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

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 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,

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

    Erin 🙂

  2. 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. 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 ? 

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

  5. 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. 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. 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? 

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

      • 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.

      • 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.

  8. CAN I make this in to cupcakes?

  9. Hi Sally,

    Is cornstarch the same as cornflour?

  10. 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

    • 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.

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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?

  16. 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. 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?



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

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

  21. Hi Sally! I am hoping to make this for my son’s 2nd birthday in a few weeks. Is there another type of frosting that would go well with this cake that isn’t chocolate? I was hoping to color the frosting to yellow (it’s a Curious George theme). Thanks!

  22. Can I use your DIY buttermilk? We don’t get buttermilk in our local stores. I really want to try this recipe for my mom’s Birthday


  23. OMG! This is the first marble cake I’ve made. It is like a vanilla cake with a brownie mixed in. It is delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Sally, how would you adjust baking time for 2 x 8” round  cake pans?

    • your cakes will be slightly thicker but shouldn’t change the baking time too much. Just be sure to cover the tops with foil as stated in step 6 if the tops start to get brown before they are baked through!

  25. Hi Sally, I decided to make this cake for my friend’s birthday. I baked the cake yesterday and will be making the frosting today. I have already had success with your recipes. However, this time I noticed two things- the cake didn’t turn out like I expected it too. I followed the recipe to the T. The batter seemed like it was curdled and it was super thick.. when it bakes there were air bubbles in the batter. I have never had that happen before. Do you know why that? I made the batter twice, like you suggested because I wanted a three layer cake. I have one cake in the freezer for another day. 
    The other thing is, the cake is not sweet. I’m hoping it will balance out once the cake is iced with the milk frosting. I am planning to make 1.5 amount of frosting to frost the three layer cake. Do you think that should work?
    Thank you much! Sue 🙂

    • Hi Sue! The batter will appear curdled because the ingredients are varying temperatures and consistencies. It will come together when the dry ingredients are added, though a few lumps may remain. I’m unsure about the air bubbles– is your baking powder fresh? 1.5x the frosting is enough for a 3 layer cake. You could also try this chocolate cream cheese frosting (made on my 3 layer zebra cake, also a marble-ish cake).

      • Thank you, Sally, for your response.

        The cake final cake worked out well. I think it was very dense. for the first time I used the bake even strips to bake the cakes. Do you think that might be why the cake turned out dense?

        1.5x frosting was perfect for the three layer cake. I think the baking power was fresh. But maybe I will buy some new BP. 🙂


  26. Made your marble cake for my 75th birthday because it reminded me of my grandmother’s marble cake. The frosting was first rate, delicious. The cake had good taste, however, seemed a little dry and heavy although it looked exactly like you pictures. I followed the recipe to the T. Is there something I could have done to improve the outcome?  Thanks

  27. Hi! I am making a churro layer cake or cupcakes and plan to add cinnamon to one of your yellow cake recipes for the churro cake. Do you recommend this yellow cake or the yellow sheet cake you posted with chocolate fudge frosting? Thanks!!!!

    • Either would be great! Assuming you wouldn’t chocolate marble the churro cake, or maybe you would? Sounds delicious.

  28. Can I make this in a bundt tin?
    Love absolutely all your recipes and they always work so I’d be very appreciative of any advice

  29. I love your recipes and am an avid Instagram follower. Would this work if I did thinner layers? I’d like to do 3 layers in a 9 inch pans. Would I just decrease baking time?

  30. I’m curious about height. I’ve made the recipe 3x’s now. And in the 9″ pan, I barely get a 1″ of cake per pan. Although the flavor keeps bringing me back, I always end up having to bake another batch just to get a decent height on my finished cake. I’m wondering if the recipe would benefit from the addition of another leavening agent. . or what I could possibly be doing wrong.

    • Hi Marilyn, Is your baking powder fresh? Are you using cake flour? How is the crumb of the cake? it should have a light and airy crumb!

      • Yes on the baking powder, I bake constantly. Yes on the cake flour. The crumb is not light and airy at all. It’s dense and pound cake like. I started to think that was the intended texture since the number of eggs/yolks is similar to a pound cake. The cakes are baking up with a pound cake texture. If they over bake, even slightly they are very dry. I can’t imagine it’s the baking powder since I bake weekly and have made the recipe several times over the last few months; which means the baking powder has been refreshed. I’m honestly stumped.

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