This easy chocolate marble loaf cake recipe is made with sour cream for a moist, tender crumb and dark chocolate for a deep chocolate flavour. The recipe is sponsored by Cacao Barry and the post contains affiliate links.
What is a marble cake?
Marble cakes are two-flavoured cakes made from two cake batters that are contrasting and yet complimentary, in both colour and flavour. The classic marble cake is both vanilla and chocolate, swirled together to give the cake a marbled effect.
The marble cake has European origins, including the first printed reference in Germany from the 19th century. Marble cake is also very popular in the Jewish community.
I had my first taste of marble cake at my best friend's house in elementary school and I will never forget my excitement to be able to eat a cake that was the best of both worlds, chocolate and vanilla. No more deciding between the two when you can have both in every slice!
A marble cake can be baked in a loaf cake pan for an easy, convenient marble loaf cake that can be sliced into slabs for snacks during the week. You can also bake marble cakes in bundt pans to make more ornate cakes that can be glazed, drizzled with chocolate ganache, or even frosted.
How to make marble cake step-by-step
This chocolate and vanilla marble cake recipe is based on an Anna Olson recipe. It's a simple vanilla cake recipe made with sour cream for a more moist, tender crumb.
Some people overcomplicate marble cake recipes by making two separate batters and then swirling them together. So they make a chocolate batter and then they make a vanilla batter, both from scratch. Then they swirl them together in a cake pan. That's too much work if you ask me!
I prefer to start with one basic vanilla cake batter, which you split in two after it's made. At that point, you flavour half the batter with chocolate. Here are the steps to make this easy chocolate marble loaf cake:
- Make vanilla cake batter: make one batch of vanilla batter, enough to fill a loaf cake pan. I like a vanilla cake made with sour cream which makes it more tender and more moist.
- Split the vanilla cake batter in two: to achieve the marble effect, obviously you need batters of two different flavours and/or colours. Therefore the second step to marble cake is to split the vanilla cake batter between two bowls.
- Flavour half the batter: you have two options for flavouring the chocolate batter for a marble cake:
- add melted chocolate to one of the bowls, containing half the batter. This gives you a chocolate cake batter with a little extra fat, and a good chocolate flavour, without contributing to the dry ingredients leading to a dryer chocolate swirl. I prefer to add melted chocolate. Make sure to use dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (at least 70%), with a deep dark chocolate flavour, and that is not too sweet. I use Cacao Barry 70% Ocoa dark chocolate, available at IGA stores in Quebec and online at Vanilla Food Company. Remember that real dark chocolate isn't the same as chocolate chips or compound chocolates, which contain vegetable fats (often hydrogenated) and also more sugar. Consult my guide to the different types of chocolate for everything you need to know about buying chocolate for baking.
- add cocoa powder to one of the bowls, containing half the batter. This may lead to a slightly dryer chocolate layer because you are adding an extra dry ingredient. On the plus side, using cocoa powder to flavour the chocolate batter of a marble cake recipe means that you are adding a deeper, more concentrated chocolate flavour.
- Swirl the two batters to make the marble cake effect: Once you have the two batters made, you must dollop both chocolate and vanilla cake batters, alternating in the loaf pan, to layer the two cake flavours. Finally, you can run a knife or a small offset spatula through the cake batters to gently swirl them without overmixing. If you mix the two batters in the cake pan too much, the swirl pattern will not be as nice so only run the knife through the batter a little.
For the best marble cake, use sour cream!
I like to add sour cream or other acidic dairy products (buttermilk, yogurt, acidified milk, etc.) to my cakes. Sour cream and other acid sources help to reduce gluten development when you mix the flour into the cake batter, leading to a more tender, moist cake with a softer mouthfeel. This cinnamon chocolate chip bundt cake made with sour cream is a perfect example of that. Sour cream is an acidic dairy product with roughly 14 % fat content, so it adds richness and flavour, but also reduces gluten formation leading to a more tender, soft loaf cake. You can also use cake flour (or a lower protein wheat flour) instead of all-purpose flour for a more tender, lighter crumb. The lower protein content will also contribute less gluten to the cake.
Marble cake without sour cream
If you want to make this recipe, but you don't have any sour cream, you can still make this marble loaf cake with crème fraîche (if you can find it) or Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Preferably, go for Greek yogurt with 2% to 5% fat, if not more, though this recipe would also work out with fat-free Greek yogurt. Opt for an unflavoured plain Greek yogurt, as opposed to vanilla yogurt, if possible.
Other ways to flavour a marble cake
Vanilla is a key component in a classic marble cake recipe, adding a lot of depth to the vanilla swirl of cake, without which the cake may taste bland or even eggy. If you don't have vanilla, an alternative would be bourbon or rum to replace those musky woodsy notes. You can add a few drops of almond extract to the vanilla batter or peppermint extract to the chocolate batter. You can add chopped nuts or chocolate chips.
