German Marble Cake History and Recipe

German Marble Cake brings back fond childhood memories for my daughters, as their Grandma Gertie always made Marble Cake for them.  Whenever Grandma Gertie knew that company was coming over, she would have her marble cake ready to serve.  It was a simple yellow and chocolate swirled cake made in either a loaf pan or just a cake layer.  Grandma’s chocolate frosting had an extra special flavor because she added a little instant coffee.  This recipe comes close to how she used to make her cake.


This German Marble Cake brings back such happy memories for the girls.  They loved that chocolate frosting, especially with the sprinkles on top!  Of course they also had to enjoy a nice cold glass of milk to wash the cake down.  My daughter Brenda Weller says, “Whenever I see marble cake at a bakery, I have to stop and buy a piece to enjoy and think of my Grandma Gertie.”




History of German Marble Cake:

Marble cake called Marmorkuchen in German, originated in Germany back in the 19th Century.  The technique of this cake is to create a marble effect with two different colors of cake batters together. Molasses, spices, raisins, currants, and even coffee was originally used to create the darker color batter for the marbling effect.  German immigrants that came to America before the Civil War brought with them the tradition of marble cake.  Another variation to the theme of marble cake is a Harlequin cake which creates a checkerboard pattern of light and dark colors.

  First references to Marble Cake Recipe from Mrs. Porters’ New Southern Cookery Book, by Mrs. M.E. Porter, c.1871:

Marble Cake.  One pound each of sugar, flour and butter, the whites of sixteen eggs, quarter of a pound of bleached and split almonds, half of a citron sliced and sufficient cochineal (which should be procured at confectioner’s, as that prepared by druggists is not so suitable); cream together the butter and flour; beat together very light the egg-whites and sugar; put all together and beat thoroughly; color one-third of the batter any shade you like; put well-greased tissue-paper around the mould, then put in half of the white batter, a layer of citron and almonds, the colored batter, another layer of citron and almonds, and the remainder of white batter; bake in a moderate oven.

  German-Jewish bakers introduced chocolate cake batter to marble cake.  First references to chocolate marble cake recipes: A unt Babette’s Cook book: Foreign and Domestic Reciepts for the Household.  This recipe features chocolate to create the dark batter for the marbling effect instead of the molasses and spices that were traditionally used.  This change mirrored America’s love of chocolate which was becoming more affordable with mass production and no longer just for the upper class.

Marble Cake. Take one cup of butter, two cups of pulverized sugar, three cups of flour, four eggs, one cup of sweet milk and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder.  When the cake is mixed, take out about a soup plateful of the batter, and stir into this about two heaping tablespoonfuls of grated chocolate (which you must grate before you begin to mix the cake).  Fill your cake mold about two inches deep with yellow batter and then drop in the brown in three or four places.  Do this a spoonful at a time, and then pour in more yellow batter, and so on until all is used up.

 After World War II, as more German Jewish immigrants came to America, more Jewish bakeries opened featuring marble cakes and other German style pastries and baked goods.  In New York Jewish bakeries, marble cakes had a distinct hint of almond flavoring and the cakes were baked in loaves with chocolate icing.

The popularity of marble cake continued through the 1970’s and 1980’s then interest started to drop as many Jewish bakers started to retire and Americans became interested in other styles of baking.


Basic Rules For Baking and Secrets Of A Successful Cake.  Also check out more great Cake Recipes.


German Marble Cake History and Recipe:
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: Chocolate Mocha Frosting Recipe, German Marble Cake History and Recipe
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
German Marble Cake:
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (not coarse salt)
  • 1 cup sugar (granulated)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature (whole milk preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup very hot water
  • Various Colored Sprinkles (optional)
Chocolate Mocha Frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
German Marble Cake Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly oil and dust with flour either one (9- by 1 1/2-inch) round cake pan or two (9-inch) cake loaf pans.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  3. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix together (over low speed) the sugar and butter.  Gradually mix in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture turns a light yellow.  Mix in the vanilla extract.

  4. Turning the speed up to medium, mix in 1/2 cup of the milk and 1/2 of the flour mixture until combined.  Stop and scrape the bowl down, then add remaining 1/2 cup of milk and remaining flour mixture; mix for two additional minutes until batter is smooth and creamy; set aside.

  5. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1/4 cup of very hot water until smooth.  Add in approximately 1 cup of the prepared cake batter and mix together until fully combined and smooth.  This will be your chocolate marbling cake batter.

  6. Marbling the cake:  Pour about 1/2 of the yellow cake batter into the bottom of the cake pan.  Drop large spoonfuls of the chocolate cake batter as the next layer.  Pour the remaining yellow cake batter as last layer on top.  

  7. To create the marble effect, insert a spoon or butter knife into cake batter. Move the utensil in large swirling motions to see yellow and chocolate cake batter take on a marbled appearance. Be careful not to over swirl! You do not want to blend colors together.

  8. Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan/pans halfway through the cooking (once you reach 30 minutes, check cake every few minutes until done).  Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean or when the internal temperature registers approximately 205 to 209 degrees F. on your cooking thermometer.

  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans.  Invert cake onto a plate and then re-invert onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up.  Let cool completely before frosting.  While the cake is cooling make the Chocolate Mocha Frosting.  Once the cake is cooled, frost the cake with the frosting.  The cake can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.  Wrap in plastic wrap or foil to seal in moisture or cover with airtight lid.  

  10. To freeze:  Double wrap in foil  and slice off a serving when you have a craving for cake!

  11. Makes a cake large enough to serve 6 to 8 people (depending on the size of the slices).

Chocolate Mocha Frosting Instructions:
  1. In small bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee; set aside.In a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the butter and vanilla on low speed until blended.  Increase the speed to medium, and gradually mix in the powdered sugar mixture.  If mixture starts to get crumbly, start adding the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth and has a fluffy texture.  If you want a thinner frosting add a little more milk.  Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  

  2. NOTE: Frosting may be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  

  3. Using a palette knife or spatula, spread some of the chocolate mocha frosting over the top and sides of the cake (spread enough frosting to make a 1/4- to 1/2-inch layer of frosting).  Sprinkle the top with various colored sprinkles, if desired.Makes enough to frost a 1 layer (9- x 1 1/2-inch round) cake or 2 (9-inch) loaf cakes.  Double the frosting recipe if you wish to make a 2 layer cake.

  4. German Marble Cake
History References:
German Marble Cake From Scratch – Marble Cake History, by Tony Avery of The Nibble web site.
Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, by Gil Marks
German Cookery, by Elizabeth Schuler
The Food Timeline, FAQ’s Cakes – Marble Cake, by Lynne Oliver.


Baking    Cakes History    Chocolate Cakes    Dessert Recipes    German    Heirloom Recipes    Historical Cakes   

Comments and Reviews

2 Responses to “German Marble Cake History and Recipe”

  1. Raquel

    How long it will bake ? If I replace rounds to sheet cake pans

  2. Deb Kolbow

    Do you think I could make this recipe in a lamb mold for Easter?


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