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The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marble Butter Cake

If you've watched Ratatouille (my absolute favorite animation ever, really, do I even need to tell you this?), you'd remember that scene where the jaded, skeletal and grim-reaper-like restaurant critic Anton Ego tasted Remy and Colette's creation of that humble French Provencal dish and was instantly transported back to the back door of his mother's kitchen, bringing a smile to his otherwise permanently frowning face. I experienced the same transporting power of loving food while learning how to crimp the traditional pineapple tart at Nazrah's mother-in-law, Neni Rose's kitchen months ago, after taking a bite off her neglected homemade marble butter cake.

The cake was largely neglected because Naz used unsalted butter and didn't add salt to the batter. For me though, after the first mouthful, despite the lack of salt, I was back home at my childhood dining table, cutting into one of my mother's many cakes (including this one), not quite cooled from the oven, impatient with glee and greed for some delicious comfort. The buttery, fluffy vanilla cake interjected with bursts of rich, cocoa inserts was without doubt, the product of a traditional recipe, possibly passed down through generations, sourced from a completely unassuming 'makcik' (this is how we address homey, middle-aged Malay ladies here) somewhere. This is not me waxing lyrical just to convince you, for the recipe from Naz's MIL's dog-eared, heavily stained and almost falling apart notebook looked like this.

So as soon as I downed a second piece of Naz's disappointment, I grabbed my phone and stole it in a total broad-daylight-robbery manner. Of course Naz and her (totally rocking) MIL were more than happy to share, just like Remy was. Written in old Malay, some of the ingredients were not even written in exact measurements, just like how some old French women don't really measure accurately when they baked. This was how our mothers and grandmothers wrote their priced recipes - 'sedikit' means 'a little' and 'sudu lauk' literally translates to 'serving spoon'. So you see, quite obviously, it would be a crime to allow something like this to be forgotten.

Marble cake recipes are usually associated with the classic pound cake but I'm reluctant to call this a pound cake because not all the ingredients are in pound-to-pound ratio. This is, however, definitely a satisfyingly rich, buttery cake, with a base of which ignoring the cocoa, you can fiddle around with flavors like citruses, coffee and other things which your head would imagine having a great time with butter. If you've never made a marble cake before, don't let the whole marbling business give you any grief. The less you stress about it and just blob the batter around, the better it'll turn out. Don't have too much fun swirling with the skewer though.

As my friend bakes her way through her mother-in-law's treasure, I reckon chances are high this recipe would make it to your own collection, waiting to be passed down to those whose bellies you've blessed. In my case, I'll be bringing back my own mother's tattered recipe book when I return to Kuala Lumpur this weekend. We'll see if I can bake through her book and do more of her recipes justice since her pandan chiffon already caused quite a storm.
Marble Butter Cake [Printer Friendly Version]

Recipe from Nazrah's mother-in-law, Neni Rose, who apparently got it from Kak Aiton.
Yield 1 8-inch round 3-inch high cake in this preparation
Cooking time 1 hour Prep time 30 minutes

Note: You may convert the cake to your available tin size or even bake them in 2 loaf pans. Baking time will vary, I'd checked mine at the 40 minute mark (earlier if using loaf pans). I used salted butter and salt in my cake and didn't find it too salty. The ratio of chocolate versus vanilla batter is really down to your own preference; however it will be easier to achieve a nice marble effect with more vanilla batter so the 3:1 ratio worked well for me. I use two mixers (a KA and a hand held) for this cake - if you only have one, I'd suggest whipping the egg whites by hand and lose some calories you'd gain from the cake in the process.

  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • 9 ounces castor sugar
  • 12 ounces unsalted butter
  • 9 ounces all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven at 160°C (convection fan on) with a wire rack in the middle. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with parchment, butter and flour. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment till light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar till light. Gradually add this into the butter and beat on medium speed till just incorporated. In a separate bowl, with a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in the meringue into the egg yolk mixture in 3-4 batches. Add in the dry ingredients gradually until just incorporated.

