Soft, fluffy, moist marble cake, made with vanilla and chocolate cake swirled together. This cake is easy to make with my step-by-step instructions (and new video!), and is frosted with my favorite silky chocolate frosting.
The People Pleaser
👆🏻That’s what I call this marble cake. It just has something for everyone. It’s perfectly contrasted to appease taste testers of all dessert preferences. This cake isn’t just delicious, it’s:
- Soft, fluffy, and moist.
- Cloaked with a thick, dense, and fudgy chocolate frosting
- Light in texture
- But has a dark chocolate ripple
- Sweet vanilla
- Deep chocolate
I mean, really, if you don’t like marble cake, who are you? And also, why are you here?
This recipe is a close cousin to my vanilla cake. In fact, that recipe was only developed because I needed a solid and reliable base for both this marble cake recipe and my pineapple upside-down cake. It took about 60 tries and many months to get the recipe just right, but hundreds of five star reviews later, I’d have to say all the testing paid off.
What You Need
A few basic ingredients:
- Butter. Use unsalted, or if you only have salted reduce the salt in the recipe to ½ teaspoon. Butter adds flavor to the cake that you wouldn’t get by just using oil.
- Oil. Oil keeps the cake soft and moist by adding moisture to the batter that you would miss out on if you only used butter.
- Sugar. We just use granulated for this recipe.
- Eggs. Four large. For best results, use room-temperature eggs. In fact, all of your ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Vanilla extract. To enhance the flavor.
- Flour. I use all-purpose. Cake flour may be substituted, please see the notes below the recipe card.
- Baking powder. A Tablespoon may seem like a lot. It’s not a typo, trust me.
- Salt. For flavor.
- Buttermilk. Yes, even though we aren’t using baking soda (which is often used alongside buttermilk, if you recall my buttermilk substitute post), you still want to use buttermilk. It adds flavor and moisture to your marble cake.
- Chocolate. A 4 oz bar .You can use semisweet or dark chocolate.
You’ll also need the ingredients for a batch of chocolate frosting (though I include some possible substitutions a bit further down the page!
Just One Batter
When making the cake I originally toyed with the idea of making two separate batters (one vanilla, and one chocolate). It was a hassle. Many more dishes, a much larger mess, and the cakes didn’t bake as evenly together as I would’ve liked. With a teething 5 month old who’s currently not letting me sleep very much anymore, I had neither the time nor the patience to entertain this tale of two batters for very long.
Instead we make a simple vanilla cake batter, and then infuse half of it with chocolate. Adding cocoa powder didn’t give me the deep, distinct chocolate flavor that I was looking for, unfortunately (largely because we aren’t adding any hot water or hot cocoa to bloom it, like we do in my favorite chocolate cake recipe), but adding melted semisweet chocolate did the trick.
Swirl this into half of the vanilla batter and then swirl the two batters together with a butterknife for a beautiful marble effect.
Hint: You can also reverse-cream this cake, using 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.
For the Frosting
For the frosting, I used my favorite chocolate frosting (though in the video I used my chocolate buttercream, either will work!). I wanted a rich chocolate icing to really help set off the chocolate flavor in the cake, but if you’re looking for a vanilla option, my classic buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting (or even Swiss meringue buttercream) would work well.
Store this 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). Marble cake may be refrigerated (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.
More Recipes You Might Like:
Be sure to check out my how-to video in the recipe card!
- 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)
- 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.
This recipe was originally published 07/03/2017. Photos and post updated to be more helpful and a how-to video added 05/07/2020.Original photo: