Chocolate Marble Cake Recipe

Cake marbré au chocolat

I grew up eating a store-bought chocolate marble cake called Savane. Created in the sixties by a French manufacturer that was acquired by an American company shortly thereafter, it came as a whole loaf cake in an ocher and brown box. The bottom of the loaf was wrapped in a paper liner that you peeled off as you sliced your way through the cake, the crumb was fluffy as only factory-made cakes can be, and I loved it.

My parents did not buy it for us — I don’t remember why, since they did get various types of supermarket cookies on our request — so I only indulged when I was at my friend Emilie’s house, or when we raided the grocery store for sweet and/or salty things after an afternoon spent splashing about at the pool.

I hadn’t had it for years when I tried it again as an adult, and of course it was a letdown. Not only was the flavor a weak shadow of my recollection — the chocolate dull, the vanilla fake — but the list of ingredients had me shaking my head. (And this is marketed as a simple and healthful snack for your kids, you know, so you can make sure they get their daily recommended intake of hydrogenated palm oil.)

This recipe produces a delectable and very moist loaf, and the secret for that lies in the syrup that is brushed on the cake as it comes out of the oven.

The good news is that, unlike other store-bought treats from my younger days, like, say, ghost-shaped puffed potato chips, or strawberry-flavored shoestrings, this one is designed to emulate the kind of gâteau marbré you might bake from scratch, so it is fairly simple to recapture that particular taste memory.

And it is even simpler if a trusty friend of yours has included a recipe for it in one of her books*.

The basic idea behind the marble cake is that you pour alternating layers of contrasting batters in a cake pan, so that you get a nice visual effect in each cut slice (I must warn you it is possible to take the concept too far). Some recipes have you stir each layer delicately into the previous one, to create marble-like swirls, but the original Savane is striped a bit like a zebra (savanna, zebra, get it?) so it’s fine to leave the layers as is.

The chocolate and vanilla batters in this recipe are, in essence, identical, so you could make a single batter that you’d divide at the end before adding the vanilla or chocolate flavoring, but I think Pascale’s method is neater: she has you prepare the two batters side by side in separate bowls, a process that is especially easy if you’re using a digital scale and those handy, easy-to-divide weight measurements (hint hint).

Pascale’s recipe produces a delectable and very moist loaf, and I think the secret lies in the syrup that you brush on the cake as it comes out of the oven. I’ve made it multiple times now, and it is a real crowd-pleaser: French friends never miss the Savane reference, and I like that it feels homey but just a little elaborate, prompting at least one person to ask about the marbled technique, always.

I sometimes use whipping cream in the batter, as Pascale suggests, but most often yogurt or buttermilk: the substitution means the cake dries out a hair faster, but if you think it will be consumed within a couple of days in your house, that’s what I recommend.

Over time, I’ve also incorporated two other modifications: I like to add a sprinkle of cacao nibs between layers of batter, and spike the syrup with cacao liqueur**, which you can’t taste as such in the cake, but serves to deepen the overall chocolate flavor.

* The title of the book, Slunch, is a contraction of supper and lunch and, by symmetry with the brunch, it is an informal meal that you host for your friends (and optional kids) in late afternoon on a Sunday.

** This cacao liqueur is made by artisanal distillery Bertrand in Alsace, and I bought a bottle at Stéphane Gross’ chocolate shop in Paris, Déclinaison Chocolat.

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Chocolate Marble Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Makes one loaf.

