Lurking among those who champion cheesecakes and adore apple pies, amid those who prize puddings and never met a tart they didn’t like, is an unexpectedly fervent cult of diners who worship marble cake.
They emerged when they heard we were testing recipes for the distinctively swirled cake. Oh, I love marble cake! Oh, that was my favorite cake as a kid! Oh, that’s the only cake I really like!
Of particular interest is that such comments often came from people not generally credited with having a sweet tooth, or were better known as being happy with vanilla ice cream. No-nonsense types.
Yet when presented with the prospect of marble cake, their eyes lit up.
Marble cake is just what it sounds like: layers of yellow cake batter and chocolate cake batter gently swirled together before baking. When sliced, what seems an ordinary cake reveals itself as art.
Marble cake first appeared in the late 1800s, when American bakers sought grander party cakes for the Victorian age. Americans, according to Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, were fascinated with cake color. So the idea of combining two colors into one cake was irresistible.
Early marble cakes featured dark swirls produced by adding molasses and spices to half of a yellow batter rich with eggs. Other versions swirled together a “silver” or egg white cake batter and one made with whole eggs. Eventually some wise soul flavored half a batch of batter with melted chocolate and a classic was born.
In the spirit of gilding the lily, we’ve added some Nutella to the melted chocolate. The creamy spread made with cocoa and hazelnuts adds a nuance of nuttiness to the cake, which is echoed in a simple glaze made with more Nutella thinned with cream and a little butter to make it glossy.
We also chose to use a Bundt cake pan, instead of making the layer cake that’s shown on all the cake mix boxes. That keeps a horizontal line of frosting from interrupting the graceful marbling.
After all, when you’re contending with a cult of admirers, it’s best not to lose your marbles.
Nutella Marble Cake
Serves 12 to 16.
Note: Nutella can usually be found in the aisle with jams and peanut butters. Having all ingredients at room temperature helps them combine in the best way possible. From Kim Ode.
• 1 tbsp. melted butter, for coating pan
• 1 tbsp. flour, for coating pan
• 3 c. flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
• 1/3 c. Nutella
• 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-in. pieces
• 2 c. sugar
• 3 eggs, room temperature
• 1 egg yolk, room temperature
• 1 c. buttermilk, room temperature
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 c. Nutella
• 2-3 tbsp. heavy cream
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon flour, then use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat all surfaces of a Bundt pan. Take your time; coat every curve. Care taken with this step will be rewarded.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine melted chocolate and 1/3 cup Nutella, stirring until well-blended. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 8 ounces of butter pieces and sugar, and mix together, starting on low speed then gradually increasing to medium for 3 to 4 minutes, or until mixture is light-colored and crumbly. Don’t skimp on this step; it ensures a light texture.
Reduce speed to low, add eggs and yolk, one at time, beating well after each addition.
Add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Mix to combine, then repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk and vanilla. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and stir by hand to make sure there aren’t any pockets of unmixed batter.
Spoon half the batter into a medium bowl. You can eyeball this, but it’s about 2 cups of batter.
Into half the batter, stir in the chocolate mixture until completely blended.
Starting with the plain batter, spoon or pour half into the Bundt pan, making a thin layer. Top with half of the chocolate mixture, then the remaining plain batter, then the remaining chocolate batter.
Using a table knife, pull it through the batter in a lazy zigzag pattern. Do this just once; any more will muddle the marbling.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs attached, about 50 to 60 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Lay a serving plate on top of the pan, then turn over to invert the cake onto the plate. Let cool completely.
For the glaze: Warm cream and 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds, until butter is softened and cream is warm. Combine with Nutella and pour over the cake.
Nutrition information per each of 16 servings:
Calories 440 Fat 23 g Sodium 270 mg
Carbohydrates 55 g Saturated fat 11 g Calcium 67 mg
Protein 6 g Cholesterol 84 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 bread/starch, 2 ½ other carb, 4 ½ fat.