Divide the batter into two, 3/4 in one batch and the rest in another bowl. Sieve cocoa powder over the lesser batch and fold to mix well. Pour batter into tin, alternating between the two mixtures, starting with the yellow batter and ending with the cocoa mixture. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. With a long skewer, swirl around the batter to create the marble effect. Bake for 40-55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean.

Cool on wire rack completely before serving. Cake keeps at room temperature up to three days and can be frozen up to 3 months.

70 Comments on Marble Butter Cake

Pick yin! this looks absolutely fabulous. Can I take the whole cake please :D !

Posted by Anonymous Kulsum, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:57:00 PM  

The marble cake pattern looks perfect!

Posted by Anonymous leaf (the indolent cook), at Feb 1, 2012, 3:57:00 PM  

Wa looks so good. Never seen marble cake so pretty before!

Posted by Anonymous Adrienne lee, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:57:00 PM  

absolutely loverly.

i can picture an afternoon spent with the ladies, crocheting/knitting, sipping on tea & snacking on this.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:58:00 PM  

absolutely loverly.

i can picture an afternoon spent with the ladies, crocheting/knitting, sipping on tea & snacking on this.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:58:00 PM  

Your marble cakes looks so perfect! I really want to try making it now.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:58:00 PM  

definitely looks like a perfectly baked cake :)

Posted by Anonymous Swee San @The Sweet Spot, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:58:00 PM  

LOL talking about old recipe... I still remember camca oz (spoon), my mom measured everything with her camca oz.

Your Marble cake is so pretty with beautiful marbling effect... :D

Posted by Anonymous Lisa H., at Feb 1, 2012, 3:58:00 PM  

This looks like a really old recipe .. look at the paper it is written on! Gosh! But I do love a good marble butter cake, practically grew up eating this. It looks gorgeous and your marbling looks like a teapot design .. LOL.

Posted by Anonymous jo, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:59:00 PM  

Oh Pick Yin! This is such a nice piece! My MIL will be so pleased to read this. Thank you for gracing our humble kitchen with your keen eye and palate. I was going to bin my disappointing cake but somehow left it there on the kitchen counter,who knew you'd be interested to even give it a chance....thanks babe!

Posted by Anonymous Nazrah Leopolis, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:59:00 PM  

Kulsum: Thank you! Wish you are near enough for me to pass you some. We ate the whole thing ourselves over a month. *sigh*

leaf: Thank you!

Adrienne: Thank you. Hope to try your baked goods one of these days.

Lan: Knitting I've never done, crocheting yes, your picture is so romantic. We actually just ate this cake while watching our favorite TV shows. Bwahahahah!

Swee San: Thanks! Not perfect, still got room for improvement.

Lisa: Is camca oz like an actual ounce measure? I'm intrigued. :D Hope you're keeping all your recipes in a notebook too for your kids!

jo: Thank you. The notebook is old, some of the recipes are from her MIL's mother! I grew up eating this cake too, one of my favorites.

Nazrah: I hope she likes it and I did her recipe justice. Also I hope the rest of that cake didn't get binned, if I knew I would tapau if off you!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:00:00 PM  

Lovely post and awesome photography! I might have to try this over the weekend. My dad loves simple cakes like this.

Posted by Anonymous in my studio, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:03:00 PM  

All of us are eyeing this classic cake right now...thanks to Naz's MIL.

Posted by Anonymous Reese@seasonwithspice, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:03:00 PM  

in my studio: Hope this works out for you and your dad. Thank you!

Resse: Yes, thanks to their generosity!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:04:00 PM  

Oh my goodness! I just discovered your website via 'Sips and Spoonfuls' and your amazing carrot cake with maple syrup. I'm smitten and can't wait to work my way through your archives. One big WOW to you!

Posted by Anonymous Carina, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:04:00 PM  

I have saved this recipe! :) Will be making it, and thinking of you.

