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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!

marble loaf cake with ganache and raspberries on top

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. 🙂

two slices of marble loaf cake on red plate

Key Ingredients You Need for Marble Loaf Cake:

ingredients on black countertop including sugar, butter, eggs, milk, oil and others

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sour Cream & Whole Milk: Both help create a tender, cake-like crumb.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

vanilla batter and chocolate batter in separate glass bowls

Here’s Exactly How to Swirl The Batters Together

  1. Spread a thin layer of the plain vanilla batter on the bottom.
  2. 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.
  3. Gently shimmy the pan to level out the batters.
  4. 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.
vanilla and chocolate cake batter in loaf pan and swirled together with a knife
marble loaf cake before and after baking

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.

chopped chocolate in bowl and shown again melted as ganache

Let the ganache thicken for 20-30 minutes and then drape it over your cake. It’s glorious!

pouring chocolate ganache on loaf cake
marble loaf cake slice on white plate with raspberries

Marble loaf cake is built-in beauty with basically zero decoration. We can all appreciate that!

Print
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marble loaf cake with ganache and raspberries on top

Marble Loaf Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 65 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: serves 810 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups (255g) all-purpose flour (spoon & 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)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and generously grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Make the cake batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. Drizzle or spread topping on cake. Topping sets into a fudge-like consistency after several hours.
  10. 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 Questions and Reviews

  1. This looks delicious and as though it will be easy to put together. Have you ever made it with gluten free flour?

      1. Hello Sally, why do we need to cover the cake with ganache, it’s beautiful as it is. What’s the use of swirling it on top with the chocolate batter if you’re just going to erase it with the ganache.I will still make this but I’m not going to cover the swirled cake. Thank you

      2. I made a double batch do I give one to my neighbor. Everyone loved it and so easy!

  2. Hmm – I’m always looking for recipes for my small Bundt pan. Will give this a try (& maybe add some rum to the chocolate batter )

    1. I don’t recommend cake flour for this recipe because the crumb (and slices) will be too flimsy. You’ll likely have to adjust the wet ingredients as well. All-purpose is best for this particular recipe.

    2. This was a wonderful recipe! I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first time I have successfully made a marble cake although it should be no surprise. In all the recipes I’ve tried, the chocolate overwhelms the vanilla and it becomes mostly a chocolate cake but this stayed separated. It is perfectly moist and fluffy as well and is a tall beautiful cake. The only thing I’ll change next time is decrease the cocoa called for as it added a little bitterness to the chocolate part. Thanks Sally for the perfect recipe!

  3. Looks like another winner…and I will be using gluten free flour, so will let you know how it turns out. I have switched several of your recipes to GF and it has worked fine.

  4. This looks great, but I haven’t tried it yet. I did make your iced lemon loaf for a party last weekend and it was adored. I told everyone, “My secret is Sally’s Baking Addiction!”

    1. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes, Sora!

    1. Hi Pina, I don’t recommend it because you’ll lose the lighter texture from creaming and, of course, the butter flavor.

  5. Thank you, Sally, as always!
    Is there any way to make the ganache nondairy? If so, how? Or could a glaze be used on top instead?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Brenda, canned full fat coconut cream (shake it up well first!) is a great 1:1 substitute for the heavy cream.

  6. Made this today and am sitting here enjoying a slice now! So so good. Followed the recipe exactly, everything came together perfectly. The ganache adds a boost of chocolate flavor and I love that it’s a smaller cake so I’m not left with too many leftovers.

  7. Just made this today and it was AMAZING. I see your regular marble cake recipe is not the same as this one. Can I double this recipe and make it in a 9×13 or something similar? That small loaf isn’t big enough for all the people I want to share this amazing cake with!!!

    1. Hi Heather, I really do prefer this cake recipe and the zebra layer cake over the original marble cake. That recipe needs some tweaking– it doesn’t rise very nicely compared to these other recipes. For a 9×13 inch cake, you could try using this batter but I recommend making 2 separate recipes instead of doubling. Doubling means you risk over or under mixing. You could also just use the zebra cake batter for a 9×13 inch cake.

  8. I’m excited to try this! Do you need to use heavy cream for the ganache ? Can you use 2% milk?

    1. Hi Angela, I do not recommend anything with lower fat percentage– you need heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. (Also known as double cream.)

  9. The photos on this post are incredible! So beautiful. Great work, Sally and team!

    1. Thank you so much Alison! I really do love how chocolate desserts look with the darker backdrops. 🙂

  10. This comment is not about the recipe, but rather the type and shape of the pan you have used in the photographs. It is much better, and you will get a more attractive result, if you use a light colored, shiny, preferably aluminum pan. The crust looks very dark in the photos, and you will get a more delicate crust with a light colored pan. Also, one my pet peeves with loaf cakes, is that they are often wide and squat looking and not as attractive as they would be if made in a smaller pan, e.g. an 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75-inch pan. But to make it even more attractive, a longer, narrower pan, such as 10.25 x 4.25 x 3 3/8-inch, will produce a better looking loaf cake. (This last size is hard to find, but worth it if you make many loaf cakes.) I hope this info is useful. I am a fan and have a couple of Sally’s books. Happy baking!

    1. Hi Kandis, my team and I haven’t tested that substitution. If anything, you can just substitute more milk for the sour cream. But if you test out using mayonnaise, let us know how it goes!

    1. Hi Wendy, You can use salted butter and simply cut the added salt in half. Enjoy!

  11. The cake is great! The ganache adds so much. My ganache separated though and had an oily appearance on top. After a google search I found that adding a few tablespoons of warm milk took care of it!!

  12. Love ALL of your recipes! I’ve always wanted to make a marble cake so this turned out really nice and so easy!

  13. I’m always on the lookout for marble cake recipes. This one is delish! I have a question though. My cake came out a little dry. I substituted with soy based sour cream and non-dairy milk but this probably didn’t cause the dryness. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Sarah, I can’t say for sure if those substitutions were or were not the reasons because we haven’t tested the recipe that way. I do recommend whole milk and full-fat regular sour cream. Besides that, make sure you are spooning and leveling (or weighing!) the flour.

    2. Hi Sarah! The fats in dairy products do contribute to a cake’s moistness and softness – this could be a factor. Additionally, make sure to use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients. Make sure you spoon and level the flour, too – packing in too much flour can lead to a dry cake. Hope these tips help!

      1. I have to use the substitutions to make the cake non-dairy for dietary reasons. How can I make the cake more moist based on my subs? Increase oil or butter?

  14. I made no substitutions or changes, but the cake was dry. 2 others agreed.
    I never complain about Sally recipes! Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Roberta! Did you spoon and level your flour? Additionally, over-baking is the most common culprit for dry cakes – make sure to keep an eye on it in the oven and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  15. Sally, I made this twice in 2 days. My neighbor dropped by, had a piece and took the rest home. I made another for our home. Absolutely delicious. Thank you!

  16. I made this today. It turned out lovely. I followed the directions exactly. I just wish I had someone to share it with to save me from myself, lol

  17. Outstanding cake! Nice, rich flavor. Not dry at all. It has a little more “body” than a traditional layer cake (this is more like a pound cake) which is why we liked it so much. I didn’t change a thing except I made a milk chocolate ganache. Also, my cake was done at 55 minutes. I guess every oven is different.

    1. Hi Chris, we don’t see why that wouldn’t work. Enjoy!

  18. This is delicious and beautiful! And the recipe is very forgiving. I made a very big mistake – 60 grams of cocoa instead of 16 (yikes)! I removed what I could, but I must have still had at least double the amount of cocoa. The loaf survived! With a nice glass of milk…. I’ll make it again but next time I will make it properly. Thanks for another winner!

  19. Hi Sally. I have made many of your recipes and have loved every one. However, this marble cake came out rather dense and dry. I followed the recipe almost completely, but did substitute Canola oil for the vegetable oil and used Whole Earth sugar substitute for my diabetic wife. Cooked the cake for 65 minutes. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Vincent, the oil wouldn’t be the problem, but I do recommend using regular sugar in this recipe. We’ve never tested it with a sugar substitute, however we know it doesn’t cream with butter quite like sugar does and won’t add quite as much moisture. Thank you for trying the recipe though.

  20. Hi!
    Marble Cake looks amazing!
    If I have leftovers should I keep it in the fridge?

    1. Happy to help! See step 10 for storing details: 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.

  21. So I baked this and followed the directions to the letter. But my chocolate was no where near as dark, and boy did it crater on top as it cooled. It was in the oven for 60 min and the toothpick in several places was completely dry. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Anne, how’s the texture? Usually when cakes collapse they’ve been under-baked. Make sure to do the toothpick test in the thickest middle part of the cake. We also recommend checking to make sure your baking powder is fresh as we find it can lose strength after just a few months. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

      1. Thanks for the input. I did poke in several places and all good. I’ll try new baking powder!

  22. Cake looked great but tasted dense & very dry. Only change I made was using light sour cream. All other ingredients, timing for mixing, directions for measuring, baking were exact.
    Wouldn’t make again, even w/full fat so u r cream

  23. This was a real disapointment. The cake never did bake up firm enough to be removed from the loaf pan. I ended up with a puddly mess that spilled all over the oven. It tasted good, but that’s the only reason I’m giving it three stars. I’m sorry about this, because the recipe read so well.

    1. Hi Jeanne, it sounds like the cake was under-baked and simply needed more time. Did you by chance use a smaller loaf pan such as 8.5×4.5 inches? Thank you for trying the recipe!

  24. Sorry but I have to leave an honest review. I followed this recipe exactly. I checked it every few minutes after 55 minutes, till my cake tester came out dry. Unfortunately the cake has a very heavy texture and is extremely dry . The ganache itself was quite thick…a chocolate sauce would have been better to help with the dryness. Both the recipe and the cake ended up in the garbage. I was embarrassed to have served it to my quests, although they were polite enough not to comment. I am a fan of Sally’s recipes, but not this one!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! If you ever decide to try the recipe again, cake flour in place of all-purpose flour could help as well as using more heavy cream in the ganache. Again, thank you!

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