Even better than from the bakery! This moist, buttery marble cake is made completely from scratch with ingredients you probably already have on hand.

A slice of marble cake with chocolate frosting, served on its side.

I’m on a marble kick!

Last week I posted these incredible marbled cheesecake brownies, and now here I am sharing this gorgeous marble cake with you today.

What can I say? When you can’t decide between 2 amazing desserts, marbling is the perfect solution!

I already have an amazing marble bundt cake recipe on this site, but I thought it was about time I made you a layer cake version.

I haven’t shared a layer cake since that Boston Cream Pie back in June!
Moist marble cake from displayed on a cake pedestal.

Table of Contents

Jump to Recipe

What is marble cake?

When you’re not sure whether you should make chocolate cake or vanilla cake, marble cake is the answer.

It’s the best of both cake worlds! Chocolate and vanilla swirled together. A total win for everyone!

This recipe starts with my favorite vanilla cake. You’ll love it because it’s so incredibly soft and moist, and easy as can be to make in just one bowl.

Divide the batter into two separate bowls and and stir half of it together with a mixture of cocoa powder and water.

Then just fill your cake pans with alternating spoonfuls of each, and swirl together!

What’s great about this marble cake recipe

  1. Top notch flavor: You get sweetly aromatic vanilla cake, swirled together with rich dark chocolate cake.
  2. Few ingredients: It’s made entirely with pantry staples.
  3. Easy to make: You’ll only need around 30 minutes to make it.
  4. Versatile: Make a triple layer cake like you see here, or a double layer, sheet cake, cupcakes, or bundt.

What does marble cake taste like?

This marble birthday cake bakes up soft and moist yet light and delicate. The crumb is very fine and downy.

It’s buttery and perfumed with sweet vanilla. But every so often you get a bite of rich chocolate, which creates the most interesting contrast.

Overall, it’s just sweet enough, allowing for a nice balance between cake and frosting.


Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this marble cake recipe.


A combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour are used to achieve a balance between structure and tenderness.

All-purpose flour lends added strength to the structure, so it’s not so soft it just falls apart. You can swap it out for any kind of whole-grain option if you like.  You may need slightly less if you go that route.  

A gluten-free flour blend that can sub 1:1 for regular flour should also work just fine, if you’d like to make a gluten-free chocolate chip cake.

Read lots more about cake flour here: What is Cake Flour?


Sugar adds sweetness (obvs!) but it also aids in browning and keeps things moist, since it’s hydrophilic (this means it loves water, in other words, it draws moisture in). 

Regular white sugar is fine, or sub for another type of sweetener if you like.  As long as it swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.

Baking powder and baking soda

These leavening agents are essential for making the cake rise and bake up light and fluffy.


Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them.  The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful!  

I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure.  It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.


Butter adds richness and flavor to the cake.

I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish.  Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.  

For a vegan or dairy-free marble cake recipe, use a plant-based butter that can substitute for dairy butter 1:1.

This recipe works best if you allow the butter to come to room temperature first.  You can set it out on the counter a few hours ahead of making your recipe, or you can microwave it for 10 seconds, turn it over, and microwave it again for another 8 seconds.


Eggs act as a binding agent and provide structure to the cake.

They also contribute to its moisture and tenderness.

Use large chicken eggs here, or a plant-based egg replacement than subs 1:1 for chicken eggs.

It’s best if the eggs are at room temperature, but I don’t find this to be critical.

Sour cream

Sour cream adds moisture to the cake batter, resulting in a softer and more tender cake. It helps prevent the cake from drying out during baking.

If you don’t have sour cream you could also use the same amount of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or buttermilk.


Milk adds moisture and helps achieve a workable batter consistency.

You can use whatever kind of milk you keep on hand: 2%, skim whole… even a plant-based milk will work!


Vanilla extract adds a subtly sweet flavor without being at all sugary.  

For a more pronounced flavor, try using vanilla bean paste.  You could also split a vanilla bean down the center lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add those.  


Unsweetened cocoa powder is used to flavor and color the chocolate swirl. I have not tested this recipe with Dutched cocoa, so I can’t say for sure how well it would work.


A little bit of water is needed to liquefy the cocoa so that it doesn’t form clumps when added to the cake batter. Hot water will work best here.

Special equipment

Here are the tools you’ll need to make this recipe:

How to make this marble cake recipe step-by-step

This recipe utilizes the reverse creaming method, so it may be a little different than what you’re used to. Let’s walk through the method together.

Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients

Start by combining the dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt all get stirred together until combined.

Dry ingredients combined in a large mixing bowl.

If you are unfamiliar with cake flour, you can learn more about it by clicking here: Why Use Cake Flour.

Step 2: Work in the butter in

Once your dry ingredients are combined, you can add the butter.

Adding soft butter to dry ingredients.

Just mix it in for a minute or so, until the mixture resembles damp sand.

Butter and dry ingredients, mixed until it resembles damp sand.

Step 3: Add the eggs

Then add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula after each addition.

Adding eggs one at a time to cake batter.

This will really ensure your cake batter comes out smooth and lump free.

Cake batter with eggs added.

Step 4: Liquid ingredients

The final additions are sour cream, milk, and vanilla.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) sour cream, there are substitutions noted in the recipe card below.

