Marble Cake Recipe

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. 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. In a pinch, you can make your own cake flour substitute. 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!

Print

Marble Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 10
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (230g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 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 temperature*
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 9×13 Cake: This cake can be baked into one 9×13 pan for about 35 minutes, give or take. Layer the batters, use a knife to swirl.
  4. 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.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: Here is why the ingredients must be at room temperature.
  6. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute.
  7. Buttermilk: 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.
  8. Chocolate: I recommend Lindt or Ghirardelli chocolates, or Trader Joe’s pound plus bar. Do not use low quality chocolate or chocolate chips.
  9. Adapted from The Great Milky Way Cake in Sally’s Candy Addiction.

Keywords: marble cake, cake

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

287 Comments

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  1. What kind of cocoa do you use in your Milk Chocolate Frosting? Thank you!

    P.S. Is this your favorite chocolate frosting?

    1. Hi Lynn, for a pure chocolate frosting this one is my favorite! I usually use Hershey’s cocoa powder but also have used ghirardelli cocoa powder and a few others with equal success!

  2. Can I make 1 layer instead of 2 layers? I have a specific form shape that I want to try this marble cake with but only want 1 layer. Do I need to modify any of the quantities of the ingredients? I plan on making this on Friday for son’s birthday!

    Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Iva! I’ve only made this cake as pictured and instructed. The amount of batter you need depends on how much batter your pan holds. Let me know what you end up trying!

  3. Could I divide this mixtures into thirds and add pink colouring for a triple marble hit ??

  4. Hi Sally, I made this milk chocolate frosting for a different cake in July and it was the best I’ve ever had! So many compliments! I am baking cupcakes for a child’s birthday party tomorrow, will this be enough frosting for 24 cupcakes? Many thanks!!

      1. Ok great thanks!! Last question…I only have salted butter currently, the recipe comes out to about a teaspoon of salt total with the 2.5 sticks (did the math). Would this be WAY too salty even if I omitted the salt? Thanks!

  5. I have a cake business and dread when I get a marble cake request. I made my normal recipe which is a box hybrid (wasc for vanilla using buttermilk and sour cream and chocolate using coffee with melted chocolate for liquid). Sounds good right? I had my family taste it they all were polite but said it had no flavor. So I decided to search for a better recipe and have loved your recipes in the past so I tried yours. I couldn’t believe the difference in the taste. Even my son who I thought wouldn’t know the difference.. Sweets are sweets right? But even he said, Kim this is really good. I heard back from the bride’s family who said it was the best cake they had ever eaten. Thank you Sally!! Now I won’t dread a marble cake order!!!!

  6. I made this cake yesterday in a bundt pan and it was just amazing! Everyone loved it and said it was one of the best cakes they had ever had, even better than bakery-made. I skipped the frosting and served it as-is. Oh, and I made the cake flour substitute and sifted it 3 times before using in the recipe, just to be sure, LOL. The result was wonderful. Thank you!!

  7. Why do you leave the cake in the pan to cool? Also, do you need to spray pam and flour the cake pans or use parchment paper on the bottom?

    I see you are using American Buttercream. Have you ever used Italian buttercream?

  8. i have a request for a yellow cake with chocolate icing. I love buttermilk in cakes so I want to try this recipe. Do I still use the brown sugar? If not do I replace with the same amount of white sugar?

  9. I just made finished baking this. I buttered the pans like you said, and now they are stuck to the pans. I should have floured the pans like I usually do. I am so disappointed!

  10. HI Sally! I’d like to make a 10 inch version of this. I have some recipes that I can x1.5 or x2 beautifully and others I need to make 2 separate batches and just make more layers. Do you have any recommendations?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Andy! While doubling works for some recipes, I always like to be extra careful with cake batter and make 2 separate batches instead. Guaranteed nothing is messed up, over-mixed, or under-mixed that way.

  11. Hi Sally!

    I’ve followed this recipe to the T twice, and it has turned out flat each time. One thing I didn’t do was sift the flour and other dry ingredients (I don’t own a sifter); however, I did whisk these items together. Any thoughts on why the cake turned out flat?

    Thanks.
    Jenny

  12. Rather than buy a quart of buttermilk and toss the extra, what do you think about using powered buttermilk? I have found it worked well in many recipes.

    1. Hi Audrey, Yes the powdered buttermilk can be a good option if you don’t use it often and don’t want to keep buying it!

  13. Hi! I’m making this cake next week, but was wondering if anyone has tried making it a three-layer with 8-inch pans? I really love the look of a three-layer cake, but don’t want to either overflow the pans, or not have enough batter. Thanks!

    1. Amanda, did you do the triple cake? I was wondering the same thing. Did you adjust the cooking time? I assume you would cook less time because the layers are shorter. I’m making this cake today so I hope I hear back from you. Thank you!

      1. I didn’t. I just ended up making a 2-layer cake. Sorry! I think if you’re planning to make a three-layer cake it may be safest to make your batter twice, fill the three pans evenly (with space so they don’t overflow) and use any leftover to make cupcakes.

  14. Hi sally, I made this cake twice and the layers came out very short and dense. I used cake flour, weighed not scooped and followed your instructions exactly.. any ideas why this would happen?

  15. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if 1 tablespoon of vanilla is accurate? That seems like a lot so I just want to be sure.
    Thank you.

  16. This is why I use Betty Crocker. Cake is very dense. The batter looked thick but I thought. she said not to overmix so I didn’t want to mix it more. Sigh.

  17. Hi. I just read that vegan buttermilk can be made by 1 cup milk substitute and 2 tblspn vinegar fur 10 minutes. I’m not dairy free but sometimes need non-dairy for kosher reasons. Any thoughts?

  18. I’ve written to you about egg substitutes before because of my kids allergy. I usually use 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt for each egg. Is it possible for an egg substitute in this recipe?

  19. I just made this cake last night and accidentally used cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate for the chocolate batter but it worked out okay and it’s probably the best cake I’ve ever made. Thank you!

  20. This looks delicious!! Can you make a recipe for a marbled pound cake? Please! Can’t wait to try this one though.

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