Enjoy 2 cakes in 1 with this buttery rich marble loaf cake! Baking a cake in a loaf pan means easy prep and minimal decorating without sacrificing any flavor. The chocolate batter is made from the vanilla, so you don’t have to prepare two separate recipes. And don’t forget the 2-ingredient ganache topping!
There’s something so sensational about swirled desserts! I’m no stranger to marbled cakes and my favorites are this wild zebra cake (I used it as the base of my daughter’s “safari” birthday party cake!) and this giant chocolate marble banana Bundt cake. Have you tried either?
Today we’re relying on our 9×5-inch loaf pan, the magical vehicle that supplies us with banana bread, loaf pan cheesecake, and lemon pound cake.
Here’s Why You Will Love This Cake:
- Tastes rich and moist with prominent vanilla & chocolate flavors.
- It’s just as buttery as pound cake, but with a lighter crumb.
- The 2 cake flavors come from 1 basic batter.
- Assembly is as easy as spooning batter into the pan and swirling with a knife.
- Fuss-free decorating because all of the beauty is on the inside!
If you love homemade cake, but don’t need a towering giant with gobs of sweet frosting, this easy yet impressive dessert is for you. 🙂
Key Ingredients You Need for Marble Loaf Cake:
Adapted from reader-loved chocolate chip loaf cake, this marble loaf cake comes together with basic baking ingredients. You need all of the above plus flour, baking powder, and salt. Let me explain some of the most important:
- Creamed Butter & Sugar: Like most cake recipes, the wet ingredients start with room temperature butter and granulated sugar to create a fluffy creamed base. Unlike most cake recipes, we’ll also add some oil.
- Oil: Oil is a cake’s best friend because it adds exceptional moisture. The test cake without oil was a bit dry. Test cake #2 replaced some butter with vegetable oil and the cake tasted moister and richer. Most notably, however, tasters and I felt the chocolate flavor was more prominent in the loaf made with oil.
- Sour Cream & Whole Milk: Both help create a tender, cake-like crumb.
- Cocoa Powder: You need cocoa powder to make your chocolate batter. Remember this post on dutch-process vs. natural cocoa powder? Since we use baking powder in this cake recipe, you can use either.
- Espresso Powder: As you’ll notice in chocolate cake and chocolate chess pie, espresso powder kicks up chocolate’s flavor. This cake does NOT taste like coffee, rather, it deepens the chocolate.
Success Tip: Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Use Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the cake batter mixes together easily and evenly. Simply put, cold ingredients won’t properly combine to produce a smooth cake crumb. The batter will have lumps, as pictured below, but if you use cold ingredients, expect a lot of lumps that won’t bake properly.
After you prepare the vanilla batter, transfer some to another bowl and mix in your cocoa powder, more milk, and the espresso powder:
Here’s Exactly How to Swirl The Batters Together
- Spread a thin layer of the plain vanilla batter on the bottom.
- Layer spoonfuls of each batter on top. Cover bottom vanilla layer with a few spoonfuls of the chocolate batter, then a few spoonfuls of the vanilla batter, then more chocolate batter, then more vanilla batter, and so on until all of the cake batter is used.
- Gently shimmy the pan to level out the batters.
- Using a knife, make rounded horizontal zig-zags from one side of the pan to the other and then make rounded vertical zig-zags from the top to the bottom.
2 Ingredient Chocolate Ganache Topping
To top the cake, let’s turn to the wonderful dessert concoction known as ganache. Chocolate ganache is typically made with 1:1 semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream or heavy whipping cream, but for this cake I wanted a thicker-style ganache so I reduced the amount of cream. Since there’s less liquid, it’s best to melt these two ingredients together rather than pour warm cream over the chocolate.
I used milk chocolate in the pictured cake and if you’re using that as well, please see my recipe note because you need even less heavy cream.
Let the ganache thicken for 20-30 minutes and then drape it over your cake. It’s glorious!
Marble loaf cake is built-in beauty with basically zero decoration. We can all appreciate that!
More Baking Success Tips
- 10 Cake Baking Tips for Perfect Cakes
- My Recommendations for the Best Baking Pans
- Homemade Vanilla Extract
- How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients
- Learn: Baking Powder Vs Baking Soda
Marble Loaf Cake
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 65 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours (includes cooling)
- Yield: serves 8–10
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
You’ll love this buttery and moist marble loaf cake because it’s easy to make, assemble, and serve without any fancy decoration. The chocolate batter is made from the vanilla, so you don’t have to prepare two separate cake recipes. Review the recipe notes before beginning.
- 2 cups (255g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, 1 Tbsp!)
