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Marble Cake (Cupcakes) with video

Marble Cake doesn’t have to have two totally different textures between the vanilla and chocolate swirls. I created a process for making marble cake so that both flavors have the same exact soft and tender crumb. This cake is so tasty and so pretty.

a slice of marble cake on a plate

I created this recipe based on a question from a member of the Baking Sense – Recipe Workshop Facebook group. 

They were wondering if it’s possible to make a marble cake so that the chocolate and vanilla cake have the same texture. (By the way, it’s a private group but anyone can join. Send a request and I’ll add you to the group!)

How to make a better Marble Cake Recipe:

If you’ve ever made marble cake I think you probably know what the problem is.

Virtually all the recipes I’ve seen mix vanilla cake batter and then flavor a portion of that batter with cocoa, or cocoa and butter, or melted chocolate to create a chocolate cake batter.

When you take a fully mixed batter and add cocoa or chocolate to that batter, you will inevitably change the texture of the cake. You’ll have a denser chocolate cake mixed with a lighter vanilla cake.

So, how do we get cocoa into the batter without making the chocolate cake heavier? Well, I’ll tell you a little baking secret; cocoa acts like flour in cake batter.

You can turn almost any vanilla cake recipe into a chocolate cake by replacing a portion of the flour with cocoa powder.

In fact, my initial answer to the question of how to make a marble cake with a consistent texture was to make two batters.

First, make a vanilla batter. Then make the same recipe again, replacing a portion of the flour with cocoa. Of course, the trouble with that solution is that you have to mix two batters.

So my goal was to create a good marble recipe mixing one batter, but keeping the ingredients in balance. I had to figure out how to replace some of the flour in half of the cake with cocoa, while only mixing one batch of batter.

a marble cupcake on a mini cake stand

Step by step directions for making Marble Cake:

  • My solution was to set aside some of the flour before mixing. I reduced the amount of flour in the original recipe by 1 cup. I mixed the batter and divided it into two equal portions.
  • Since I reduced the amount of flour in the recipe by 1 cup, that means each half of the batter needed a 1/2 cup added back in.
  • I stirred a 1/2 cup of flour into the vanilla portion of the batter, and a 1/2 cup of cocoa into the chocolate batter. Now I had two batters with the same proportion of ingredients.
  • I baked the cake and was happy with how the process worked. I had a cake with consistent texture throughout. The trouble was, I wasn’t completely happy with the taste of the cake.
  • Because of the intense chocolate flavor, the cake needed to be a bit sweeter. It wasn’t quite “blog worthy” yet.
  • I increased the amount of sugar in the batter and, while I was at it, I added a little more buttermilk and butter so the cake would be very tender and tasty.

The results are wonderful, if I do say so myself.

How to marble a cake:

You can see in the video how I put the batter into the pans to create a wavy marbling that looks striking when the cake is cut.

It’s basically as easy as putting a dollop of vanilla batter in the middle of the pan. Then put a dollop of chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter, then a dollop of vanilla batter, then chocolate batter, and so forth. 

The marble cake pattern will form itself as the cake bakes.

top view of a layer of marble cake

To make marble cupcakes simply drop a dollop of vanilla batter into each cup and then a dollop of chocolate.

marble cupcake with chocolate frosting on a mini cake stand

Watch the recipe video to see how to make Marble Cake.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

marble cake

Marble Cake (& Cupcakes)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Marble Cake doesn't have to have two totally different textures between the vanilla and chocolate swirls. I created a process for making marble cake so that both flavors have the same exact soft and tender crumb. This cake is so tasty and so pretty.

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs plus 3 yolks whisked together
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 350ml) buttermilk 
  • 2 1/2 cups (11.5 oz, 325g) cake flour, 1/2 cup set aside
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups (16 oz, 455g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 340g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1/2 cup (2.2 oz, 65g) cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed

Instructions

  1. Line two 8" cake pans with parchment paper or butter and flour the bottom of the pans (see note 2). Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk the eggs and yolks with the vanilla and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk. Set Aside.
  3. In a the bowl of a stand or a large mixing bowl, sift together 2 cups of the flour with the baking powder and the salt and granulated sugar.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds to combine the ingredients.
  5. With the mixer running, toss in the butter. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2-3 minutes until the batter gets lighter in color and texture.
  6. Scrape the bowl and beaters. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches.
  7. Divide the batter into two equal portions.
  8. Sift the reserved 1/2 cup of flour over one portion of the batter and stir it until well-combined.
  9. Sift the cocoa over the other portion of batter and stir it in until well-combined.
  10. Pour a large dollop of vanilla batter into each pan, then pour a large dollop of chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter in each pan. Continue alternating the vanilla and chocolate batter until all the batter is gone. Shimmy the pan to settle the batter then use a small spatula to lightly smooth to an even layer. Don't over mix at this point or you'll loose the marble pattern.
  11. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  12. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan then remove the cakes from the pans and set on a cooling rack and cool completely.
  13. At this point, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 3 months before using.

Notes

This batter can also be baked in as 24 cupcakes. You will need to adjust the baking time . Cupcakes will take about 15 minutes.

Did you make this recipe?

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Karen

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

Can I use AP flour in this recipe.

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

Not in a 1:1 swap or the cake will be too dense. For each cup of cake flour use 3/4 cup of AP flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

Naomi

Sunday 18th of October 2020

I almost died and went to heaven when i tasted the batter for this cake. The vanilla cake batter was so good, then I tasted the chocolate and it was like... whatttttttttt, how can this be this good!? All that to say, can I make these as stand alone cakes? I love all your recipes, but there is something extra amazing about these two flavors. They’re to die for!

Amber

Thursday 29th of August 2019

Can almondmilk be used in place of the buttermilk to make it dairy free? Or is there another alternative?

Eileen Gray

Thursday 29th of August 2019

I haven't tried it specifically, but I think almond milk should work just fine.

Nuttamon Hasdin

Sunday 27th of January 2019

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipe I am glad , I found you. I can not wait to try Your Marble cake . Nuttamon

Holly

Wednesday 15th of August 2018

Are you sure the amount of butter listed is correct? 3 sticks seems like a lot in proportion to the other ingredients. I made these into cupcakes last night with high hopes, and they turned out terrible. The batter seemed great but after taking them out of the oven, they shrunk up and had a terrible spongy texture. The only time I have seen cupcakes behave this way is when I accidentally added too much butter. Just curious!

Eileen

Wednesday 15th of August 2018

Hi Holly, the butter amount in the recipe is correct. Since I haven't made this recipe since I posted it I made some cupcakes today and they were good. But thank you for asking a question because when I reviewed the recipe I did adjust the amount for the baking powder just a bit.

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