Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Marble Cake Recipe with Step-by-Step Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • 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 eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 large 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


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


  1. Hi Sally,

    I absolutely love your blog (and both of your cookbooks)–I’ve been following for about a year, and have used one of your recipes at least once every other week. Before I started using your recipes I really thought I was cursed in the kitchen, but every one of your recipes has turned out perfectly. So thank you!

    So far I have followed all of your instructions exactly, and I don’t want to mess anything up by diverging from what the recipe says. BUT I was wondering if you think this marble cake could work as a piñata cake. I’ve been dying to make this cake but I just found out my friend is having a baby, so I’d love to make it especially festive. Do you think that would work?

    Thanks again!

    • Hey Alex! I’m glad my recipes help give you the confidence in the kitchen. 🙂 You can try this as a piñata cake– I’ve never attempted it but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work!

  2. Hi Sally,
    I made the marble cake and I’m not sure what happened but here’s my experience. Everything out and room temp, fresh cake flour and well baking powder was good but maybe not the freshest. Following directions and decided to make it in a 9×13 pan. I did forget to layer the yellow then chocolate and so on in that respect. But at that point I thought ok how much could that matter and there was nothing I could do at that point. Proceeded to bake and set the timer for 30 minutes thinking 40/45 seemed way to long and as it turned out for me the 30 minutes was too! The cake batter did seem very flat and the cake ended up not being very high. Also the icing I had to add a lot more heavy cream. So Sally can you help me out on things that I can improve on in making this the next time? Thank you and love your bakingaddiction!

    • Sherry, there is so much batter and I wonder why the cake wasn’t very high? Thank you for sharing your experience; this helps! How about using a smaller baking pan– an 11×7 might be best. Or making it into a layer cake like I did.

  3. I’m going to bake this marble cake today but had a hard time trying to print the directions.  I appreciate the step by step, but like a printed copy while making.  I have wasted paper and ink because the printer would not stop.  Your recipes look great, but could you make it easier to print the directions please.  Thank you.  Hope it turns out as good as it looks.

    • Peggy, there is a print button in the recipe box which pulls up a new page of just the recipe. Let me know if you have trouble finding it.

      • I printed the recipe just fine, but had trouble printing the instructions.  The cake turned out very good.  I wanted more icing though and added additional confectionary sugar and cream.  I may not have let the cake cool long enough because when I picked up the second layer it started falling apart.  I can tell that you put a lot of time into perfecting this recipe.  Thank you and sorry I complained.  

  4. Hi Sally , I have SR cake flour , can this be used instead of the plain cake flour and then would I need to omit the baking powder? Or not a good idea? 
    Thanks Donna 

  5. Hi Sally,

    I was so excited when I found this recipe! I’m sure you know how difficult it is to find a good marble cake recipe that is birthday cake style and not pound cake. 

    I offered to make my mother in law a birthday cake in January, and she requested a marble cake. I had never made it from scratch before, but I was excited to find a recipe and get started. After exhausting my cookbooks and the Internet, I could not find a simple marble cake recipe!! I only found marble pound cake.

    Anyway, I ended up making marble pound cake as a birthday cake and it came out very dense. 🙁 I didn’t get any complaints, but I was very disappointed with myself!

    I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to create this recipe because I know it will be great when I have the chance to make it.

    • Did you end up making this cake too? If not, I can’t wait for you to try it!

      • Sally,

        I have not made this cake yet. Unfortunately, you hadn’t posted this yet when I was looking around for recipes in January. But I will definitely use this recipe soon and I’ll let you know how it comes out!

  6. Hi Sally! I made this cake before but for my birthday I’m DYING to double this recipe and make a piñata cake. Last time I made it, it was delicious but didn’t have a lot of chocolate flavour. I used Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate. Would 6-7 Lindt balls be better?

    • It’s certainly worth a try, Melissa. For doubling– I recommend making TWO batters separately and combining them. If you double and are mixing too much batter at a time, you’re likely to overmix. Which just yields a super dense cake.

  7. Hello! I’m planning on making this as a layered cake for a retirement party. I plan on using a 18x 12 sheet pan, do you think I should double the recipe for each layer? This is my first time making a big sheet cake. Thanks! It looks so yummy!

    • Carla, I’m unsure how many batches of this batter you’d need for the double layer sheet cake. Though something tells me you’ll be fine with 1.5x for each layer. I would make three batches of batter to start. That should be enough to fill both pans.

