Marble Cake with Buttercream Frosting

It seems like every year Memorial Day weekend is a super busy one for us.  This year was no exception with Sunday’s trip to our local amusement park and Monday’s cookout with family.  I spent Saturday in the kitchen, baking.  Memorial Day not only marked the unofficial start of summer for us, but O’s birthday was Sunday and birthdays here mean cake.

This year the birthday boy asked for a soccer cake.  I had no other parameters- no flavor requests, no style demands.  Just “soccer cake.”  I was happy to use some basic cake decorating techniques to make a simple 9×13 cake into a soccer field full of fun.  I’ve made a lot of cake recipes here (I possibly think this about all of them but . . .) and I think this one’s my favorite.  Marble cake is the best of both worlds when neither chocolate nor vanilla alone will do.  It’s easy to make and the result is fun swirls of vanilla and chocolate when you slice it.  I’ve also tried a lot of buttercream frosting recipes here and this is definitely what I’ve been really searching for in a buttercream.  It’s not heavy and it’s just sweet enough that you still taste the actual butter.  This cake and frosting combination works really well even if you don’t need it to look like a soccer field.  I can safely say that even if the cake flavor changes, this buttercream is now my go-to buttercream.

soccer marble cake

Marble Cake with Buttercream Frosting


for the cake:

  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp. hot water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 1 C. milk (whole or low-fat, not skim)

for the buttercream frosting:

  • 1 C. salted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 C. confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-5 Tbsp. heavy cream

Cake Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 C. of sugar, cocoa powder, hot water, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 1/2 C. sugar until light.

Beat the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time, then beat in the vanilla extract and then the sour cream.

Working in 2 or 3 additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture.  End with the flour mixture and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Scoop out 1 C. of the cake batter and stir it into the cocoa mixture.

Spread the vanilla cake batter into the prepared pan.

Spoon the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter, making spots of chocolate batter.  It should roughly look like this:

marble cake batter

Use a butter knife to swirl the batters together.  Hold the knife vertically (be careful not to touch the bottom of the pan if you’re using a non-stick baking pan), and make 3 large circles from left to right and then again from right to left.  Your cake batter should now look something like this (and even if it doesn’t go ahead and bake it- even without pretty swirls it’s still tasty cake):

cake batter swirled

Bake for 32-36 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and/ or the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Cool for a few minutes in the pan and then remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Here’s what it will look like when you cut the cake into pieces:

marble cake cut

Buttercream Frosting Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl) beat the butter until it is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Add the confectioner’s sugar to the butter and mix on the lowest speed until incorporated, then add 4 Tbsp. of the cream and the vanilla and beat on medium-high to high speed until the frosting comes together.

If you want a lighter-textured frosting, add more cream 1 Tbsp. at a time and whip until desired consistency is reached.  If you over-thin the frosting, beat in a small amount of confectioner’s sugar.

To decorate the cake as shown above:

I reserved about a cup of the buttercream and used Wilton gel food coloring in Kelly green to color the rest of the frosting.

The completely cooled cake was frosted with the green buttercream frosting.  I used an offset spatula dipped in warm water to smooth out the buttercream.

I placed the plastic decorations onto the cake and then used about 1/2 of the reserved buttercream to pipe on the white details.

I mixed the remaining buttercream with some blue food coloring and piped on a “Happy Birthday” message.

Source: marble cake from Baking Bites; buttercream from The Kitchen Magpie


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