This two-layer marble cake is made by swirling together chocolate and vanilla cake batter. The whole thing is then topped with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting!
Can’t decide whether to make a chocolate or vanilla cake? Then don’t! This chocolate vanilla marble cake recipe is the best of both worlds.
What I love about this easy marble cake is that the chocolate and vanilla cake batters are made using the same base. The base cake batter is divided in two, and a little cocoa powder is stirred into half of it to make the chocolate cake batter. The rest is left as is and acts as the vanilla part of the marble cake. So simple, right?
I topped this cake with my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting, but you’re welcome to use another frosting if desired. This marble cake makes a great addition to any holiday dessert table but is easy enough to make during the week just because!
Ingredients in This Recipe
I tried to keep the ingredients list for this homemade marble cake as simple as possible. Although you’ll be making two different types of cake batter, they both use similar ingredients to save you time. Here’s what you’ll need for this easy cake recipe:
- Cake flour: Results in a lighter, fluffier cake. If you don’t have any on hand, refer to my baking tips section.
- Baking powder & baking soda: Helps the cake layers rise in the oven.
- Salt: Balances out the sweetness of the cake and enhances the vanilla and chocolate flavors.
- Buttermilk: Should be at room temperature before making the batter. The buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and creates a soft, tender cake.
- Oil: This helps to keep the cake moist, even after several days. Be sure to use a neutral-flavored oil like canola or vegetable.
- Vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract delivers the best flavor.
- Cocoa powder: This is used to make the chocolate cake batter and also beaten into the frosting to make it ultra chocolatey.
- Water: Make sure to use hot water, this will be mixed with the cocoa powder. You can microwave the water for 20 to 30 seconds or until it’s hot.
- Butter: For a rich, buttery cake. Always use unsalted butter because the amount of salt in salted butters can vary between brands.
- Granulated sugar: I used 2 cups of sugar in this recipe, but remember that you’re making two cake layers.
- Eggs: The eggs add structure to the cake and must be at room temperature before making this recipe. If you forgot to set them out ahead of time, place them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
How to Make a Marble Cake
You’ll begin by making the cake batter (the same base is used for both flavors of cake). Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in another bowl.
In separate mixing bowl, whisk together your cocoa powder and hot water until the mixture is smooth. Set it aside to cool while you prepare the batter.
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter. Beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add in the sugar. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, this process will take about five minutes, so don’t try to rush it. By beating the butter and sugar together for several minutes, you’ll incorporate more air into the batter and end up with a softer cake.
Mix in the eggs one at a time, making sure to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
Then, add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the bowl. You’ll want to alternate between the two, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Make sure to mix in each addition on low speed and not to over mix the batter, which can result in a denser cake.
At this stage, you’ll need to divide the cake batter. Add 2 cups of the prepared vanilla cake batter to another mixing bowl, then stir the cocoa powder mixture into it until well combined.
Add about 1 cup of the vanilla cake batter to two parchment paper-lined 9-inch cake pans. Then, alternately dollop the remaining chocolate and vanilla cake batter into the pans. Gently swirl the chocolate and vanilla dollops together using a knife.
Bake the chocolate vanilla marble cake layers until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cake layers are cool, make the chocolate frosting. I used my chocolate buttercream frosting for this recipe, but increased it slightly to make enough for a layered cake. I also swapped out the heavy cream for whole milk, which makes the frosting super smooth and easier to spread!
From there, it’s just a matter of leveling out the cake layers with a cake leveler or serrated knife and assembling the finished marble cake!
Can I Make This Recipe in a 9×13-inch Pan?
Yes! Grease a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray, pour about 2 cups of vanilla batter into the pan, and then spread it around into one even layer. Alternately dollop spoonfuls of the chocolate cake batter and the remaining vanilla cake batter into the pan.
Use a knife to swirl the batter to create a marble effect (make sure not to swirl too much). Gently shake or tap the pan on the counter to level out the batter. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Can I Use Another Type of Frosting?
I love the chocolate buttercream frosting on this easy marble cake recipe, but you can also frost it with classic vanilla buttercream, peanut butter frosting, or chocolate cream cheese frosting. Chocolate and vanilla pair well with pretty much anything!
- It’s important that you beat together the butter and sugar for about five minutes. This incorporates lots of air into the mixture and makes for a fluffier cake.
- If you don’t have cake flour or buttermilk, you can make your own substitutes. Here is my cake flour substitute and here is my buttermilk substitute.
