I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Marble Cake

8-12 servings


I'd think this would be a great party dessert for a bunch of kids--or adults, for that matter. This is a fairly basic butter cake with a pretty chocolate swirl pattern in it. The frosting is the "buttercream" many of us were raised on (I know I was); it's simple to put together, spreads easily, and can be varied as to the degree of chocolate flavor you wish. The optional coating of chocolate sprinkles on the sides of the cake looks festive and adds a bit of textural contrast, but I promise you this cake will get eaten even if you omit it! The marbling procedure may sound tricky, but I can marble two pans full of batter faster than I can write about it.

If you're feeling a bit mischievous around Halloween, you can dye the "white" portion of the cake with food coloring. Just don't make the color you choose too dark; you want the chocolate marbling to show. Also, be prepared with plenty to drink when you serve this--milk or coffee would be fine choices. Butter cakes like this one tend to be a bit dry, even if you don't overbake them.


3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2-1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, graded "large"
1 c. milk
1/3 c. sifted or strained unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. hot water

2/3 c. unsalted butter, softened
Pinch salt
5 c. sifted or strained confectioners' sugar
1/3 to 1/2 c. sifted or strained unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
About 5 to 6 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Optional coating for sides of cake:
About 3/4 c. (4 to 5 ozs.) chocolate sprinkles


Grease two 9" round layer pans with vegetable shortening. Line the bottoms with circles of wax or parchment paper, cut to fit. Grease the paper, then flour the pans lightly, knocking out any excess flour. Set aside. Adjust rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.

For Cake:

Sift together sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer, cream softened butter, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. (Scrape bowl and beater(s) frequently with rubber spatula throughout mixing process in order to ensure thorough blending of ingredients.) Add eggs, two at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition (from this point on, batter may look curdled--that's OK. The baked cake will look fine.). When all eggs have been added, beat batter at medium speed for one minute.

At lowest speed, alternately add sifted dry ingredients in thirds and milk (gradually) in halves, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and beating after each addition only until incorporated. When batter is mixed, remove and reserve 2-1/2 cups. Divide remaining batter evenly among prepared pans; on flat surface, twist pans sharply in short, side-to-side motions to level batter.

Add the unsweetened cocoa powder and hot water to the reserved 2-1/2 c. batter. Whisk briskly just until well-combined. By large spoonfuls, place chocolate batter over white batter, dividing it evenly among both pans. You should have white batter showing through the spoonfuls of chocolate batter. Twist sharply as above to level batter in pans. Now, using a toothpick, cut through both batters in one pan five or six times in one direction, then five or six times in a direction 90 degrees from the first one. Do not overmarble. Repeat with second pan. Be careful not to cut into wax paper lining of pan while doing this. Tilt batter in pans so it runs slightly up the sides.

Bake in preheated oven 32 to 42 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted in center emerges with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Do not overbake.

For Frosting:

In large bowl of electric mixer, fitted with whisk beater, if available, combine butter and salt. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Add four cups of confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, beating at low speed after each addition to incorporate and gradually adding enough milk to maintain a good spreading consistency. Be sure to scrape bowl and beater(s) often with rubber spatula. Beat in cocoa at a low speed. Add remaining cup of sugar, milk as necessary, and vanilla. Beat at low speed to incorporate, then beat at high sped until perfectly smooth, fluffy, and slightly lightened in color. Check frosting consistency; if necessary, add a little more milk if too thick or a little more sugar if too thin (one of the great things about this frosting is that it's so easy to adjust the consistency).

Frost cooled cake, turning bottom layer upside down but leaving top layer right side up. There will be a generous amount of frosting. I cut a corrugated cardboard cake circle to the size of the layers, cover it with foil, and use that as a base. I hold the base with my left hand, and frost the cake with my right. If you do this, be aware that the cake will begin to get heavy, and that it is important to hold the cake level while frosting and decorating it. You might also want to put a dab of frosting in the center of the foil-covered base before putting the first layer on it (this anchors the first layer as the frosting hardens). If using chocolate sprinkles to decorate, you must do so right after frosting the cake, before the frosting hardens. To apply sprinkles, hold the cake (or place the serving plate with the cake on it) over a large piece of wax paper. Take a small amount of sprinkles on the fingers of your right hand (if you are right-handed) and pat gently onto the sides of the cake, starting at the top and working down. This is a messy process when I do it; sprinkles go all over and you get frosting on your hands. But it's great fun. Repeat so the sides of the cake are covered with sprinkles.

Store cake in refrigerator. When frosting has hardened, cover airtight. I think this is best eaten within three days; you can freeze it, but it tends to really dry out.


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This page created October 1998