Posted by Anonymous, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:05:00 PM  

Hello ..... Cake looks delicious .... Mmmmmm

Posted by Anonymous Fade, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:05:00 PM  

Love the cake love your photos. Way to go!!

Posted by Anonymous, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:05:00 PM  

Sandy: Thanks!

anh: You're so sweet. Let me know how it turns out!

Carina: Thank you, hope you'll find something of your liking to make from my list.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:06:00 PM  

love the marbling, and the super cute fork that you have! and those pages from Naz's MIL's notebook looks almost exactly like my moms - tattered, filled with clippings and notes, with butter and other unknown stains. Reminds me that I should also bake my way through my mom's notebook and not always go searching for recipes online since my mom's is a pretty darn good baker ;p

Posted by Anonymous Janine, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:06:00 PM  

Wow. That's the most beautiful marble cake I ever seen. I've got to try it.

Posted by Anonymous zenchef, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:06:00 PM  

Beautiful marble cake. Your folks' notebooks are priceless. I love your photos, they are fabulous. Quay Po Cooks -

Posted by Anonymous Quay Po Cooks, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:07:00 PM  

Janine: Thanks! The fork was from Etsy. I guess most Malaysian and Singaporean mums all have the same kind of recipe notebooks. I'm also going to try baking from my own mothers. It's going to be tough. :D

zenchef: Thanks Stephane. You should, it's been tried and tested!

Quay Po Cooks: Thank you! Actually that notebook is my friend Naz's MIL's. My mother has a similar one which I'm going to cook from as well.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:07:00 PM  

Wow your Marble Cake look geogous! I love the marble effect in the cake which makes it look like those genius "lamp".

Posted by Anonymous Ellena | Cuisine Paradise, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:07:00 PM  

Ellena: Aladdin's lamp huh? Actually I was lucky. When I cut the other parts of the cake, the marbling effect was not as 'special'. Do try the recipe!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:08:00 PM  

Thank you for posting this fanstastic recipe! I made this cake last week and boy, the smell of butter was just SOOOO good. The texture was just perfect, neither dense nor dry. It has a lightness about it, but yet its so rich! Will definitely be making this again, but maybe half the recipe as its a rather large cake for 2 person to consume :D (not that we didnt managed to, there goes our waistline!)
Thanks again!

Posted by Anonymous Min, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:08:00 PM  

Hi Min, thanks for coming back to feedback your desirable results! You can actually freeze the cake for months, I say with all the hard work, make the full recipe and (attempt to) hide portions for rainy days. ;)

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 4:08:00 PM  

this looks so yummy and i love that fork too!

Posted by Blogger LEAH, at Mar 24, 2012, 1:58:00 AM  

Wow what an awesome cake.

Posted by Blogger Yummy Bakes, at Jun 5, 2012, 3:48:00 PM  

I have tried many marble cake recipes and this is by far, the BESTEST! I mixed by hand, and even then the cake texture was soft, supple and moist! At the end of tea time, more than half the cake was gone!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jun 20, 2012, 4:15:00 PM  

Hi Pick Yin! This cake looks wonderful and your marbling so great! Surely it wasn't a result of random plopping!! Marble cake is my childhood favourite and a comfort food till this day! Love this cake and post! :)

Posted by Anonymous Ker-Yng, at Jul 9, 2012, 10:58:00 AM  

anon: Thanks for trying, this is the cake for keeps. Traditional recipes are the best!

Ker-Yng: It was pretty random actually. I just happened to cut at the correct place!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jul 17, 2012, 10:02:00 AM  

Hey, thanks for sharing such a great recipe. I halved the ingredients as I only had four eggs but the cake came out delicious. This is my first time whipping my egg whites. The top of my cake was a bit holey, not sure went wrong but the texture was great. Fluffy, light and buttery. Thanks!

