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Marble Cake

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This marble cake recipe features vanilla cake swirled with chocolate for a gorgeous marble effect. The cake is covered in a silky smooth, whipped chocolate frosting.

slice of marble cake on white plate

Classic marble cake is a mixture of vanilla and chocolate cake that is swirled together creating a marbling effect. It’s often streaked or mottled in appearance and contains more vanilla cake than chocolate.

After toying with a new vanilla cake recipe that is supremely soft and moist, I decided to turn that recipe into different cakes for the entire month of July. I dubbed July as cake month in celebration of my birthday.

This basic marble cake is probably my favorite of all the cakes so far. It’s tender, fluffy, has amazing flavor, and the frosting is out of this world.

Have you ever had whipped ganache frosting? It’s just like that! It’s made with two ingredients and feels so silky across the tongue.

After you give this recipe a try, I encourage you to make the other recipes for cake month. There’s vanilla cupcakes, strawberry shortcake, and strawberry shortcake cake.

Why this recipe works

  • The chocolate batter is made with cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. Mixing melted chocolate into the cake batter changed the texture of the cake. I didn’t like the variation in textures.
  • The cake is made with oil and buttermilk so the texture is super soft and spongy.
  • Cake flour is used to give the cake crumb a fine texture.
  • Two different types of chocolate are used in the frosting so it isn’t too sweet.
marble cake with chocolate frosting on cake stand

Marble Cake Recipe

I just can’t get enough of this marble cake. I mean, look at that gorgeous mottled appearance. And the flavor is a lovely combination of vanilla and chocolate.

It took me a few tries to get the cake exactly how I wanted it. I played around with using melted chocolate for the chocolate portion of the cake batter. I actually didn’t care for the texture in contrast to the vanilla cake. The chocolate came out more brownie-like and I wanted both to be equally soft and spongy.

I found that cocoa powder provided exactly what I was looking for. It is chocolaty and remains soft. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

I used my new and improved vanilla cake to make this recipe. I added cocoa powder to a small portion of the cake batter. This makes the process of making marble cake so much easier. You don’t have to mess with making two separate batters.

When making the recipe, be sure to follow each step exactly as written and always use room temperature ingredients. When all the ingredients are the same temperature, they emulsify better. This leaves you with a lush, silky cake batter.

What filling goes best with marble cake?

It’s best to use a filling that the same flavor as the marbling in the cake. Classic vanilla and chocolate marble cake should use chocolate fudge frosting.

How do you make a marble cake from scratch moist?

To keep your cake moist, use a combination of butter, oil, and buttermilk in the batter. These fats add extra moisture that will make the crumb soft and tender.

Also, try to avoid over baking the cake as this can dry it out. Start checking for doneness about 5 minutes sooner than the recipe cook time.


Marble Cake Ingredients

Marble cake recipes come in all shapes and sizes. Some make bundt cakes, some make pound cakes, some make sheet cakes, and some make layer cakes. Most recipes I’ve seen use melted chocolate but as I explained above, I don’t care for the texture contrast. Let’s discuss the ingredient list…

  • Oil: I loved the cake’s texture when using oil. It is so spongy! Be sure to use a flavorless oil like canola or vegetable oil.
  • Butter: A little butter is used in the cake for flavor. A lot of butter is used in the frosting. Choose unsalted butter and make sure it’s room temperature before using it.
  • Sugar: Regular granulated sugar is what I tested the recipe with.
  • Eggs: Needed for binding. Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before adding them to the batter or they won’t emulsify properly.
  • Vanilla: Choose a high-quality pure vanilla extract.
  • Flour: Cake flour is best because it produces a very fine crumb that is tender.
  • Leavening: Baking powder and baking soda are needed. Make sure your leavening agents aren’t expired and are still active.
  • Salt: Just a tad for flavor.
  • Buttermilk: I love the way buttermilk works in this recipe! It keeps the cake moist while adding a slight tang that works with the chocolate.
  • Cocoa powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is best for the chocolate portion of the batter.
  • Chocolate: Milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate are both used for making the frosting. The bittersweet tones down the milk chocolate so it doesn’t taste too sweet with the cake.

To bake this marble cake you’ll need:

  • 9-inch pans: I baked the cake layers in two 9-inch round cake pans. I prefer aluminum pans over nonstick.
  • Stand mixer: I always prefer my KitchenAid stand mixer when baking. It just makes the process so much easier.
  • Paddle attachment: For the cake batter and frosting, I like to use the paddle attachment on the stand mixer.

How to make marble cake

I’m going to show you, step-by-step, how to make the best marble cake recipe! The frosting is out of the world and contains only two ingredients.

