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

Description

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


Ingredients

  • 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 (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 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

260 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. I’ve just pulled this out of the oven. It’s incredibly dry and has collapsed in sections. Yes, I followed the directions precisely, including sifting the cake flour and making sure the baking powder was fresh. I will now be buying my spouse a birthday cake.

  2. Sally, can you make this into a 3 layer cake with 8 inch cake pans?

    1. Hi Lauren, I would make two batches of this cake batter, instead of doubling. You’ll have a little more batter than you need for a 3 layer cake in 8 inch cake pans, so use any extra to make cupcakes. (About 20 minutes for cupcakes.)

  3. Hey Sally! Please help 🙁 

    I was making this cake for a friend’s birthday. It was my second attempt at getting this right. But every time my cake batter splits. I don’t know why. I used room temperature ingredients and followed the recipe perfectly. But right after I added the last egg yolk, the batter just split. Please tell me where am I going wrong. Really want to get this right 🙁 

    Thanks! 

    1. Hi Isha, can you tell me more about what you meaning by splitting? Do you mean it’s curdling? If it’s curdling, just beat it on high speed until it comes together.

  4. Hi Sally, I was just wandering about the gram measurements for the cake flour, the unsalted butter and the granulated sugar, I checked by measuring those three ingredients and it did not match what is on your recipe. the cake flour was 110g per cup, unsalted butter was 113g per stick and 1/4 cup of sugar is 55g. I am somewhat confused, can you please clarify.

    1. They’re all pretty close to what I measure for mine! 115g per 1/2 cup butter, 50g per 1/4 cup sugar. A couple grams will not make any difference 🙂

  5. Hello.  How would you make this cake in “reverse”?  I mean by having the chocolate batter as the majority of the cake. How much chocolate would you need to add after you took out a cup of the yellow batter?  Would this work?

  6. i made this for my sons 12th bday party. I used a 9×13 pan and it turned out very thin- i followed the recipe as written…I sifted the cake flour, i let all ingredients come to room temp as instructed but i didnt use egglands best ( i usually do but i had a new carton of another kind). I dont think i overmixed. When i tasted the batter before baking it tasted light & airy and i was so excited. I am not sure where i went wrong. Im wondering if my baking powder is older than 3 mos ( i cannot remember) I am making a vanilla buttercream tomorrow to decorate because thats his favorite..and theyre 11 and 12 year old boys, they will eat anything. I am just so disappointed and wondering where i went wrong..any suggestions. I am considering making another one early tomorrow to make it a double layer 9×13..

  7. Kristie Mercer says:

    I am looking at your marble cake, it sounds wonderful. I am making my daughters wedding cake and she wants marble for the bottom layer. My question is will this cake recipe stand up to being a 14 inch bottom layer of a wedding cake?

    1. I would hate for it to not be sturdy enough. It’s moist and soft and while it would hold up well under fondant and underneath more layers of *this* cake, I fear that a heavier cake on top would be too much. As long as the layers on top are light, it should be OK.

  8. Do you think I could make this as a bundt cake? 

    1. Absolutely! I’m unsure of the bake time.

  9. Beautiful! How do you convert this recipe into a sheet cake??? Would love to make this into a birthday cake!

    1. Hi Jane! The recipe as written should fit quite nicely into a sheet pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time though.

      1. Hi Sally–very excited to make this cake! I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried of yours, and this will no doubt follow suit. I came here wondering the same thing–will this work in a sheet pan–I see you said yes, but did you mean a half sheet or quarter sheet? Surely not a full-sized sheet pan? I would like to make it as a half sheet, then cut in half as a two layer quarter sheet sized cake. Do you think this is enough batter for that, or should I double? I also see you’ve reccommend not doubling, so, any advice is much appreciated. Thank you!!

  10. How might you need to adjust the recipe if you intended to use it in a 12 x 3 inch cake pan (planning on using it as the cake in a pie in cake recipe I want to try).

  11. It was my 26th birthday & I really wanted a marble cake! It is my favorite cake of all time & reminds me of childhood as my mom & I used to bake it frequently. I don’t understand why marble isn’t more popular. You can do so many combinations with it! I can never find this damn cake ANYWHERE! UGH! This recipe was delicious! I sifted the dry ingredients & didn’t overmix the batter. The cake was moist, light, fluffy & had wonderful flavor. I had some vanilla beans left over so I put them to good use in this recipe. I also used a Trader Joe’s pound plus bar! I tasted the batter of both the vanilla & chocolate & knew it was going to be rock star status! The frosting was good, but tbh, next time I would omit the frosting because I didn’t even think the cake needed it. Next time, I would just sprinkle the top with a generous layer of powdered sugar. That is just my personal preference. I will definitely keep this recipe!LOVE LOVE LOVE! Thanks!

