Marble Cake Recipe with Step-by-Step Photos

The best marble cake I’ve ever had. And here’s how you can make it.

How to make the best, most buttery and rich marble cake from scratch!! Complete step-by-step photos and recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally have a marble cake recipe to share with you! This recipe is years in the making– in fact, I wanted to publish a marble cake in my first cookbook but couldn’t perfect a recipe in time. (Though there is a marble pound cake recipe in that book!) Three years, 2 cookbooks, and 23 mediocre marble cakes later, here we are.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. Like we’re talking tooth fairy excited, santa claus excited, snow day excited, omg I get to lick the brownie batter bowl excited, bottomless chips and salsa at Chili’s excited, Jude whenever I walk in the door excited, Kevin eating chicken wings excited, uhh… you get the point.

Things are about to get awesome.

How to make the best, most buttery and rich marble cake from scratch!! Complete step-by-step photos and recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Here’s the gist of today’s recipe:

This Marble Cake Is

  • Simple and straightforward
  • Tender and moist
  • Soft and cakey
  • Infinitely buttery
  • Classic birthday cake status!
  • Better than a box
  • Slathered with milk chocolate frosting

This Marble Cake Is Not

  • Difficult to make
  • Dry and bland
  • From a box
  • Lacking chocolate flavor like most marble cakes do
  • Boring!

Let’s walk through the steps real quick so you know exactly what you’re doing in the kitchen. An overload of step photos in your scrolling future.

How to make the best marble cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The first thing we’re going to do is prepare a basic yellow cake batter (photo above, right). You only need 1 batter for this marble cake recipe. The chocolate batter is made from the yellow batter. So, it all starts out the same! The yellow cake batter can also be left plain to make a traditional yellow layer cake. But since I’m on a chocolate binge with my recipes lately (sorry?), we’re adding chocolate to the batter to make it a marble cake. Like, real chocolate. More on that in a sec.

The basic yellow cake batter is super straightforward. Let’s discuss the ingredients. You need cake flour, not all-purpose flour. This recipe must be made with cake flour. No ifs ands or buts. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose, which correlates to a lighter crumbed cake. Like the light, airy cakes from box mixes. All-purpose flour will make your cake heavy, dense, and bread-like. You can make your own cake flour substitute using cornstarch and all-purpose flour, as noted in the recipe below, but I strongly suggest just buying cake flour. Baking powder gives the cake its lift. Do not use baking soda. Even though we will be using buttermilk as the liquid in the batter, we are using baking powder. Buttermilk (an acid) is usually paired with baking soda, but the purpose of buttermilk in this marble cake recipe isn’t for its acidity. Rather, it’s for flavor and moisture. Buttermilk is the secret to the super moist texture. Whole milk would be the only substitution.

Like most traditional cakes, creamed butter and sugar is the base of the entire marble cake. (Photo above, left.) And, like usual, I use a mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar in today’s recipe. You know I can’t live without my beloved brown sugar. Moisture! Flavor! You’d be silly not to use it in a giant cake like this.

Eggs. Everything! Specifically, egg yolks. Have I drilled it into your head yet? Egg yolks (fat) give baked goods their moisture, tenderness, richness, and flavor. Not to mention its color. Yellow egg yolks = yellow cake. You’ll need 2 whole eggs, plus an additional 4 egg yolks. You’ll have 4 egg whites leftover, so make yourself a super healthy egg white omelet to balance out all the slices of marble cake you’ll be eating. Is that genius or what?

How to make the best marble cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Once the yellow cake batter is prepared, set 1 cup of it aside. Mix in 4 ounces of pure, high quality chocolate. We’re talking the real chocolate, not chocolate chips or even cocoa powder. Pure chocolate bars– the kind you find in the baking aisle, like Lindt or Ghirardelli. You can also use Trader Joe’s pound plus bar. In my recipe testing, I tried several marble cakes using cocoa powder and the results just do NOT compare to marble cake made with pure chocolate.

Pure chocolate makes the chocolate swirls taste like decadent chocolate cake.

All you’ll do is melt the chocolate and stir it into 1 cup of the yellow batter. Photo above: poured in. Photo below: stirred together. The chocolate batter will be quite thick.

How to make the best marble cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Now let’s create that marbled beauty! It’s so easy. Pour a base of yellow batter into each cake pan. Spoon chocolate batter on top. Spoon remaining yellow batter on top of that. Grab a knife and swirl it all around. Like so:

How to make the best marble cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

It doesn’t have to be neat or perfect. The haphazardness of the batters swirled together makes the cake extra charming.

