Marble Cake Recipe

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

slice of marble layer cake on a white plate

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.

marble layer cake with milk chocolate frosting on a yellow cake stand

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.

2 images of creamed butter and sugar for yellow cake in a metal bowl with a paddle attachment and yellow cake batter in a metal bowl with a whisk

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. 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 makes a wonderful 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?

swirling melted chocolate into yellow cake batter in a glass bowl with a spoon

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.

chocolate cake batter in a glass bowl with a spoon

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:

2 images of yellow and chocolate cake batter in a cake pan before and after marbling the two batters together

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.

milk chocolate frosting in a glass bowl with a spatula

Welcome to my happy place.

slice of marble layer cake on a white plate with a fork

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!

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slice of marble layer cake on a white plate

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


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


  • 2 cups (236g) 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 (62g) 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.


  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 desired. 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: You can substitute whole milk for buttermilk if desired. (Acidic buttermilk isn’t needed in order for the cake to rise since we’re using baking powder.) You can use lower fat or nondairy milk in a pinch, but the cake won’t taste as rich and moist.
  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


Comments are closed.

  1. This looks cake absolutely delicious!!  All of your cake recipes that I’ve tried have turned out so well.  It was great to meet you at the book signing last night!  I really enjoyed listening to you talk about the evolution of your blog and your future plans.  I’m so glad you were able to swing down into San Diego! Thank you!

  2. This cake looks amazing. I am 17 and I love to bake and cook so unbelievably much. And I just want to say I always love your recipes. They’re always so amazing and beautiful and you are my idol!! 

  3. Ok,  I have been looking for this marble cake for so long, they all came out dry..BUT this one was perfect! So good…Thank you…Thank you


  4. Silvia Garces says:

    I love marble cake and I love baking. Im not sure when Im going to have time to make it with everything college demands! Thanks for sharing the cake flour combination with the all-purpose flour, cake flour can be hard to find. The cake in the picture looks delicious and I’m sure its very moist. I really didn’t understand how the chocolate swirls got into the yellow cake but the pictures explain it perfectly. The milk chocolate frosting looks delicious, can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

  5. Hey Sally, 
    The cake looks great btw!
    I just have a question/ inquiry though..
    I can’t seem to get what’s the difference between your milk chocolate frosting and dark chocolate frosting recipes when they both use just plain cocoa powder. Wouldn’t they both taste the same/ have a similar taste?

    1. They do have a similar taste, but the dark chocolate is more dense and less fluffy… not as light with a richer chocolate flavor.

  6. I don’t understand at the first of the post you say this is a yellow cake mix recipe but then the actual recipe is a scratch cake recipe, so what did you do with the yellow cake mix?  Did I miss something?

    1. It says this marble cake is not from a box.

      1. Oh ok, I’m an idiot! I thought that was not like all the other great recipes I’ve done of yours. I saw the two columns and didn’t see the second one that said it is not! Sorry. 
        I love all your recipes so I can’t wait to make this one!  Your my idol!

      2. No worries! It was easy to miss!

  7. Trina and Tina says:

    Oh lovely! We’ll be finding our happy place with this on a Saturday soon! Thanks for sharing! 

  8. Katie @The Semisweet Sisters says:

    That really does look like the BEST Marble Cake & that frosting looks to die for! Yum!

  9. Hi Sally

    I just made this cake today but have not tried it yet.  It’s for after dinner.  I have a question for you…what brand of cocoa did you use?  I used Ghiradelli and the color came out like mocha versus what you have.  The frosting tastes great but I like the deeper chocolate color.

    1. I used Hershey’s– you can try using Hershey’s special dark next time for a deeper color. Hope you enjoy.

      1. It was a delicious cake!!  Except I over baked it.  I have darker cake pans and I tested it at 20 minutes in the chocolate part and it was wet so I did it for 2 more minutes and it was too much.  Still edible!  Thanks for another great recipe!

  10. Michelle @ Modern Acupuncture says:

    This looks so dense and incredible… and that frosting! Thank you for including the cupcake instructions, I think that’s what I’m going to try later on this week. Yay!

  11. Oh my gosh! I just made this recipe in cupcakes and they are delicious! Thank you so much for this recipe, I think it’s my new favorite. 

  12. Ooooh real chocolate in a marble cake… YES !! Because marble cake just never ever taste like chocolate ! So thanks for yet another awesome recipe 🙂
    And good thought on the egg white omelet to balance out ah ah ah !!

  13. On my way back from Wawa this morning, I was dreaming of a classic yellow cake. It was almost as if you are in my brain right now. All of your recipes come at the PERFECT time. I would say it’s creepy, but I kind of love it. Haha! I really want to make this today, but running 14 miles yesterday has caused me to walk kind of funny today. Almost as if I’m a bull rider. Ouch. Lol

  14. Hi Sally,

    I made this in the form of cupcakes.. it was a super-duper hit!!! 

    Here is my updated list so far!! I have baked 84 of your recipes so far 🙂

    For some reason, anytime I use yeast – for breads/rolls etc, they turn out to be disaster… I am not having as much luck with the candy thermometer either… 🙁
    So, if you can add something about this in your baking basics serious, it would be really helpful to me!! 
    Thank you so much, Sally!