Chocolate Marble Cake Recipe


    For the cake:
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 220 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar (I use a blond unrefined cane sugar)
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) yogurt or buttermilk, or whipping cream
  • 220 grams (7 3/4 ounces, about 1 2/3 cups) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon) butter, melted and cooled (I use semi-salted, add a good pinch of salt if you use unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (possibly homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)
  • For the syrup:
  • 40 ml (1/6 cup) water
  • 1 tablespoon cacao liqueur or liqueur/brandy of your choice (optional)
  • 15 grams (1 rounded tablespoon) sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 165°C (330°F); you can use the preheating oven to melt the butter, as described here. Use a little of the melted butter to grease a loaf pan. Mine is 9 x 26 cm (3 1/2 by 10 1/4 inches), but one that's 5 by 9 inches (12.7 x 22.8 cm) would be fine; it just needs to be about 1.6 liters (7 cups) in capacity.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, and set aside. Combine the flour with the baking powder and set aside.
  3. Prepare the two batters side by side: in the first mixing bowl, beat 2 of the eggs with half of the sugar. Add in half the yogurt and whisk to combine. In a second mixing bowl, beat the 2 remaining eggs with the rest of the sugar, and whisk in the rest of the yogurt.
  4. Fold half of the flour mixture into the first batter, then incorporate half of the melted butter and the vanilla, without overmixing. Fold the remaining flour mixture into the second batter, then add the rest of the butter and the melted chocolate.
  5. In the prepared pan, pour a third of the vanilla batter. Add in half of the chocolate batter, and sprinkle with half the cacao nibs if using. Add another third of the vanilla batter, then the rest of the chocolate batter. Sprinkle with the remaining cacao nibs, and top with the remaining vanilla batter.
  6. Here is a visual illustration of the layering of the batters (V stands for the vanilla batter, C for the chocolate batter, and dots for the cacao nibs):
  8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. While the cake bakes, place the syrup ingredients in a small pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and set aside.
  10. When the cake is baked, use a pastry brush to soak it with the syrup, until you've used it all up. Let rest for 30 minutes, then unmold and let cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


Adapted from Slunch, a book by Pascale Weeks.

Chocolate Marble Cake

  • I remember the Savane – they had it in Switzerland too! That and the Petit Ecoliers cookies were very rare treats in my life, but did I love them as a child. Thank you for sharing this recipe :)

  • est

    I haven’t baked un marbré for ages! that was my standard cake as a teenager. But yes, Savane is bland and boring. can’t wait to try your version!

  • Thanks for posting this recipe. It reminds me of the marble cake that my dear aunt made for birthdays and special occasions-I haven’t had it in years!

  • Looks delicous! We love marble cake. Just had some for my dad’s bday!

  • Marielle

    I’ll try this recipe soon because I have beeen planning to put to use my checkerboard layer-cake pans. There are (3) and a 3-section concentric circle insert. You pour alternating circles of chocolate and vanilla (or your choice)–(2) pans are the same and (1) pan–which will be the center layer of the cake–is the opposite. After the cake is assembled and iced, you cut a slice and voila! you see the checkerboard. A hit at parties! (adult as well as children’s)

  • this reminds me of my childhood too. we were never allowed store bought versions either, but my mother made a great version, in bundt cake/gugelhupf form, of course.

  • But there’s already a word for that meal – tea!

  • Carl

    Hi Clotilde,
    I am fairly new to your site and am enjoying it very much. I have even ordered the book I Know How To Cook.
    Just a note about the use of Palm Oil. Where ever posible I do not use any products that contain Palm Oil due to the fact that most that is used comes from deforested rain forest. Many manufacturers do not state that they are using Palm Oil they just say Vegetable Oil, therefore I am now having to avoid these products as well. There are plenty of other oils that can be used instead. Please see article here.
    I look forward to many more of your articles.

  • I love marble cake and this one looks wonderful. I’ll have to try it out very soon.

  • When I saw this picture all I wanted to do was place a piece in a shallow bowl of ice cold milk. For some reason that’s how we ate cake in our house when I was little.

  • Mo

    I never really cared for marble cake, don’t know why as I liked chocolate and vanilla separately just fine. Perhaps because it was never best quality cake. These days I like vanilla cake and my husband likes chocolate and I have cocoa nibs in the cupboard and tomorrow is a holiday, so I may have to give this a try.

    One thing – could you post a photo of ghost shaped potato chips? Or a link? They sound wonderful!

