one of the ingredients in the glaze, but I don’t see salt listed in the glaze recipe or the instructions below that. Is there any salt added to the glaze portion and if so, how much? Thanks so much and looking forward to giving this a try for Mother’s Day!

    • — Naomi on May 12, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Naomi, no there is no salt added to the glaze, so what you see is a typo – thanks for pointing that out and I’m sorry for any confusion! I’m going to correct it now; hope you enjoy the cake!

      • — Jenn on May 12, 2023
      • Reply
  • Genuinely one of the best recipes I’ve ever made

    • — Anonymous on April 30, 2023
    • Reply

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