  15. My cakes turned out a little flat:-(. Not sure what went wrong.  I used room temperature ingredients and followed directions.  Maybe it’s not supposed to be a tall cake.  I’ll have to see how it tastes.

  16. Not a dumb question at all! You can simply leave out the chocolate and swirling step to make a yellow layer cake.

    1. Thank you Sally. Can’t wait to try this. Love Brown Sugar!

  17. Dear Sally, Thanks for all the lovely, yummy cakes, but please can you tell me, in the Milk Chocolate Frosting, what do you mean re-“heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk?” – Am a bit confused cause here in Australia,we don’t have that term here, or maybe there but as I am just starting to learn to bake, hence the confusion. Thanks !

    1. Lin, you can use either heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk in the frosting. Heavy cream is cream, half-and-half is a milk/cream blend, and whole milk is… well… obvious! Use any of those three in he frosting.

      1. Oh,,okay, now I get you, thanks for your quick reply cause as I am writing this, the yellow cakes [2 pans] are already done, just cooling off as I was hoping to get a reply from you soonest…Cheers!!

  18. This looks so good!  I wish I lived at sea level.  I’m at 4,500 feet and cake from scratch is a tough nut to crack.  I’m going to try your frosting, though!

  19. Coming back after the fact to say it was delicious! I still prefer the yellow bits to the chocolate bits, but that has nothing to do with the recipe and everything to do with me being weird. Definitely a keeper for when I need something pretty and yummy!

  20. Hi Sally, 

    Quick question about the chocolate buttercream. With cream in it can it sit out of would it have to be refridgerated. I’m trying to work out if it would be a suitable filling in a fondant covered cake. Thanks. 

  21. For the chocolate batter, can I use Hershey’s Semi Sweet Baking Bar? Or something of higher quality?

    1. Mary, that works perfectly!

  22. Hi Sally!! I only found you on Pinterest during the Christmas holidays while researching recipes. I tried a few, yummy, bought your cookbooks, and am now a follower of yours

    1. Thanks for following along! 🙂

  23. Hi Sally! I bake pretty much every recipe you post (that peanut chicken dish? SO GOOD). Anyways, I loved this recipe! My daughter turns one this April and I really want to make her a strawberry vanilla swirl cake. Any suggestions? Or possibly you have that exact recipe in the works and will post it soon. Because you have read my mind before!! Thanks and much love and sprinkles. 

    1. That kind of cake sounds amazing!! I’d love to make something like it, but I’m not sure it will be by this spring. I found this version but it uses cake mix. I wonder if you can use the same method with this homemade cake and the jello flavoring? Fresh strawberries would obviously be ideal!

  24. Thank you for this great recipe! It is absolutely delicious! The chocolate parts almost taste like brownies. My only issue with this recipe was that it came out almost a little too soft and fell apart somewhat when I cut it into slices.

    I decorated the cake with chocolate ganache, which really took the cake to a new level! I also covered this cake in fondant as I was practicing my fondant skills. The fondant paired well with the flavors of the cake and everything turned out great! Thank you!

    1. I bet your cake was fabulous with the ganache and fondant!

  25. Hello Sally,

    Could you please advise about the eggs because the recipe indicates 2 whole large egg and 4 large egg yolks only. Will the egg taste or smell abit guide on this..


  26. Hi Sally,

    I wanted to leave a comment on your “Homemade Funfetti Cake” post but the site was somehow not allowing it. Hope you will see this comment of mine here and will kindly give a reply!
    It is my sons’ first birthday on March 14th, next Monday and i am planning to bake your funfetti cake. i am thinking of baking it in a single 9 inch spring-form pan and then splitting it in two to make a layer cake. I am a bit anxious as i have never made a layer cake before nor have i frosted a cake, as i am a home baker. I wanted to go for a milk chocolate frosting. For a two layer cake as i mentioned here, should i follow the quantities/ recipe mentioned here in the marble cake or your triple chocolate layer cake or your cookies and cream cupcake or any other post? What do you recommend as a first birthday cake? is the funfetti cake a good choice? I also want to write on it my sons name but don’t want to commit to a whole batch of icing just for it. What do you recommend to do for writing a small message? Hoping sincerely that you would give me a quick reply in spite of your busy schedule!

    1. That easy homemade funfetti cake is a lovely choice for a layer cake beginner– since you will slice it in half. I recommend using the ratios of milk chocolate frosting used for this marble cake. You’ll have a little extra if you’d like to write something on top. For a different color, how about buying frosting to write the message. Since you don’t want to make two separate frostings.

      1. Thanks, Sally! I will proceed as you suggested!

  27. Hi Sally, I made this cake for my daughter for her birthday and it came out very dense and dry 🙁 What did I do wrong? I really feel like I followed your recipe exactly, except I used regular eggs instead of egglands best. Help!

    1. Melissa, were you sure to sift the cake flour? It makes ALL the difference. Is your baking powder fresh? I replace mine every 3 months because I find it loses potency not much longer after that. Without proper lift, the cake will taste dense. Also, do you think you overmixed the batter? This is my highly tested marble cake so I am concerned that yours was dense.

  28. 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!

    1. 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!

  29. 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!

    1. 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.

  30. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.  

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally