The ultimate people pleaser, this soft, fluffy, moist Marble Cake is a swirled masterpiece of vanilla and chocolate. This cake is shockingly easy to make and tastes as good as it looks! Recipe includes a how-to video.
Marble Cake (AKA: The People Pleaser)
Some people like chocolate cake, some people like vanilla cake–but everyone loves this marble cake!
It’s a beautiful, swirled combination that’s perfectly chocolatey with just the right amount of vanilla. If you’ve tried and enjoyed my zebra cake, you’ll love this richer, more elegant take, minus the whipped egg whites and special ingredients. It’s simple, gorgeous, and designed to please!
This recipe is a close cousin to my popular vanilla cake; it’s wonderfully soft, moist, and so flavorful. When developing this recipe, I originally toyed with the idea of making two separate batters, but ultimately decided it was too much of a hassle. That technique produced many more dishes and a much larger mess, and the cakes didn’t bake as evenly together as I would’ve liked. After a dozen more rounds of testing, I finally figured out a way to keep things simple with one batter for both flavors.
You’ll love my recipe because it’s:
- Perfect for parties–everyone is happy!
- Soft, fluffy, and moist.
- Simple to make with just one batter.
- Cloaked with a thick and fudgy chocolate frosting (just one of many options–more below!)
What You Need
This marble cake uses basic ingredients you’ll already have on hand. Let’s go over a few of the key players:
- Butter and oil. Butter adds flavor that you would miss from using just oil, and oil adds moisture that you would miss if you only used butter.
- Flour. I use all-purpose, but cake flour may be substituted; see the notes below the recipe card.
- Baking powder. A tablespoon may seem like a lot. It’s not a typo, trust me on this one 😉.
- Buttermilk. Yes, even though we aren’t using baking soda (which is often used alongside buttermilk, if you recall my buttermilk substitute post), we are still using buttermilk. It adds flavor and moisture to the marble cake.
- Chocolate. Adding cocoa powder didn’t give me the deep, distinct chocolate flavor that I was looking for (largely because we aren’t adding any hot water to bloom it, like in my chocolate cake recipe), but adding melted semisweet chocolate did the trick. You can use semisweet or dark chocolate here depending on your preference.
SAM’S TIP: If you only have salted butter on hand, you can reduce the salt in the recipe to ½ teaspoon.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Marble Cake
- Heat your chopped chocolate in the microwave until it’s smooth and melted, then set aside.
- Cream the butter, oil, and sugar until fluffy, then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then alternate adding this mixture and the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Portion ⅓-½ of the batter into a separate bowl and add stir in the melted chocolate until uniform.
- Alternate adding the vanilla and chocolate batter into your pans, then swirl them with a knife for a marbled appearance.
- Bake your cakes for 30 minutes, let them cool in their pans for 15 minutes, then invert them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
SAM’S TIP: You can also reverse-cream this marble cake (the technique I used in my caramel cake) for a plush, dense crumb. If you often accidentally over-mix your cakes, it’s almost impossible to do so with the reverse-creaming method.
Frequently Asked Questions
I like using my favorite chocolate frosting (though in the video I used my chocolate buttercream; either will work!). If you’re looking for a vanilla option, my classic buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting, Swiss meringue buttercream, or German buttercream would work well.
There are a few causes for a dry cake, but the main reasons are over-measuring your flour, overmixing, or overbaking.
I use a kitchen scale to measure my ingredients to avoid over-measuring my flour, as this is a very common mistake. I suggest you do the same! Once you begin combining the dry and wet ingredients, you want to be very careful to mix until just combined–and don’t use a mixer. Finally, you want to bake your marble cake until a toothpick comes out clean, or preferably, with a few moist crumbs; many ovens run hot though, so you’ll want to start checking your cake a few minutes before it should be done.
Follow these tips and your marble cake should turn out perfectly moist every time!
Store your marble cake in an airtight container. I recommend keeping it at room temperature, where it will keep for 2-3 days (so long as it isn’t a particularly humid environment). This cake may be refrigerated (again, in an airtight container) and will keep for about 5-7 days in the fridge–BUT, keep in mind that the refrigerator will dry out your cake, even in a container.
It’s always exciting to see the beautiful swirls when you cut into a marble cake!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 4 oz semisweet chocolate bar finely chopped
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- ½ cup canola oil (or vegetable oil) (120ml)
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar (350g)
- 4 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk room temperature preferred (300ml)
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (see post for more frosting options)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (170g)
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (226g)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (320g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350F and generously grease and flour two 8" round cake pans (you may instead use 9" pans, just keep in mind you will need to bake the cake for about 5 minutes less than indicated). Set aside.