- 2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons (190ml) whole milk, divided and at room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons (16g) unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
- optional but recommended: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
Thick Ganache Topping
- one 4-ounce (113g) quality semi-sweet chocolate bar, finely chopped (see note)
- 6 Tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (see note)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and generously grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil and beat until combined. The mixture will still be quite creamy. Add the eggs and beat on high speed for 1 minute and then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. The mixture will be lumpy– that’s ok. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer to low speed and as the mixer runs, slowly pour in 2/3 cup (160ml) milk. Beat on low speed just until all of the ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no large lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
- You’ll have around 3-3.5 cups of batter. Transfer a little less than half (just eyeball it, doesn’t need to be perfect) to another bowl. Stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk, the cocoa powder, and espresso powder.
- Layer and swirl the batters: Spread a thin layer of the plain vanilla batter in the bottom of your prepared loaf pan. Now you will layer spoonfuls of each batter on top—cover bottom vanilla layer with a few spoonfuls of the chocolate batter, then a few spoonfuls of the vanilla batter, then more chocolate batter, then more vanilla batter, and so on until all of the cake batter is used. Gently shimmy the pan to level out the batters. Using a knife, make rounded horizontal zig-zags from one side of the pan to the other and then make rounded vertical zig-zags from the top to the bottom.
- Bake for about 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. That time is a guideline— all ovens differ, so keep a close eye on the cake after 55 minutes. If the cake is browning too quickly on top, loosely tent with aluminum foil as it bakes.
- Cool cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Note that the cake slightly sinks as it cools and that’s completely normal. Feel free to continue cooling the cake directly on a wire rack or you can top it and slice it while it’s still slightly warm after 30 minutes cooling inside the pan.
- As the cake cools, make the ganache topping: Place the chocolate and cream in a medium heat-safe bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water. (Or use a double boiler if you have one.) Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir frequently until chocolate has melted and ganache is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside at room temperature for 20-30 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Drizzle or spread topping on cake. Topping sets into a fudge-like consistency after several hours.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store cake (with or without topping) at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freezing Instructions: Topped or plain cake freezes well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 9×5-inch Loaf Pan | Glass Mixing Bowl | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Cooling Rack
- Oil: For best taste and texture, use vegetable oil. In a pinch, you can replace with canola oil or olive oil. The cake can taste greasy with melted coconut oil, but if you try it, it’s imperative the other ingredients are room temperature so the coconut oil doesn’t solidify as you mix the batter together.
- Whole Milk & Sour Cream: Feel free to replace the sour cream with low fat plain yogurt. For best results, use whole milk. Lower fat or nondairy milks work in a pinch. I don’t recommend replacing the sour cream and/or milk with buttermilk in this recipe.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about room temperature ingredients in baking.
- Espresso Powder: Espresso powder will not make the cake taste like coffee. Instead, it deepens the chocolate flavor. It’s optional, but for best taste, I highly recommend it. You can use the same amount of instant coffee (the powder) instead of espresso powder if desired.
- Ganache Topping: For the pictured ganache topping, I used 4 ounces of a milk chocolate baking bar from Trader Joes called “Milk Chocolate Pound Plus.” Milk chocolate is softer than semi-sweet and thus produces a thinner ganache. If you use milk chocolate, sometimes sold as “sweet chocolate” or “German’s chocolate” by the brand Bakers, reduce the heavy cream down to 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 60ml). If using semi-sweet chocolate, use 6 Tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream as listed above to produce a nice thick ganache.
Keywords: marble loaf cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
This was delicious and easy to make. I followed recipe except made a thinner layer of ganache by choice. The cake was done in 52 minutes. My husband loved it.
Sally my question is why vegetable oil instead of canola. Is there a difference for baking?
Hi Diane, we’re so glad you enjoyed this loaf cake recipe! You can typically use the two oils interchangeably–feel free to do so here!
I was sadly surprised by how badly this came out. I followed the recipe exactly, and I am an experienced baker, so I’m not sure what went wrong. Can’t upload a photo otherwise I would. The end product was a baked pile of sunken mush. It was inedible and crumbled to pieces. I have had some luck with other recipes from Sally, but won’t waste ingredients trying this one again.
Hi Bree! We’re happy to help troubleshoot if you would like, could it have been underbaked if it sank and was mushy? If the edges seem to be browning too quickly before the middle is cooked, tenting the pan with foil can help it bake more evenly. Thank you for giving the recipe a try!
A great recipe!As I like to experiment with different flavours,I decided to add some orange emulsion,as I didn’t have any oranges and it turned out great!Thank-you Sally for all your fabulous recipes!
I usually make loaves in a 4 cavity mini loaf pan. Is it possible to include baking times in your lively loaf recipes?
Hi Gloria, you can absolutely make these in mini pans. We haven’t tried them in mini loaves so we are unsure of the bake time.
Hi, I only have a 8×4 loaf pan. Can I just spoon less of the batter into the pan and have some left over?
