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Marble Cake

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

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. 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, 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, 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

  • 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 love this cake recipe. I’ve made it so many times. I’ll never not make it. Even bought a new Bundt pan specifically for this cake because I bought a cheap one the first time, thinking I wouldn’t use it much. That cheap pan was the cause of several stuck cakes. Seriously, this is one of 3 cake recipes I’ll make over & over because the result is consistently delicious. The only thing I’ve been troubleshooting is the ratio of chocolate to vanilla. For some reason my end result is always a cake that appears half chocolate/half vanilla when sliced. I only used 2 cups of batter this last time when mixing up the chocolate portion, but that still seems to be too much. I never achieve the layered look. I also tried layering the chocolate batter in very carefully so that it wouldn’t just plop through the vanilla, but no luck. Absolutely a minor problem, though, considering how much I love this cake. 💕

    • — Sarah F. on September 7, 2022
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  • Thank you for this delicious recipe! I made it and turned out perfect. I skipped the glaze, but followed everything things else and it turned out perfect. Using the melted chocolate enhanced the fudge flavor so much. My husband said usually he is not a fan of old fashioned cake but this is his favorite cake I’ve made. It took some effort to make and the clean up but was so worth it. It was eaten so fast, my youngest son was so upset someone finished it 😆. I am making it a second time this week!

    • — Sandra Bastawi on August 5, 2022
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  • Tried making this with my daughter today. Great instructions, easy to follow and the cake turned out amazing. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us. We used a Lindt dark chocolate bar in substitute for the one recommended and used half the sugar, it turned out so moist and delicious.

    • — Nidhi on July 24, 2022
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  • Yum. Sooo good 👍🏾. I had most of the powdered cocoa. Had to use margarine for the Cake and salted butter for the glaze . And I Made buttermilk with lemon juice and 4 teaspoons of powdered milk to make the Milk. Still turned fantastic .😋 thanks 😊

    • — Susan Lanier on July 9, 2022
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  • Hi Jenn
    I made your marble cake for my guests yesterday and it was a huge hit. Thanks for the recipe

    • — ozlem on May 8, 2022
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  • Hi Jenn, I only have a 10 cup Bundt pan and don’t have a 12 cup Bundt pan, would you have any tips on how to reduce the quantity and baking time of this recipe accordingly? There’s only 4 of us in the family so a 12 cup Bundt is a little too much cake for us! Really looking forward to trying this for the Easter break coming up, and a very big thank you for being so patient and helpful with all your readers!

    • — Mel on April 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mel, Happy to help! You’ll likely have a little too much batter. I’d fill the pan up halfway and bake any remaining batter in a muffin tin for cupcakes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 11, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn, can’t wait to try this out! Do you have any suggestions for how long and what temperature I should bake the 10 cup Bundt pan for? And how long do you suggest I bake the remaining batter in the muffin tins, and at what temperature? Sorry for these basic questions, I’m not very confident in baking just yet – thanks so much for sharing your baking skills with your readers!

        • — Mel on April 13, 2022
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        • PS. These are the “muffin pans” I was thinking about buying if this helps with estimating bake time. I got inspired by your beautiful cake photos, but wanted to wait to see what you thought first before committing – I trust you! 🙂 https://www.williams-sonoma.com.au/nordic-ware-deco-cakelet-pan
          https://www.williams-sonoma.com.au/nordic-ware-70th-anniversary-cakelet-plaque

          • — Mel on April 13, 2022
          • Reply
          • Hi Mel, Typical muffins should take about 25 minutes. I’m not sure how long these will take as they look like they’re bigger than your typical muffin. I’d check them at 25 minutes but they may need a bit more time than that. Please LMK how they turn out!

            • — Jenn on April 14, 2022
        • Happy to help! The bake time for the bundt cake should be about the same if not just a bit shorter (and the oven temp should remain the same).

          • — Jenn on April 14, 2022
          • Reply
          • Sorry Jenn, one last question, how long do you think I should bake if I scale down to use a 6 cup Bundt tin and halve the recipe quantities? Thanks for being so patient with all my questions!

            • — Mel on May 9, 2022
          • Hi Mel, it’s hard to say for sure, but I’d start checking it at about 40 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it!

            • — Jenn on May 10, 2022
  • I used your basic recipe, but made a few changes of my own. First, no Hershey’s cocoa, I always bake with Dutch cocoa. I added 2 t of almond extract with vanilla, 1 t to the glaze. 1 t espresso powder to chocolate mix. It may have been the best cake I have ever baked, and I have baked a lot of them.

    • — Brenda on March 31, 2022
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  • I just made this and found the cake was quite bland!! Not sweet enough and not enough flavour.. will not be making again

    • — Lori on March 24, 2022
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  • i honestly dont understand how people could reduce the amount of sugar!! i put the recommended amount and found it wasnt sweet enough!! i will be putting more sugar next time

    • — lola on March 22, 2022
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  • Made this cake and it was delicious. I will definitely make this again. It was a real hit! Thank you

    • — Karen Rigaux on March 21, 2022
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    • Thank you for sharing this recipe! Yumm

      • — Chef Flo on September 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Quick question if my Bundt pan is dark nonstick should I bake at lower temperature and will time change?

