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Marble Cake

by Tarunima Sinha from My Little Cake Tin

This easy-to-follow recipe for a classic marble cake is elevated with brown butter. Perfect for a birthday, special occasion, or for a simple afternoon tea.


Marble cake was the first cake I ever baked. In the late ’80s, my aunt enrolled in cooking classes. I still remember the red diary she wrote her recipes in. Before she got married, we baked this cake together from that diary. I have since made many versions of marble cakes and tweaked that original recipe many times, but I have always kept the flavour close to the original. Maybe it’s the simplicity of it or the nostalgic flavour from my childhood, but this is the cake I bake for myself. I have used brown butter as well as sunflower oil, which keeps the cake soft and moist for a few days.

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butter, for greasing
185g (1 ⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
¼ tsp salt
25g (3 Tbsp) custard powder (instant vanilla pudding)
125g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) Brown Butter (see page 46 of My Little Cake Tin), from 160g (scant ¾ cup) butter, melted
90ml (6 Tbsp) sunflower oil
50g (about ½ cup) cocoa powder
1 Tbsp instant coffee powder
125ml (½ cup) milk
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
125g (scant ¾ cup) golden caster (superfine) sugar
75g (⅓ cup plus 2 tsp) light brown soft sugar
For the Chocolate Glaze (optional):
150g (5 ¼ oz) 55% dark chocolate, finely chopped
75g (about ½ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
50ml (4 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) hot water
50g (about ½ cup) cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Essential kit

You will need a 20cm (8in) round cake tin.


Butter and flour a 20cm (8in) round cake tin, then line the base with a disc of baking paper. Preheat the oven to 170°C fan/190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and custard powder into a large bowl.

Mix the melted brown butter and sunflower oil in a small jug.

Blend the cocoa and coffee with the milk in a small bowl.

Put the eggs, vanilla and both the sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a bowl if using a hand-held whisk. Whisk for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Now sift in the dry ingredients in three goes, folding in gently to avoid deflating the whisked egg mixture. Gently pour in the butter and oil from the side of the bowl. Fold it in. Stir gently.

Pour half the batter into another bowl. Keep one bowl of batter vanilla. To the other, add the cocoa–coffee mix. Gently fold it in. Both batters should have the same consistency: if one is thicker, use a little milk to loosen it.

Put 2 tablespoons of the vanilla batter in the centre of the prepared cake tin. Then add 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter in the centre of the vanilla batter. Repeat, adding the batters alternately in the centre each time, creating a concentric pattern, until both batters have been used up.

To create the marbled effect, take a toothpick or skewer and, starting at the edge of the tin, push the skewer down into the batter until it touches the base of the tin, then drag towards the centre of the cake. Repeat to make 8 evenly spaced lines.

Tap the tin gently on the worktop to release any air pockets. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. If using, pour the chocolate glaze over the cooled cake, then leave to set for an hour.

For the chocolate glaze:

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan over a medium heat. Heat, stirring continuously, until it is well combined and smooth, about 5–7 minutes.

Remove from the heat and keep it warm, at a pourable consistency. If it gets too thick, add a couple of spoonfuls of hot water and stir it back to the desired consistency.

Credit: My Little Cake Tin by Tarunima Sinha (Quadrille, £22) Photography by Kim Lightbody.

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