That should work fine, Nadia. Enjoy!
Love this recipe, the cake came out moist and buttery this one is a keeper
This cake was absolutely fabulous. Rich, moist and full of flavor. My oven is not overly hot, and i took it out at 55 minutes, which was perfect. I’ve been searching for a wonderful Marble Cake, and this recipe won!! Thank you
This was wonderful but I think I made a mistake with the cooking time. It’s very moist and flavorful, however it breaks down into crumbly pieces and doesn’t hold its shape. Did I take it out too soon? I have a brand new oven and the toothpick test was good- perhaps more time was needed?
Hi Jennifer, Thank you for trying the recipe! Did you by chance use a smaller loaf pan such as 8.5×4.5 inches?
Can this recipe be doubled and baked in a bundt pan?
We recommend making 2 separate recipes instead of doubling. Doubling means you risk over or under mixing. Or you could try this zebra cake recipe which fits nicely into a Bundt pan. We’re unsure of the exact bake time for the Bundt, but it should be close to (or over!) 1 hour at 350F.
Hit here! Can I substitute whole milk with soy?
Hi Sarah, you can in a pinch, but the cake may not be as soft and rich.
Thank you !! Can’t wait to try!
This recipe came out great! The cake itself is not too sweet, and I omitted the frosting, making it a great cake to have with tea or coffee. I subbed yogurt for the sour cream and salted butter for the butter + salt, and it came out great!
The chocolate portion isn’t too chocolatey, so I might experiment with some other ways of adding chocolate flavor in future iterations.
my first bake that has absolutely no taste? so strange, what could this be?
This recipe was easy to follow.. that being said leaving the cake in the pan for 1 hour resulted in a very DRY cake! I knew that most likely would have happened. This has to be a type-o! It’s to bad. What a waste of time & money I threw it in the trash ! I’m sure leaving it in the pan 5 min would have had quite a different outcome
Hi Sally! Can this recipe be doubled to fit a fluted cake pan?
Hi Kate, We recommend making 2 separate recipes instead of doubling. Doubling means you risk over or under mixing. Or you could try this zebra cake recipe which fits nicely into a Bundt pan. We’re unsure of the exact bake time for the Bundt, but it should be close to (or over!) 1 hour at 350F.
I am a super fan of Sally recipes. I have rated every one 5 stars before this one as they have all been excellent. I am perplexed why this turned out dry. I am a very experienced baker. I weighed the ingredients and followed the recipe exactly. My oven temp is correct. Per the recipe I covered the loaf loosely with foil when it was getting a bit dark. I checked it at 55 minutes and I still had wet batter coming out the center. I checked at 60 minutes and it looked perfect and only a few moist crumbs so I took it out. So I don’t see how it could have been over baked in any way. But when we ate the loaf it was quite dry. The ganache was delicious – but I don’t think I will make this one again.
It’s so so so good. Moist and buttery as promised. I baked a loaf yesterday. It was finished within an hour. I’m baking a new loaf today ☺️
Very good! I’ve tried a few recipes from this site and they’ve all been good.
I really liked the taste of this recipe and it was easy to make. My cake came out a little dense and the bottom was especially dense. Any insight into what went wrong?
Hi Andrea, overly dense cakes are usually the result of over mixing. An easy fix for next time! This post on how to prevent dry and dense cakes might also be helpful to review. Thanks so much for giving this one a try!
I made this yesterday afternoon, because my husband and I love marble cake. I have tried other recipes, but this one is absolutely delicious. It was easy to make, and the flavors are smooth and not too sweet. This recipe is a keeper.
This was so easy to put together on a whim (you ever just get hit with the NEED for a cake lol). The only change I made was using your recipe for Perfect Vanilla Icing as I didn’t have the chocolate on hand for ganache. It came out beautifully. Thanks for another great recipe!
Can this be made into mini loaf cakes? There are just two of us, so I was thinking of making four in 5.5 x 3.25 loaf pans and freezing three for later. Obviously, they would bake much more quickly. Marble cake is my husband’s favorite and tomorrow is his birthday. 🙂
Hi Kathryn, you can absolutely make these in mini pans. We’re unsure of the bake time. Happy birthday to your husband!
Thank you. I just took them out of the oven and they look fantastic! They took 33 minutes in my oven to bake based on a toothpick test.
I was just going to ask about making this recipe into mini loaves. Do you know how many mini’s this recipe would make, based on Kathryn’s mini pan measurements? Would you fill the pans about 2/3 full? Thank you.
We’re unsure exactly how many mini loaves it would make, but yes, you can fill the pans 2/3 way full. Enjoy!
I love the loaf . Thought it seemed a little dry, I used canola not vegetable oil.Should that make a difference? Love your recipes.
Hi Maureen, the oil shouldn’t make a difference. Did you try any other substitutes?