      • Thanks for your quick reply! I went ahead and used 2 batches for each pan and it worked perfectly! 

  8. Is 3/4 yogurt and 1/4 cup milk a good buttermilk substitute?

  9. Greetings Sally! So I need help in trying to change the measurements of this delicious looking cake. I’m baking 3 small 6inch sized pans (the cake is for someone who just simply wants cake for themselves) I’d like to only make enough for this small cake & not have a huge amount left over.

    Should I just split the recipe and frosting in half? Please let me know so I could plan my ingredients ahead of time. Thank you!!

  10. Love, love, love it! My kids said it was the best marble cake I baked so far. This one’s definitely a keeper. 

  11. Hi Sally,
    Can I use skim milk in this cake?

  12. Hey Sally, I’m baking this cake today and I’d like to know if i could cut all the ingredients in half.. I’m only making a small 6 inch round cake, so I’d only like to make enough for that size. Would it alter the cake if I simply divide all the ingredients in half? Please let me know. Thank you!

  13. Sally,

    I’ve written you twice with the same question and I haven’t received a response with either. I see that you’ve skipped me and answered other questions. A simple “I’m not sure” would be appreciated if you don’t know the answer. I’ve stalled on making this cake for days now, waiting for your reply.

    Thanks for helping.

    • Hi Stephany. I receive over 150 comments and questions every single day, so they are easy for me to miss as I go through the 1000+ each week. Thank you for your patience. I am unsure how much batter would be perfect for your size cake, but cutting the ingredients in half would be a good place to start.

  14. I just made this recipe into cupcakes today, and they’re so soft and fluffy! I didn’t have any chocolate, so I substituted about 2 ounces of butterscotch chips. Also, this recipe made exactly 20 cupcakes for me. Thanks again, Sally, for the super reliable, super delicious recipes. Your blog is my go-to when I’m looking for decadent baked goods. 😀

  15. Hi Sally-I made this today for my son’s birthday cake. He requested no frosting so I baked it in a Bundt pan. I baked it for 35 minutes and then checked on it and baked for maybe 10 more.
    It looks great but perhaps a bit brown on the sides. Any thoughts of other pans I could have made it in? I know I could have done a 9 x 13 but thought Bundt would look more festive. I think it will taste great regardless so thank you for the recipe. It is actually hard to find a marble cake recipe. 

    • Let, I wonder if reducing the oven temperature would help with the browning issue in your bundt cake. You could make a couple loaves, but I’m unsure how “birthday cake” that would be! I know there are some fun cupcake shaped or even donut shaped pans out there too!

  16. Hi sally 
    What can I use instead of butter? 
    I prefer oil…,but how much ?
    Love your blog !!!

  17. Hi Sally! 

    Please let me know if I can half the ingredients and make a single cake instead of two layers. That will be great help thanks! 

    • Isha, I can’t see why not! 🙂

      • Thank you so much for replying. It means so much. I truely admire you and hope that someday I can bake with as much perfection as you do. Sending you lots of love
        Isha 🙂 

  18. Hi Sally, I have made a number of your recipes and they always turn out great. However, when I did a trial run of this as a yellow cake (need it for a party at work this week), it turned out kind of dry. I only baked it for 22 minutes and it was a light golden brown. I also used your suggestion of mixing corn starch with all-purpose flour since my store didn’t have cake flour.. Any suggestions?

    • Hey Cara! I’d say an extra egg yolk or bump up to 3/4 cup buttermilk. This should help.

      • Thank you so much for your quick reply! The batter did seem rather thick (which you said it would), so I will try a bit more buttermilk. Thanks again! Also, my coworkers LOVE your chewy chocolate chunk/chip cookies 🙂

  19. Oh my heavens.  I saw this a few days ago and couldn’t resist the temptation to make it any longer.  I just scarfed down my first bite and I am in love!  The consistency and texture of the cake is incredible.  So light and soft!  Thank you so much for sharing this!  My husband isn’t much of a chocolate fan, but I know he’s going to love the cake!!!  Too bad he’s out of town and I get to eat it all though… 

  20. Is there anyway to make this a 3 layer cake? Perhaps doubling the recipe and using the extra for cupcakes? Marble cake is my absolute fave!!! Can’t wait to try this out, your recipes never fail me. 