You can also incorporate sweet spices, cinnamon, for example, would be great in the chocolate batter!
If you would like to make a chocolate orange marble loaf cake, you have two choices:
- add orange zest at the very beginning of the recipe when you cream together the butter and sugar. In this way, both the chocolate and vanilla cakes would be flavoured with orange
- add orange zest to only half the vanilla batter. This way, only the vanilla portion of the marble cake will have an orange flavour. So, split the vanilla cake batter in two: add melted chocolate to one half of the cake batter, and add orange zest to the other half of the cake batter. Proceed to layer and marble these two batters in the cake pan
FOR THE BEST CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKES, USE REALLY GOOD CHOCOLATE!
The key ingredient in a recipe for a chocolate marble loaf cake like this is dark chocolate, which means you MUST use the best dark chocolate for baking because it is providing both flavour, structure, and texture to this dessert. For this recipe, I used Cacao Barry Ocoa 70% dark chocolate, which is a professional quality dark chocolate that you can buy in IGA grocery stores in Quebec and online from Vanilla Food Company. It comes in 1-kilo resealable bags as pistoles (which resemble giant chocolate chips) which make most baking projects super easy because you don’t even have to chop it to melt it!
Chocolate and vanilla marble cake recipe
This chocolate and vanilla marble cake is straightforward to make (in fact, I whipped it up by hand with a wooden spoon and you don't technically need a mixer). The marble cake is also very moist because it's made with sour cream. Sour cream makes this cake moist and also helps give cakes a more buttery, moist mouthfeel. This loaf cake has an intense chocolate flavour too. This recipe yields the best marble cake that many other recipes claim to make, but few actually do. Make this marble pound cake recipe. Trust me: it's that good.
And if you need a frosting for your marble cake, try this milk chocolate frosting!
Frequently asked questions
Marble cakes and pound cakes are made from butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, with leavening agents and flavours (like vanilla extract and chocolate) mixed in. These cakes are often enriched with sour cream or even whipping cream to improve the texture and to make the cake crumb softer.
A chocolate and vanilla marble cake is made from swirls of chocolate and vanilla cake batter, but marble cake can be any flavour. Besides chocolate and vanilla, you may see chocolate orange marble cakes, or even vanilla and strawberry marble cakes.
Marble cake is named after marble, a natural stone which has many tones and colours that are streaked and swirled together. Marble cake features two flavours/colours of cake batter that are swirled together before baking to mimic marble.
Anna Olson's Marble Pound Cake
- 250 grams bleached all-purpose flour
- 6.25 mL baking powder
- 1.25 mL Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 173 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- 200 grams granulated sugar
- 4 large egg(s) room temperature
- 10 mL pure vanilla extract
- 160 mL sour cream (14% fat)
- 113 grams Cacao Barry Ocoa 70% dark chocolate melted
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165 °C). Brush a 9×5-inch (23x12.5 cm) loaf pan with melted butter, then dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Set aside for later. For the loaf pan, I recommend either the Oxo Good Grips Non-stick Pro loaf cake pan (available on Amazon) or the Nordic Ware Aluminum 1 pound Commercial loaf pan (available on Amazon)
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside for later.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until it is light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the sour cream.
- Scoop out half the vanilla batter into a medium bowl. Mix the melted chocolate into it.
- Dollop the vanilla and chocolate batters into the prepared pan and swirl them a little with a knife or spoon.
- Bake the loaf for about 70 minutes, or until a cake tester poked through the center comes out clean.
- Let the loaf cool for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Oxo Good Grips Non-stick Pro loaf cake pan (available on Amazon)
- Nordic Ware Aluminum 1 pound Commercial loaf pan (available on Amazon)
I love a good loaf cake because they are great for snacking, for a lunchbox treat, or for serving with afternoon tea. Here are more loaf cakes for you to bake:
- chocolate loaf cake that is very chocolaty and moist (or this chocolate espresso loaf cake version with a hint of coffee flavour from espresso powder)
- cardamom banana bread with sour cream because banana and cardamom taste so great together!
- cardamom buttermilk loaf cake with chunks of banana, because I love bananas with cardamom so much, I made a big buttermilk loaf cake
- Christina Tosi's compost cake, a.k.a. a butterscotch chocolate chip pretzel chip loaf cake, which is a play on Milk Bar's compost cookie recipe, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie of sorts with chocolate chips, potato chips, oats, coffee grinds, and more
- matcha loaf cakes, which are mini loaf cakes baked in a mini loaf cake pan (get it on Amazon)
- chestnut loaf cake with cranberries, which is a good loaf cake during the winter months
This marble pound cake recipe, adapted from Anna Olson's book, Back to Baking (available on Amazon), is definitely one to add to the loaf cake repertoire.
This post is sponsored by Cacao Barry. I was compensated monetarily and with product. Thanks for supporting the companies that allow me to create content. As always, please know that I wouldn’t work with a sponsor nor recommend a product if it wasn’t worth it.