  • Kim

    This looks fantastic. I can’t wait to try it soon. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Hello Clotilde,
    This looks and sounds wonderful – as usual. Although I am a relatively new reader, and not such a good cook, I enjoy this site very much. I actually linked two of your apple recipes to my gardening blog this week. I am featuring heirloom apples and information on orchards for gardens. Your recipes were the most interesting and I love that you mentioned some heirlooms by name. Wonderful.
    All the best to you,
    Michaela in Vermont

  • All – Glad this evokes memories for you, too!

    Marielle – Your checkerboard cake pan sounds very cool indeed. (If anyone needs a visual, see here.)

    Sarah – I agree that the word tea can be used to mean just that in (chiefly British) English, but in France, inviting people for le thé evokes sweet preparations only — cakes and such — and it would not replace dinner. (I should note that the book, despite its name, is a French book for the French market.)

    Carl – Thanks for the link! I, too, have been reading about palm oil and strive to avoid buying products — not just food — that use it.

    Mo – I don’t condone the buying or the eating of those potato chips (they’re a nutritional void and contain palm oil), but they’re called “Monster Munch” (pronounced with a French accent ;) and here’s a link to satisfy your curiosity. :)

  • I love marble cake as it really reminds me of my childhood! :) I’ve tried recipes in the past but they’ve lacked that distinctive buttery taste. Will have to try this recipe out, thanks for it.

  • I heard you on NPR……ran to get “I Know How to Cook”…LOVE IT!!!!!!
    I also love marble cake…will be making this as soon as my kitchenaid returns to me…….

  • Un cake comme on aime made in France !!!

  • maggie

    Looks great and I’m going to try it. I’m so not a baker and have to ask about the flour. Is it all purpose or something else?

  • Maggie – Yes, you can use all-purpose flour here. (In general, if a recipe doesn’t specify the type of flour, it’s safe to assume it’s all-purpose.) Happy baking!

  • cocoa nibs in chocolate cake sounds great – never tried it but now I must – and love marble cake – always looks so pretty without much effort!

  • Bonjour, c’est avec plaisir que le souvenir du savane me revient en voyant ton article et me donne l’envie d’en réaliser un avec mes enfants. La magie des zébrures que l’on fait soit même est toujours un étonnement quand on coupe le gâteau sur la table ensuite. Merci pour cette recette et pour ton blog. J’apprécie ta façon d’aborder la cuisine et de discuter autour d’un plat.

  • Yet another great post to read. The cake looks lovely as usual. Thanks.

  • I like this recipe. i have been looking for it when i came across this post. thanks.

  • Hi, clotilde :)

    chocolate marble cake (bundt ) is my favorite birthday cake growing up, my birthday is in a week and I would love to make this simple cake, is it okay to double the recipe for a bundt pan?

  • Laura

    could this recipe made simpler? for all marble cake recipes i know, the vanilla dough ist prepared first with all ingredients but the chocolate – one third of the batter is transferred to another bowl and the chocolate is added. do you think this could work with your beautiful recipe?

  • Olive – I’m not sure what the capacity of your pan is. This recipe works with a 7-cup mold, so if your bundt pan is about twice that capacity, it will work well!

    Laura – As I explain in the post (paragraph 7), I personally find it simpler and neater to prepare the two batters side by side. But if you prefer to prepare a single batter and divide it before adding the flavorings, that will absolutely work too.

  • dory

    Hi Clotilde,

    I was curious too about the potato chips (I didn’t want to eat them mind you– just see them) but the site won’t let you in unless you are a member. I decided to pass.

    We used to make marble cake often in my family when I was growing up. It was my father’s standard birthday cake, and appeared for a lot of other special occasions. My mother did not like to cook (imagine!) and hence was not a particularly good cook, but marble cake, along with suet pudding for Christmas were her specialities. I have put together a family cookbook, but the marble cake recipe is missing, and my mom is getting very elderly now. I think I will include yours (every recipe of yours that I have tried I liked) but I may also streamline it. We removed 1/2 the finished batter and added chocolate, and it was very easy.

    Thanks always for your great recipes.