- Be careful not to swirl the chocolate and vanilla batter together too much. You want the cake batter to have distinct swirls in it!
More Layer Cake Recipes to Try!
- 3 cups (345 grams) cake flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk (room temperature)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup (60 ml) hot water
- 1 cup (2 sticks, or 230 grams) unsalted butter (softened)
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 ¼ cups (2.5 sticks, or 285 grams) unsalted butter (softened)
- 4 cups (480 grams) powdered sugar
- ⅔ cup (60 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 to 6 tablespoons (60 to 80 ml) whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
To make the marble cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and water together until well combined and no lumps remain. Set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, then slowly mix in the granulated sugar.
- Once all of the sugar is added, increase to medium speed and continue mixing for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl after each egg.
- Add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture (begin and end with the dry ingredients) on low speed. Mix in each addition until just combined, making sure not to over mix the batter.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well combined.
- Remove 2 cups (430 grams) of vanilla cake batter and transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Add the cocoa powder mixture and gently mix until well combined.
- Pour some of the vanilla cake batter into each pan and spread around into one even layer. Alternate spoonfuls of the chocolate cake batter and remaining vanilla cake batter, making sure to evenly distribute both between the two pans.
- Use a knife to gently swirl the batter to create a marble effect. Gently shake or tap the pans on the counter to level out the batter.
- Bake for 28 to 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Slide a knife around the outside of the cakes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the chocolate frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
- Mix in the powdered sugar on low speed, one cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.
- Add the cocoa powder, 4 tablespoons of milk, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on low-medium speed until fully combined, making sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. If needed, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk.
To assemble the cake:
- Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand, top with a layer of frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer. Place the second layer on top, then use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.
Adapted from my Vanilla Cake Recipe
Yum! This looks really good! I’m planning to make this today. Do you think I could make this in one or two loaf pans?
You could divide the batter between two loaf pans! I’m not sure on baking time, but I would guess 40 to 60 minutes.
Thank you so much!
Hey what’s should I do if I don’t have unsalted butter! Is it okay to used normal butter n skip the salt?
It would probably be okay to use it in the cake and just omit the salt. If your butter has quite a bit of salt in it though, it may not work very well for the frosting.
This looks delicious, Danielle and so easy. I was wondering if baked in the 13×9 pan will the same batch noted for your chocolate frosting be too much I should prepare to save some of it for another time?
Hi, Jenn! Yes, it would make a little extra frosting for a 9×13 cake. You could either freeze any extra frosting and use it later, or use my chocolate buttercream frosting recipe here (you can replace the heavy cream with milk in that one too). That recipe is very similar, it just makes less 🙂
Great, thank you!
Hola la leche que se utiliza para el glaseado es líquida o en polvo?gracias
Is this enough batter for a Bundt pan?
Yes, it would be enough! I’m not sure on baking time, but I would guess 50 to 65 minutes.
I don’t usually leave comments on the recipes I find, but I really wanted to thank you for this one.
THIS CAKE IS AMAZING!!
I LOVED IT!!
Thank you, Cynthia! So glad you loved the cake!
Can’t wait to try this recipe. However, it’s just me and my husband so could I half the recipe and use an 8×8 pan to bake it in?
Yes, that would be fine! You may need to adjust the baking time slightly though.
Hi Danielle – can’t wait to try this one!
I was wondering if there is anything I could substitute the buttermilk with or would it just not be the same?
Hi, Chantel! I have a buttermilk substitute here that you could use.
This recipe looks great! I can’t wait to try it. Do you think this would translate okay to cupcakes? Or should any adjustments be made, besides baking time?
Thanks for all the great recipes!
Yes, absolutely! The recipe will make about 30 to 32 cupcakes and baking time is 16 to 20 minutes.
I don’t have cake flour! Can I add something else?
I have a homemade cake flour substitute you could use here.
Hi! I loved this recipe.. It makes a perfect textured, delicious marble cake. Thanks!
Followed recipe exactly! Made in 2 9″ pans. Had to keep adding 1 minute increments even though the layers were pulling away from the sides, but the middle was not even close to being done. Finally after the middle tested done the layers split in the middle and collapsed. Total cooking time was probably 35 minutes.
Sorry to hear that you had trouble with the recipe. Did you make sure to not over mix the dry ingredients? If so, have you checked your oven temperature with an oven thermometer? I’ve never had any issues with the cake splitting and collapsing, so I’m not quite sure what happened.