  12. musonda chomba says:

    I will surely try this

  13. Hi Sally,

    Will this recipe work for a Bundt cake and how long to bake? I want to use this recipe for a Rum Cake will the additional liquid from the Rum alter the cake? Thanks.

    1. Absolutely as a bundt! I’m unsure of the bake time. I wouldn’t add any additional liquid. A rum glaze might be a nice touch though.

  14. Thank you for this awesome recipe! I have to make my kid’s birthday cakes because we stay away from artificial colors. My son loved his birthday cake! It was so good that I think I will suggest people to try it on my blog!!

  15. May I know if a recipe calls for 2 8inch pans or 2 9inch pans. Am I able to use the same recipe and quantity but use just 1 9inch tin instead?? 

  16. Corinne Coniglio says:

    Hi Sally, I made the 9″ cakes following directions exactly room temp ingredients and all and my layers are very flat. Any suggestions as to what went wrong? I have not frosted it yet because I may try it again tomorrow to see if it is any better.

  17. Hi Sally! Made this fabulous cake in a bundt pan and was one of the best cakes ever! Everyone loved it and not a crumb left. Your instructions for diy cake flour were perfect. Thanks again for all of your hard work perfecting your recipes and sharing the fruits of your labor! I don’t bother looking to anyone else for recipes- seriously. Never had a fail with any of your recipes.

    1. Hey Shannon! How long did you bake for in a bundt pan? And did you stick to the same temperature?
      Lastly, did you use the entire recipe or halved it?

      1. Shannon Kenneally says:

        Hi Shayna! It took 45 min at 180. Another time it only took 40 min so just check at 40 min. I have a convection oven do not sure if that matters. I used the entire recipe. Good Luck!

  18. Is there any reason this cake can’t be made a couple of weeks ahead of time and frozen? I got asked to make a camoflouage cake for a birthday party the same week as my midterm exams and would like to bake ahead.
    On a separate note I’m a hobby baker and am obsessed with your blog! My husband, kids and friends are very thankful for all of your recipes. Haha 
    Thanks!

    1. Jennifer, I’m so glad you enjoy my blog! Thank you! You can freeze this cake. Check out the last sentence in my make ahead tip.

  19. Rohaya Zain says:

    Hi Sally, 

    I love marble cake and want to have it for my birthday. So, I search for a recipe and found yours. I baked and Oh, Lord!  Crunch on the outside and buttery inside. I LOVE IT! Highly recommended for uol to try. Thank you Sally for sharing. 

  20. Hey Sally, I wanna try your recipe for a half sheet cake I need to make next weekend. How much of this do you think I would need? Double, triple the recipe? 

  21. Hi Sally,
    I baked this yesterday. the taste was very good..but the cake turned out quite heavy. Should I beat it more to try to get a fluffy consistency?
    With kind regards,
    Rochelle

  22. Oh yeah baby….it’s as awesome as advertised. I was searching for a 2 layer marble cake recipe and stumbled upon yours. I was a little nervous about all those egg yolks but know that if I’m gonna make the effort to bake a cake from scratch I’m not gonna scrimp to try to be healthy! The eggs + yolks indeed made a super rich, moist, buttery yellow cake. This is incredible! 

  23. Hi Sally, 

    I am a home baker, and I wanted to bake this cake for my friend. The only this I that I want to cover it in fondant, but I don’t want the combination to be overly sweet. Will the fondant make this cake super sweet? Also…how many days in advanced can I bake the cake and have it still maintain its moisture? 

    Thank you in advanced,

    Sabrina 

    1. I find fondant to be overly sweet as is, so yes… the cake will be very sweet.
      I suggest baking the day before. See make ahead tip 🙂

  24. Hi Sally,

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

    Erin 🙂

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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 ? 

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

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

  28. 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 !

  29. 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?

    1. Here you go! Vanilla buttercream recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/05/14/vanilla-buttercream/

  30. 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? 

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

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

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

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