Now it’s time to bake. The cake layers take anywhere from 22-27 minutes, give or take. All ovens are different, so I suggest using an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is at the correct temperature (my oven runs hot; thermometer saves the day!) and use a toothpick to test the cake’s doneness.

Once the cakes are baked and cooled, it’s time to assemble and frost. Speaking of, I’m sure you’ve tried my legendary milk chocolate frosting by now. It’s made several appearances in both cookbooks and on my blog as well. I’m completely obsessed. It’s like the old-fashioned chocolate buttercream my grandmother used to make. Smooth and creamy, rich and thick. Smothered between and all around homemade marble cake, it’s nothing short of extraordinary.

Creamy, silky, smooth milk chocolate frosting recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Welcome to my happy place.

How to make the best, most buttery and rich marble cake from scratch!! Complete step-by-step photos and recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

As always, straying from the written recipe and instructions will yield different results. There’s a reason this cake took me so long to perfect… it’s all in the precision and ratio of specific ingredients and mixing techniques. I advise you to follow the recipe as directed first then make any adjustments you see fit next time.

Plenty of recipe notes for you in case you have questions. Enjoy this classic beauty!

Marble Cake

The best marble cake I've ever had. And here's how you can make it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (230g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)1
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large Eggland's Best eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 large Eggland's Best egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk, at room temperature2
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped3

Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (284g; 2.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup (65g) natural unsweetened or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
  • optional: chocolate or rainbow sprinkles for decorating

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray or lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs then the egg yolks one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Use a whisk to rid any large lumps, if needed. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Remove 1 cup of yellow batter and pour into a medium bowl. Melt 4 ounces of chocolate in the microwave, stopping and stirring every 20 seconds until completely smooth. Pour chocolate into the 1 cup of yellow batter you set aside and stir until combined.
  5. Pour an even layer of the yellow batter into each cake pan. Spoon chocolate batter on top, as shown in the photo above. Pour remaining yellow batter on top of the chocolate. Using a knife, swirl the two batters together. Don't worry if it's not perfect.
  6. Bake the layers for 22-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one cake comes out clean. Mine usually take 24 minutes. During bake time, loosely cover the cakes with aluminum foil if you find the tops are browning too quickly. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.
  7. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and cream with the mixer running on low. Once added, increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add 1-2 more Tablespoons confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or 1-2 more Tablespoons of cream if frosting is too thick. Taste the frosting and add a pinch more salt if it's too sweet.
  8. Frost and assemble cake: If needed, level cakes to create a flat surface (I usually use a knife, be careful doing this!). Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or large serving plate. Evenly spread about 3/4 cup frosting on top. Top with 2nd cake and spread the remaining frosting all over the sides and top. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Slice and serve.
  9. Cover any leftover cake and store at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  10. Make ahead tip: To prepare 1 day in advance, keep baked cakes covered at room temperature and refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container. Bring frosting to room temperature before spreading. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

Cupcakes: This recipe can be made into about 30 cupcakes. Simply layer a spoonful of each batter into the cupcake wrappers, filling each only halfway. Swirl with a toothpick. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes.

9x13 cake: This cake can be baked into one 9x13 pan for about 35 minutes, give or take. Layer the batters, use a knife to swirl.

Vanilla frosting: Instead of chocolate, you can use this vanilla frosting if vanilla is your preference. It is the perfect amount for thick layers of frosting.

Room temperature ingredients: Here is why the ingredients must be at room temperature.

  1. You need cake flour for this cake. No substitutions. You can make 2 cups of DIY cake flour by sifting together 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup (27g) cornstarch. Once sifted (imperative to sift), you can use in the recipe.
  2. I highly advise you use buttermilk in this marble cake recipe, low fat buttermilk or full fat buttermilk works. The only substitution would be whole milk, no other milks. Trust me on this one.
  3. I recommend Lindt or Ghirardelli chocolates, or Trader Joe's pound plus bar. Do not use low quality chocolate or chocolate chips.

Adapted from The Great Milky Way Cake in Sally's Candy Addiction

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

You should try my triple chocolate layer cake next. Just sayin’.

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake

Eggland’s Best provided me with eggs to bring you this recipe.

How to make the best, most buttery and rich marble cake from scratch!! Complete step-by-step photos and recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
How to make the best, most buttery and rich marble cake from scratch!! Complete step-by-step photos and recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

243 Comments

Comments

  1. Erin on May 5, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can I make my own butter milk for this recipe or should I buy it?

    Erin 🙂

    • Sally on May 6, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Either works! I do prefer to use the real thing 🙂

  2. Dani on May 19, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I made this. I’ve made a few recipes from this website (and I’ve made your soft pretzel bites about 1000 times. They have made very many American expats in Africa happy :D).

    This is the first I wouldn’t make again. I thought the flavors were a little boring, and the texture was too crumbly, I also didn’t find that it rose enough during baking. Could have been too moist flour is my guess? Either way, I had a bigger problem with the icing, which was just too sweet.

  3. Shraddha on June 6, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Hi sally, 
     I just love your recipes….I would like to say, a superb no fail recipe which i hv tried so many times and it turned out superbly well…..thankyou so much for this wonderful recipe. I would just like to know whether we can substitute butter with canola oil. If yes, what would be the quantity needed ? 

    • Sally on June 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Thank you! But for this recipe– butter is the best option. Do not use oil.

  4. onome on June 19, 2017 at 10:07 am

    hi sally, i just tried the recipe and it was soooooo fluffy and all you described, thanks

  5. Emma Rumps on June 21, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Sally I’ve been making your cakes for over a year now and I’m super excited to finally try this one out! Love all your recipes !

  6. Terrie on June 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    I can’t seem to get to your vanilla icing recipe without printing a recipe for confetti cake. Can I get JUST the icing recipe?

  7. Jeanne on July 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Sally! I’m going to use this recipe to make a large sheet cake ( 12X18) and I was wondering if I doubled the recipe if that would work?? Or if I should triple it? 

    • Sally on July 9, 2017 at 8:29 am

      I would make the batter TWICE– don’t double. Doubling risks over or under-mixing because of all the excess batter.

      • Lori on October 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm

        Good Afternoon new mommy! 🙂 I am very happy for both of you. I just read the reply on making the batter twice. I have heard that you should never let your batter sit after it is mixed. It should go into directly into the pan and into the oven. By letting it sit, the ingredients lose their purpose by sitting in a bowl. Am I being weird on this read I found some time ago? If so, how long can you let a batter sit for? Thank you, and again, enjoy your beautiful bundle of joy. She is darling.



      • Sally on October 17, 2017 at 8:04 am

        Thanks Lori! Ideally, you shouldn’t let cake batter sit (especially if made with baking powder as it initially reacts when wet) but a couple hours is completely fine.



      • Kay on June 23, 2018 at 3:51 pm

        Im making a 13×18 sheet cake- so I plan to do what you state: make the batter twice. So would the cooking time be around 35-40 minutes? Love your recipes and cant wait to make this for my son’s birthday!! (Your funfetti sugar cookies were a huge hit with both my boys classes for end of the year gifts!)



  8. Damaris on July 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    CAN I make this in to cupcakes?

  9. Suvidha on July 21, 2017 at 5:10 am

    Hi Sally,

    Is cornstarch the same as cornflour?

    • Sally on July 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

      yep!

  10. Irma on July 25, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Hi Sally,
    This recipe looks beautiful and can’t wait to try it. Chocolate marble cake and milk chocolate frosting? I’m drooling!

    If I use the 9×13 sheet pan, can you please tell me how high the cake will be? Can I make two layers out of the one cake?

    Also, can I stack another cake on top of this (with regular dowels) without fear of getting squished? I would just stack a pound cake on top. 

    Thank you! Now I’m off to scroll through your site again

    • Sally on July 25, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Hi Irma! I’m unsure how tall the 9×13 is– I’ve never measured it. You could be able to stack another cake on top of it.

      • Irma on August 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        Thank you so much, Sally!

        I made the cakes yesterday (double the recipe, one recipe for each 9×13 pan). The height I got was about 2.5 inches per cake. 

        I admit, I accidentally left the mixer running a tad longer during the flour stage for my first cake. Was running after my little girl… she just started crawling:) the first cake is a tiny bit lower than my second, but still all good. 

        I’m going to make the frosting today, following your exact recipe. Just in case it is too sweet for my aunt (I usually make swiss buttercream), do you think I’d be able to fold stabilized whipped cream into the frosting to take some of the sweetness away?

        I will make it how you do first, though. 
        Thanks again 



  11. Irma on August 4, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Hi again, Sally

    Sorry about the multiple messages but… this frosting ??? It is NOT too sweet. Lol. I made it in two batches since I needed two batches anyway. 
    Yes. It is perfect. No whipped cream needed here. 

    The only problem is I have to wait until tomorrow to dig into it. Booooo!!

    Haha. I am still in the middle of making frosting. Just wanted to report.

    Million thanks!!!

  12. Susan on August 11, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I made this in a sheet cake yesterday. (33 minutes baking time for my 13×9) I followed the instructions  to a T. Absolute PERFECTION. This recipe is a keeper and I look forward to making it for years to come. 

  13. Katrina on August 11, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Sally will this cake hold up well as a tiered cake or is it too soft of a cake? Thanks!

  14. Jennifer Rivington on August 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Your milk chocolate frosting looks the same as the chocolate buttercream frosting for most ingredient quantities, except they have a different amount of cocoa and butter. How do you decide which recipe to use? I have your chocolate zucchini cake in the oven now!

    • Sally on August 19, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Strangely enough, they taste identical 🙂

  15. Aree on August 23, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Hi Sally!❤ Do you think it will be okay if I bake the whole batch in 1 8″x3″ round cake pan? Or will that affect the texture of the cake?

    • Jaya on December 21, 2017 at 2:40 am

      Did you bake this in a 8*3 round pan? I would like to do so too, instead of baking in 2 9inch pans. Thanks 

  16. JJ Daniels on October 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Can I DOUBLE  the amount for the chocolate portion, (using 8 oz. CHOC. and 2 cups of batter??)   I have a different method of layering, and it requires equal portions.  

  17. M on November 19, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Every recipe that I have tried from your blog has been a success, thank you. I was wondering, how long does it take for the cakes to cool before frosting them?

    Thanks,

    M

  18. Adri on November 30, 2017 at 10:27 am

    About how many cups of batter does this recipe make? I always have trouble making sure my pans are even and would like to know so I could measure it out. Thank you!

  19. Shanu on December 5, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Will try this today! Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted?

  20. Sally foo on December 23, 2017 at 8:01 am

    May I know if I can leave out the icing and frosting for this marble cake?

  21. Jackie on April 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Sally
    I’m kinda new to baking world, your instructions say to leave cakes in pans on wire rack to cool completely, cakes take about an hour to cool, so I leave in the pans the whole time. Also, some recipes tell you to tap the pans a few times on counter before putting in oven, is that step necessary, I see you do not instruct this step in your recipes.

  22. Chris Carson on June 7, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Hi,
    I’m not making this, but I’m making your brown sugar marble pound cake from SBA (which I got for mother’s day ❤️❤️) can I substitute 1 cup of buttermilk for 1 cup of regular milk! Thanks!

  23. Holly Burrows on June 10, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    Hi sally!
    Which type of cocoa powder do you find is better in your chocolate buttercream – dutch or unsweetened? I know you can use both, but just wondered your preference?

    • Sally on June 11, 2018 at 5:49 am

      Hi Holly! I personally love dutched cocoa in frosting.

  24. Kristin on June 13, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    Baking powder or baking soda? I am an experienced baker – made this today and the cakes turned out extremely dense and flat. I don’t recall ever seeing only baking powder in a cake recipe and wonder if that might be the problem?

  25. Lizzy on June 17, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Sally, what is granulated sugar?

    • Sally on June 18, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Just regular white sugar.

  26. Victoria F on June 20, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Does this really take 4 hrs or is that a typo because it doesn’t seem like it would take that long.

    • Sally on June 21, 2018 at 6:27 am

      Yep! Includes cooling.

  27. Rosa Argiero on July 3, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I have made this several times following the directions exactly and it is one of my favorite cake recipes! The chocolate swirls really do taste similar to a brownie. This is a keeper!!

  28. Lis Martin on July 6, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can I make this in a loaf pan? Would there be any changes in the recipe? Should I reduce the recipe measurements in half? An informative response would be nice. Thank you!

    • Sally on July 9, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Lis! Halving the ingredients would be best. I’m unsure of the bake time. I have a recipe for marble pound cake in my first cookbook if you own a copy! 🙂

Reviews

Questions

  1. Holly Burrows on June 10, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    Hi sally!
    Which type of cocoa powder do you find is better in your chocolate buttercream – dutch or unsweetened? I know you can use both, but just wondered your preference?

    • Sally on June 11, 2018 at 5:49 am

      Hi Holly! I personally love dutched cocoa in frosting.

  2. Kristin on June 13, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    Baking powder or baking soda? I am an experienced baker – made this today and the cakes turned out extremely dense and flat. I don’t recall ever seeing only baking powder in a cake recipe and wonder if that might be the problem?

  3. Lizzy on June 17, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Sally, what is granulated sugar?

    • Sally on June 18, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Just regular white sugar.

  4. Victoria F on June 20, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Does this really take 4 hrs or is that a typo because it doesn’t seem like it would take that long.

    • Sally on June 21, 2018 at 6:27 am

      Yep! Includes cooling.

  5. Lis Martin on July 6, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can I make this in a loaf pan? Would there be any changes in the recipe? Should I reduce the recipe measurements in half? An informative response would be nice. Thank you!

    • Sally on July 9, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Lis! Halving the ingredients would be best. I’m unsure of the bake time. I have a recipe for marble pound cake in my first cookbook if you own a copy! 🙂

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