  • We call it the tiger cake here in Finland. :)


  • Dory – Not sure why they didn’t let you in — I’m not a member myself — but the chips are called Monster Munch if you want to look them up.

    And Pascale and I would be honored if the recipe found its way into your family cookbook!

    About the batter procedure, though, it’s funny because I really find it easier to prepare the two batters side by side. I find it difficult to remove “half the batter” without really knowing how much that is, and I worry that I won’t divide it in two exactly. I realize as I type that it doesn’t matter that much, but I guess I like being exact in my baking. :)

    Tiina – Tiger cake, how appropriate! I’ll just call it that next time. What’s the phrase in Finnish?

  • HA! Monster Munch! My kids love it.

    Your recipe looks infinitely superior to Savane. Can’t wait to try it.

  • mmm…un cake marbré! j’adore ça! I used to eat the chocolate part and leave out the rest when I was little:)



  • Clotilde, the Finnish word is tiikerikakku (tiger in Finnish is tiikeri and cake is kakku, thus tiikerikakku = tiger cake :))


  • Barbara

    Really lovely, Clotilde. My mother used to make a marble cake- don’t know why I don’t have her recipe. But yours is divine and my family will love it. I’ll make it over the holidays.
    Don’t think Slunch (which I’d love to own) has been translated into English yet..Amazon US does not have it.

  • Thanks so much for this recipe. My mom used to make this when I was a child and I loved it. But she never wrote the recipe down so when she passed away, the recipe went with her. I’m so glad to finally find a comparable recipe to replace hers. Thanks. Cynthia

  • Jon Elkins

    Chocolate marble cake is such a simple and elegant treat, I usually buy them, but now must try your recipe. I find myself more enchanted with reading than making lately!

    I just came across this new magazine called Poetry of Food,, it is absolutely beautiful with great food & travel stories, recipes and they have these very unique characters that are writers. I spent nearly an hour last night on it!

    the best part is that it’s free, a novel idea:)

  • Jennie

    Mine is in the oven now…
    A very good way to spend a stormy Saturday :)

  • Oh I grew up eating this cake in Russia and now have a bunch of recipes, including this one to translate and test with American proportions. My grandmother would call it “the zebra cake” and it stuck. Yours looks so lovely!

  • Romina

    Hi Clotilde! I made this recipe and it was delicious! My family loved it :)

  • Tiina – Thanks, I’m delighted to know the Finnish word for it.

    Barbara – There is no English language version of Pascale’s book, yet, but there may be in the future. Fingers crossed!

    Cynthia – I hope this one lives up to your mother’s.

    Jennie – How did it turn out?

    Radish – Zebra cake is quite a fitting name, too!

    Romina – So glad you like it, thanks for reporting back!

  • EllaBleu

    Coucou Clotilde,
    I tried your recipe this weekend and liked it a lot – especially because it’s so moist (I never really liked marble cake because very often they turn out sand-dry sothat each bite makes you cough). Like you I like to tweak recipes, so I mixed all purpose and coconut flour. Next time I’ll try a double-chocolate-version and mix melted white chocolate into the vanilla batter.
    I love your recipes and have tried a lot of them already!

  • Homemade Savane… Great! I loved it as a kid as well but you’re right, once you grow up it doesn’t taste that good anymore! :-D

  • Rachel

    This might seem like an odd question, but do you think this could be baked in a glass baking dish? I’m currently 3000 miles away from most of my baking equipment, and it seems a shame to have to wait to be reunited with it before trying this!

  • Tchivai

    I shall have to try this if we have time. Our German exchange student made a marble cake for my father’s birthday last week and it was delicious. He used Sunflower oil which gave it an interesting flavor and a little orange juice that made it gloriously moist. If anyone wants the recipe to compare I can try and make him translate it for me >_>

  • Hi Clothilde,

    The recipe of marble cake looks so scrumptious. I bet it’s moist and tender inside. I’ll bookmark your recipe.

    It’s a great idea to add some yogurt or buttermilk in the batter. I add it quite often in my culinary preparations, especially in muffins as yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt) make them so tender.

    I Russia where I come from, we are very fond of marble cakes, we call them “Zebra”. We love them as they are colorful and tasty. They are easy to make.

    I have once made such a cake, inspired by Farida’s recipe. The recipe is quite different from yours but visually they look the same: the spider-web patters are well preserved.

    My best wishes,

  • Devery

    Prepared this for a dinner party this weekend, using a Savarin mold (baked for thirty minutes)and it was delicious! Thanks.

  • Oh this looks great and is just beautiful!

  • Clotilde:
    Last week I made a nutella marble pound cake: DIVINE. I used my regular pound cake recipe, adding two layers of nutella (1 full jar), and marbled it through. Baked as usual… unbelievable.
    bon appetit!

  • jen

    dear clotilde,i just found your site recently, and i absolutely love it! i attempted to make this cake – i may have overmixed it, (or kept checking on it too often) because the outside of the cake became a veritable crust. needless to say the outside was a bit tough but the actual crumb and cake turned out wonderfully. i shall try it again!!

  • Latha

    Hi Clotilde,

    The ‘zebra’ looks too good to eat:-)

    do you really mean we don’t need to swirl the batter to get that marble effect? It happens by itself while baking?

  • Sharon

    I made this cake today and it is delicious. I didn’t use the syrup after baking and I didn’t have any cacao nubs, but the cake is moist and both the chocolate and vanilla flavors come through. I thought 330 degrees was too low/slow for baking so I increased the temperature to 350 degrees; the cake took 45 minutes in a 3 by 12 inch loaf pan.

  • I gotta try making this recipe over the weekend…

  • Latha

    Dear Clotilde,

    I baked this marvellous cake last night for a girlfriends’ get-together today. I just brought back home the empty cake pan. It was sooo delicious. I didn’t even brush the syrup. The crumb was too good and the cake itself was the perfect texture i have ever made or tasted. I did with cream.

    Since I couldn’t await your reply on swirling the batter, I did just two cross strokes with a wooden skewer and voila the marble was fantastic. I’ll repeat this again tomorrow. thank you very much.

  • I’m in search for the ultimate marble/zebra cake recipe and I hope my search ends here. Bookmarked it along with Farida’s (of AZ Cookbook) Zebra cake. Will try and leave my feedback.

  • Marble cake is a standard in our family. I’ve been making it for nearly 50 years. We use a German recipe from an old cookbook my mother always referred to as “Mrs Lemke” – or something like that. It’s a classic buttery pound cake made in a kugelhopf pan (or sometimes in 2 loaf pans); what distinguishes our version is a teaspoon or so of freshly grated lemon rind in the basic batter which is then divided before adding melted chocolate to half.

  • Bronwyn

    Add a pink, strawberry flavoured portion and you have the neapolitan marble cake of my childhood. They were not bought, someone’s mother had to make them. Like you, mine didn’t, and I had to rely on friends’ mothers.

  • Looks good. Since I make marble cake all the time.. I look out for interesting variations to try. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • Uma

    Hi Clotilde,

    I made this today and (as usual with your recipes), it came out a winner! I used 1 cup regular all-purpose flour and 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour. It took about and hour and little more to finish. Thanks again, for a wonderful recipe.


  • Uma – So pleased you liked it, thanks for reporting back with the whole wheat flour substitution! You’re making me want to bake one soon. :)

  • Rachel A.

    Clotilde, quel gâteau superbe ! J’ai tout fait exactement selon vos indications, et il est DIVIN. Ça fait longtemps que j’ai envie de faire un gâteau marbré, et je suis très contente des résultats. Merci!

    • J’en suis ravie, Rachel, merci !

  • Elodie

    Merci de la part d’une maman française qui habite aux USA. Ce savane est sans conteste le gâteau préféré de mes enfants et de leurs petits copains qui viennent jouer à la maison. J’utilise des ingrédients entièrement bio pour un goûter sain et gourmand. Excellent!

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