  21. Hi Sally! I’m in charge of making a cake for my uncles surprise birthday party next week. I knew when I was assigned cake duty, I had to use one of your recipes! I’m making a single layer 12×18 sheet cake. Should I just double the recipe? I don’t mind having extra batter, because I’ll make cupcakes with it.
    Also, he hates sugary sweet frosting. Could you recommend any whipped cream frosting recipes or tips to make a frosting that will be okay out at room temp for a few hours?
    Thanks so much! Can’t wait to make this cake.

    • Hi Destiny. I would make two batches of this cake batter, instead of doubling. You risk overmixing with so much batter, which could ruin the texture of the cake. Here’s a whipped cream frosting recipe I use from time to time. It’s delicious.

      • Ahh yes, that was my plan, to make two batches! I find it to be easier that way so I don’t forget to double one ingredient and mess it all up… it’s happened before haha.
        I started to research some stable whipped cream frostings, and that is one that I stumbled upon. It’s for a big party so I hate to use a recipe that I’m not sure about, but I will take your word for it. Thank you so much, and thank you for the speedy response! Enjoy the rest of your night.

      • Hi Destiny, how did that whipped cream frosting recipe work out for you?

  22. Hi! This looks delish! I would like to make this in a 11×15 pan so will be doubling the recipe. How would I go about layering the batter as I am doing 2 batches. White , chocolate (first batch) and then white, chocolate (second batch) on top and then swirl? Or both white batters and then both chocolates and then swirl? Also how long would I bake this for? Thanks!!

    • Hi Theresa! I would do white, chocolate, then white, chocolate. So your first option. I’m unsure of the bake time in that size pan. Shouldn’t take long at all.

  23. Hi,

    Do you have a print feature for your recipes that I don’t see. Also, are you aware that on your website there is an automatic popup ad that appears at the bottom of every page you open? I investigated and it is specific to your website…… ????

    I am looking forward to making this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!!!

    • I do! It’s right below the thumbnail photo in the written out recipe. The ads you see today are not permanent, we’re working on a redesign this month. My apologies!

  24. Hello there! I need to make a 12″ double stack marble cake for a friend at the end of the month. Your recipe looks amazing! Just wondering if I can use a 12in round cake pan for this recipe? Does the cake rise pretty nicely? I will be covering this cake in fondant. Will it be sturdy enough to stand up to the weight of the fondant? Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try your recipe! 

    • Hi Janice! The cake layers will be quite thin in a 12-inch pan. But, yes you could do it. I’m unsure of the bake time, but the cakes will be sturdy and should rise beautifully. (Though, thin.)

  25. Can the milk chocolate frosting be made a day ahead and then frost the cake the next day?

  26. Hi Sally! I plan to make this cake for my son’s second birthday! I halved the cake recipe to see how it would taste and if I could make it good enough since I’m a beginner when it comes to baking cakes from scratch. My batter was VERY runny, is this because I didn’t have buttermilk? I used 2% milk but will definitely use buttermilk when making the full recipe. 

    • It wouldn’t be because of the different milk, though buttermilk IS thicker. But 2% shouldn’t make a huge difference in the batter’s texture. I wonder if the recipe just wasn’t halved properly? Did you like how it tasted?

      • It did taste good but came out rubbery-like. It wasn’t fluffy and was just reading about the room temp ingredients. I used room temp butter and milk but not eggs, ugh! I think that is my problem. Also, I don’t have a stand mixer or paddle attachment for my hand mixer, could this be why it was rubbery?

  27. Hi, I really want to make this cake for my son’s birthday party. We live in a high altitude around 5000 feet. Are there any adjustments for this recipe for high altitude? Thanks so much!

  28. This recipe is just…amazing!!! People love it! Thanks for yet another great one!

  29. Hi Sally, 

    Regarding the oven temperature/mode, are you referring to top and bottom heating or fan mode?

  30. Hi, can I bake just one cake in a square 9×9 pan? Or will the batter be too much? Shall I put most of the batter in a 9×9 square pan and use any left overs in a loaf tin? How much should I fill a 9×9 square tin? Also, does it taate good without any frosting? Can I not frost it at all?

    • You can leave off the frosting. This cake will not fit into a 9×9 square baking pan. You can fit it halfway and the loaf pan 2/3 full. Unsure of the bake time for each though.

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