    • — Chris on February 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Chris, Sure, I’d reduce the oven temp by 25°F. The bake time will be a bit longer so keep a close eye on it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 28, 2022
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  • This is one of the best bundt cakes I have ever made. Instructions are easy to follow. I was skeptical about the glaze at first, however, it makes it even better. Thank you for this delicious recipe!

    • — Valentina on February 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is one of best cakes I’ve ever baked! I followed your recipe except added 2 egg yolks and 2tbs flour.

    • — Ella on January 22, 2022
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  • With a stormy weekend brewing, I found the “Marble cake Project” a most suitable activity. Really tried my best to hold fast to the recipe and was rewarded with a marvelous creation of tastiness. I might have overswirled, no surprise, but the overall effect was terrific. Moist and flavorful with the chocolate richness just outstanding. I thought about a Mahlerian orchestra while I baked this cake. Maestro Mahler used everything you could bang, beat, or blow in his orchestration. And this recipe uses almost every tool in a bakers arsenal and then some. Clean up as you go, you’ll be glad you did.
    Thanks again Jenn for another delightful winner.

    • — Jim McCarthy on January 17, 2022
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  • First recipe I have tried from Once Upon a Chef and I will certainly be back. This cake turned out perfectly. The cake was so soft and moist with a super fine outer crust, thanks to the lovely buttery glaze, I was a bit sceptical about the glaze, so only used about half, but it really does add to the texture and flavour. My Granddaughter wants me to use this recipe for her birthday cake next month. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes Jenn!

    • — Irene Wratten on January 16, 2022
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  • This was a wonderful recipe we really enjoyed the cake and I would highly highly recommend it. My only reservation was that the texture was a little crumblier than I would like but that could be operator error. I may have beat it after adding the final liquid a little too long. I don’t know if this would have contributed to it being a little less moist and I would have liked. But overall it’s a definite keeper and I will use again. I made the mistake of using too much batter to make the chocolate so mine turned out like a reverse marble cake but I’m certainly not complaining about that.

    • — Terry Mc on January 14, 2022
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  • Made this in a bread pan with 3/4 measurements. Reduced sugar slightly and added espresso shot to boost the chocolate flavour. It took full hour to bake, turned out moist and delicious.

    • — Angie on January 10, 2022
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    • Update: made the recipe a few times as it amazes me every time. Discovered that covering the cake with aluminium foil while baking yields superior results. It stays so moist. I also preferred using milk instead of water.

      • — Angie on August 18, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi, is it possible to lessen the sugar for this recipe?

    • — Ray on January 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Ray, you could get away with cutting the sugar by 1/2 cup. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • It’s a lovely cake. Tender crumb, moist, not too sweet. Definitely will make this again. I had to swap the buttermilk with yogurt because that’s all I got. It works wonderfully. Thank you for sharing this recipe❤️

    • — Anastasia on January 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • The Marble Cake is delicious. The glaze is an added treat. I rarely have success with the Bundt pan. I ended up with a pile of cake. I scooped it into wine glasses with raspberries at the bottom and ganache at the top. My disaster was rescued!

    • — Gainsyone on January 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad you were able to salvage and enjoy it! Bundt pans eventually lose their non-stick coating, so it may be time for a new one. This is similar to the one I have.

      • — Jenn on January 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • Awesome cake! Had my in laws over for lunch and between us, 90% of my cake went. Got lots of compliments

    • — Gabriela on January 2, 2022
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  • I want to make this in a 9 x 12.8 (3 qt) rectangular glass pan. Do I just cook it for a little less time?

    • — Lisa Fetty on December 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, that will work. I’d start checking it at 45 to 50 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made this cake about two weeks ago and froze it to serve to unexpected guests. I removed it from the freezer yesterday afternoon and let it come to room temperature on the counter. We had it for dessert with our “unexpected” guests, and it was so good, the guests asked if they could take the rest of the cake home! Now that is a compliment. Thank you. A tip on the buttermilk; I don’t always have it on hand, but have recently been buying the powdered buttermilk that you keep in the fridge. Mix with water and is excellent in baked goods.

    • — Jane on December 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Why do my cakes made in a Bundt pan always stick to the pan when I try to remove them ? The cake tasted great, but fell apart. Should I leave in Bundt pan longer than 30 minutes before trying to remove ?

    • — Nancy Reisner on November 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, Sorry to hear this stuck! If you have a consistent problem with bundt cakes sticking to the pan, the non-stick coating may not be at its best anymore and it may be time for a new one. Here are some other tips that may help.

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is the best marble cake I ever made. I made half a recipe and made it in a loaf pan. Baked at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Delicious will be making this again very soon !!

    • — Cheryl on November 21, 2021
    • Reply

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