Half the vanilla cake batter in a prepared pan.

Transfer about half the batter to greased, parchment-lined cake pans.

Step 5: Flavor half the batter with chocolate

In a smaller bowl, stir the cocoa powder and water together until smooth.

Cocoa and hot water, stirred together until smooth.

Then add half the vanilla cake batter.

Half the cake batter, flavored with cocoa.

And stir it together.

Dropping spoonfuls of chocolate cake batter over vanilla.

Then, start dropping it by spoonfuls into the cake pans, and swirl!

Swirling chocolate and vanilla cake batters together with the tip of a sharp knife.

How to bake marble cake

I chose to bake this recipe up in 3 6-inch diameter round pans, but it can also be made in 2 8-inch pans or 9-inch pans. Or you could make it in a 9×13-inch pan, or as 2 dozen cupcakes. You could even double the recipe and bake it in a 12-cup bundt pan.

Just be sure to adjust the bake times as needed, if you’re making it differently than what you see here!

You’ll know your cake is done baking when it feels springy and a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

If your cake comes out with a domed top, just use a serrated bread knife to trim it down once it’s cooled.

Easy marble cake recipe, prepared and presented on different cake plates.

Expert tips

  • Measure all the ingredients precisely. Use liquid measuring cups for the liquid ingredients, and dry measuring cups for the dry ingredients. Accurate measurements ensure the right balance of ingredients and prevent the cake from being too dry or too wet. Read more about this here: How to Measure Ingredients for Baking.
  • Allow ingredients like eggs, butter, and sour cream to come to room temperature before starting. Room temperature ingredients mix in more smoothly, so you don’t end up with a lumpy batter.
  • Keep a close eye on the cake while baking and avoid overbaking it. Overbaking can lead to a dry cake. A few minutes before you think it will be done, flip on the oven light and view the cake through the window. If it doesn’t look wet in the middle, crack open the door slightly and give it a feel. If it’s springy, give it the toothpick test. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Cooling in the pan helps keep the cake moist.
Close up view of the inside of a homemade marble cake.


What frosting goes with marble cake?

For the pics and video you see here, I used my favorite easy chocolate frosting. I love it because it’s so simple to make.

But this cake would also taste great with any of the following:

How long does marble cake last?

I recommend baking the cake layers the day before they’re filled and frosted. Allow them to cool completely, then wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge.

This way, they’re easier to frost without getting crumbs in the buttercream. I also find that the cake somehow becomes more moist after it’s been refrigerated.

Once the cake is filled and frosted, it will keep at room temperature for a day or so.

In the refrigerator, it should stay good for several days to a week.

The cake layers can also be frozen. They’ll keep for several weeks to a month in the freezer. You can frost them frozen, or allow them to thaw in the fridge first.

What is the serving size?

When baked as a triple-layer, 6-inch round layer cake like you see here, you’ll get around 8 slices out of the cake.

The nutritional info noted in the recipe card below is for 1/8 the whole cake. It does not include any frosting or filling you might want to add.

A slice of marble birthday cake, served on a pale gray plate.

Next time you have a big occasion to celebrate, make this marble cake recipe! It’s incredibly moist, so simple to make, and sure to please everyone at the table!

A few more of my favorite cake recipes

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Best Marble Cake Recipe
4.95 stars (18 ratings)

Marble Cake

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Even better than from the bakery! This moist, buttery marble cake is made completely from scratch with ingredients you probably already have on hand.



  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, lightly mist 3 6-inch diameter cake pans** with non-stick spray, and line them with circles cut from parchment.
  • Place the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the softened butter, and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (about 1 minute).
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula after each addition.
  • Stir in the sour cream until smooth.
  • Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and stir in the milk and vanilla.
  • Beat the batter on medium speed for about a minute to a minute and a half, to aerate the cake batter and build the cake's structure.
  • Stir the cocoa and hot water together in a smaller bowl, then fold about half the cake batter into the cocoa mixture until blended.
  • Divide the batters equally between the 3 prepared pans, using the tip of a sharp knife to swirl the chocolate and vanilla cake batters together.
  • Bake the cake layers until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of a cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs (approx. 30 to 40 minutes).
  • Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting with
    Easy Chocolate Frosting.


*Greek yogurt or buttermilk can be substituted. If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute by stirring 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice into 2/3 cup of regular milk. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened and slightly curdled.
**This cake can also be baked in two 8-inch or 9-inch diameter cake pans. The cake layers may bake up slightly thinner, and the bake times may need to be adjusted.
If you just want to make chocolate cake, here is my favorite recipe: Chocolate Cake from Scratch.
Serving: 0.125cake, Calories: 450kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 100mg, Sodium: 353mg, Potassium: 210mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 736IU, Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 82mg, Iron: 2mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Tried this recipe?Mention @bakingamoment on Instagram or tag #bakingamoment.
Marble layer cake with chocolate frosting, on a pedestal with a text overlay above that reads "Marble Cake." Marble layer cake with chocolate frosting, on a pedestal with a text overlay above that reads "Marble Cake." Marble layer cake with chocolate frosting, on a pedestal with a text overlay above that reads "Marble Cake."


  • Allie

    Allie is the creator and owner of Baking a Moment. She has been developing, photographing, videographing, and writing and sharing recipes here since 2012.