The Batter – It’s so easy and doesn’t’ require you to make two different cake batters. One batter is all you need. Cocoa powder is mixed into a small portion of that batter to create the chocolate marbling.

The Frosting – The frosting is out of the world and contains only two ingredients. You just melt chocolate and let it cool. Then mix it with butter to create a gorgeously lush frosting.

close up of whipped chocolate frosting on cake

Step 1: Mix the wet ingredients

Make sure to start with room temperature ingredients. It’s crucial in order for the cake batter to blend together properly.

Cream the butter, oil, and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale in color and fluffy in appearance. This takes 3-5 minutes.

Add one egg at a time and mix on medium-low speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla extract.

process shots for combining wet ingredients

Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together very well. It’s important to make sure all the leavening is evenly distributed throughout the flour.

Add half the flour to the butter mixture and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Add the buttermilk followed by the remaining flour. Mix on medium-low speed just until combined. Take care not to overmix.

process shots for making marble cake batter

Step 3: Make the chocolate batter

Remove ¾ cup of the cake batter and place in a small bowl. Add cocoa powder and whisk until very well combined.

chocolate batter process shots

Step 4: Swirl the vanilla and chocolate batters together

Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. I like to also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to make sure the cake doesn’t stick.

Divide the vanilla batter evenly between the two pans. Drop spoonfuls of chocolate batter evenly over the vanilla batter in both pans.

Use a butter knife to swirl the chocolate batter into the vanilla batter. Be careful not to over swirl or you’ll end up mixing the two batters together instead of creating a marble effect.

process shots for making swirled marble cake batter

Step 5: Bake the cake

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350°F. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. They’re done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove them and set them on a wire rack to cool completely.

baked marble cake layer on cake stand

Step 6: Make the frosting

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.

Be sure you are using softened butter that isn’t melty. It should not have an oily sheen to it. But it should be soft enough to bend easily. If it’s oily, it will be too soft and the frosting will be loose.

Melt chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Keep stirring the chocolate as it’s melting to prevent it from seizing.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove it from the heat. Allow the chocolate to cool until it’s no longer warm to the touch.

Cream the butter using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix on medium speed until fluffy.

whipped chocolate frosting process shots
side view of slice of marble cake on white plate

If you like marble cake, you’ll love these other cake recipes:

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slice of marble cake on white plate

Marble Cake Recipe

Yield: one 9-inch cake
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This marble cake recipe features vanilla cake swirled with chocolate for a gorgeous marble effect. The cake is covered in a silky smooth, whipped chocolate frosting.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil
  • ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¾ cups (330 g) cake flour - SEE NOTE 1
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, room temperature - SEE NOTE 2
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the frosting

  • 16 ounces (454 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces (227 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ (341 g) cups unsalted butter, softened

Instructions

Make the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F Grease and lightly flour 2 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil, butter, and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix for 20 seconds.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add half to the butter mixture. Beat on medium-low speed until just combined. Add the buttermilk followed by the remaining flour. Beat on medium-low speed just until combined.
  4. Remove ¾ cup of the cake batter and pour into a medium bowl. Add the cocoa powder and stir until well combined.
  5. Divide the vanilla cake batter evenly between the prepared pans. Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate batter evenly over the batter in the pans. Use a knife to swirl the two batters together but take care not to combine them too much.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with few moist crumbs attached. Take care to not over-bake. Check the cake at 15 minutes to see how it is doing and judge the timing from there.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting

  1. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pot of barely simmering water. Make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the chocolate continuously until fully melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the melted and cooled chocolate. Beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place one layer on a serving platter. Spread about ⅓ of the frosting over the top.
  2. Gently place the second layer on top of the frosting. Spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

Notes

  1. Cake flour will give you the best texture. If you don't have cake flour, you can make it using my homemade cake flour recipe. Keep in mind this is not going to give you the exact results as real cake flour. Cake flour can be found on the baking aisle of your local supermarket.
  2. Buttermilk is best for this recipe! If you don't have it, you can make it by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of regular whole milk. 
  3. The cakes can also me made in three 8-inch round cake pans. The bake times may need to be adjusted slightly. 
  4. You can change the ratio of chocolate used for the frosting if desired. As long as the total amount of chocolate is equal to 24 ounces, you can use more or less of each to suit your palate. 

Make ahead tips

  1. Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
  2. Or layers can be triple wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Leave wrapped and set on the counter to thaw slightly before use.
  3. The frosting will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks stored in the refrigerator, or 6 months in the freezer. Store it in an airtight container. You must let the buttercream come to room temperature by setting it out on the counter for a couple of hours, then beat it with an electric mixer if needed.
  4. Once the cake has been assembled, cover it and store it at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
  5. The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature just before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 344Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 344mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 10gProtein: 8g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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