- Place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well, and then return to microwave and heat in 15-second increments, stirring well in between, until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside.
- Using an electric or stand mixer, cream together butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy (about 30 seconds on high speed).
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pause as needed to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Using a spatula and gently hand-mixing, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter/oil batter, starting and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined after each addition. Do not overmix!
- Pour ⅓-½ of the batter into a separate bowl and add chocolate mixture. Stir until completely combined and batter is evenly chocolate.
- Alternate adding vanilla and chocolate batter to each pan, evenly distributing batter into each pan. Use a knife to swirl for marbled appearance.
- Bake on 350F (175C) for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out mostly clean but with a few moist crumbs (do not over-bake or the cake will be dry, you want there to be a few crumbs).
- Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes before carefully inverting onto cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips at 15 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until chips are completely melted. Set aside and allow to cool slightly (about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally).
- Cream room temperature butter with an electric mixer. Stir in slightly cooled chocolate and beat well.
- Gradually add sugar, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.
- Sprinkle in salt and vanilla extract, stir well.
- Gradually add heavy cream, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
- Spread a thick layer of frosting over the top of one cake round and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Top with second cake round and evenly frost cake. Slice and serve.
Cake FlourCake flour may be substituted. If using weights, use the same weight indicated in the recipe. If using cups you will need to use 3 cups + 6 Tablespoons of cake flour (cake flour is lighter than all purpose, which is why the weight is the same but the volume is different).
StoringStore cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Keep in mind the refrigerator tends to dry out cakes and make them a bit dry!
TroubleshootingA cake that turns out dense, dry, or crumbly (or tasting like cornbread) was most likely over-mixed, the flour was over-measured, or the cake was over-baked. When mixing wet and dry ingredients together, do not use an electric mixer, use a spatula and a gentle hand to stir ingredients together until combined. If you are not using a scale for this recipe, please see my tutorial on how to measure flour. When baking, always bake in the center rack. Make sure that your oven is not running hot, as many ovens run much hotter or cooler than indicated. Keep an oven thermometer near the center of your oven to monitor the temperature, as an oven that runs hot will cook a cake too fast and dry it out. Use the toothpick test to test if your cake is done. Ideally a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out with a few moist crumbs (but not wet batter). If the toothpick comes out completely clean, the cake is definitely done baking and may be bordering on being over-baked.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I’d like to make this as a 13×9 cake – do I need to double the recipe or is the amount here enough? Thanks!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Ben! Yes, this recipe as-is makes enough batter to fill a 13 x 9. Your bake time will be different though 😊
Can this cake be made as cupcakes?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Yes! Enjoy 😊
So good as usual! My 3 year old and I made this for my husbands birthday and we all thought it was great, very rich!
I’m looking to make an 8 inch 3 layer cake with each layer being 1 inch. Do you think if I split the recipe up between 3 8 inch cake pans that I would get 1 inch layers, or would you suggest I increase the size of the recipe and if so by how much?
Hi Grant! I think splitting this into 3 8 inch pans would give you layers pretty close to an inch. 🙂
I just made this recipe and it’s just lovely. Great flavor! I mixed the butter and sugar on the stand mixer, then everything else I did by hand so the batter didn’t get overmixed. It turned out great.
Would I be able to make this recipe with a 12×18 sheet pan? Would I need to double it? What about the time? Thanks!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Doubling should do it! We’re not sure on bake time though 🙂
Can I use loaf pan for this recipe? Will it fit two or one loadr pan and how long to bake?
Hi Jackie! It should bake in a loaf pan. You may be able to get 2 out of it, but I’m not sure on a bake time.
I ran out of heavy cream. Can I use milk or a coffee creamer? Or buttermilk for the chocolate
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Milk will work for the frosting. You may not need as much though 😊
Wonderful, family loved this cake. Next I’m going to make Ice Box Pie. Thank you!!
do you have any tips on freezing this cake? im making it ahead of time for a birthday party, but i dont want the cake to become dry. thanks
Hi Ashlyn! I would just make sure it’s cooled completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out in the freezer. 🙂
They turned out great, but my cakes were not done at 30 minutes, had to bake an additional 5 min for 35 total. Other then that, perfect!
Absolutely love your marble cake! Is it possible to some make this a red velvet marble cake? Or would I basically need to make the two different batters and swirl together?
Hi Monica! I think you’d probably be better off making two batters and swirling them together. The cook times should be pretty similar so I would think the cake would turn out, but without having tried it I can’t promise it would. Let me know how it goes if you try it. 🙂