Posted by Anonymous Dixie, at Sep 2, 2012, 5:04:00 PM  

The grains on your timber cake-stand so cleverly and beautifully mimics the marbling on the cake! May I ask where you got that cake stand from?

Posted by Anonymous Jo, at Sep 8, 2012, 6:58:00 AM  

Dixie: The holes on top are just trapped and exploded air bubbles. Tap your cake pan on the counter from a height a few times before putting it into the oven.

Jo: I bought the stand online from Herriot Grace.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 10, 2012, 11:07:00 AM  

Hi, i'm a novice in baking with the egg separation technique. I have tried baking this cake 3 times... Each time with a very slight improvement but never as beautiful as your's. Can you troubleshoot why my cake crumbs are never fine... In fact it taste rough. How does the batter looked like before going into thr oven?

Posted by Blogger mooma, at Sep 10, 2012, 6:21:00 PM  

mooma: You mentioned a slight improvement each time you made this. Did you pay attention to the things you did differently each time?

The batter should be mixed just enough, not over folded. The meringue is important here, beat is gradually to get finer aeration and incorporate it gently into the yolk mixture.

All your ingredients (butter, eggs) should be at the room temperature.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 11, 2012, 10:17:00 AM  

Well, I guess each time I spent a little more time folding it. I was afraid of over folding you see. Butter and eggs were in room temperature. I will try again. One other question, I store my cake in air tight containers at room temperature. However, the crust seems to turn sticky the next day. Is that normal due to our humid weather? Btw, I'm from Malaysia.

Posted by Blogger mooma, at Sep 13, 2012, 9:48:00 PM  

mooma: It's not necessary to store cakes in airtight containers. They have to breathe. A cake dome is sufficient, failing that loosely tent with foil.

If your crust is sticky then it's possible your batter has split slightly before going into the oven, therefore the butter separates out as the cake cools. The batter should be homogeneous and smooth.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 15, 2012, 3:24:00 PM  

Hello PickYin, I'm a silent reader of your blog. I baked this marble cake in 2 loaf pans. They were very very good. I love the buttery taste and texture. Sweetness wise, just nice. Thank you for sharing the recipe.


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Sep 26, 2012, 9:56:00 PM  

KT: Thank you for trying the recipe. It's always a joy to see one turns out for my readers, slient ones included. :)

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 27, 2012, 2:04:00 PM  

Such a beautiful cake! I poured over all your cake recipes, Pick Yin, before finally settling on this one to make over the weekend. I had to make it gluten-free to accommodate my celiac disease, and had great results - lovely crumb, moist, not too dense, perfect amount of sweet and salt, chocolate and vanilla.

Posted by Anonymous aly, at Oct 16, 2012, 6:55:00 AM  

aly: Glad to hear this, how did you make it GF? Using GF flour?

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Oct 16, 2012, 4:21:00 PM  

Pick Yin, thanks for your interest in the GF conversion!

I substituted a mixture of GF flours of the same weight as the AP flour in your recipe (9 oz), then I decreased the quantity of eggs from 8 to 6 since GF baking doesn't require as much fat. Here's what I did exactly, but when I bake this marble butter cake again I may even decrease the butter by 2-4 oz. just to further improve overall texture.

- decrease eggs from 8 to 6

- GF flour mixture:
5 oz. potato starch
2 oz. brown rice flour
1 oz. tapioca starch
1 oz. almond meal
1/2 tsp Guar Gum

Batter will be thin, and baked closer to 55 minutes in a 350°F conventional oven.

Thanks again for this great recipe! I look forward to making many more (GF versions of course), and I'll report back...

Posted by Anonymous aly, at Oct 17, 2012, 9:31:00 AM  

aly: I asked because some GF readers might be interested. I always applaud GF bakers who can convert classic recipes like this!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Oct 17, 2012, 9:38:00 AM  

Thank you for this lovely recipe. Made it today and everybody loved it. Reminiscence of the kopitiam marble cake but more sophisticated. Thank you too to the family who graciously shared this recipe. -l

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jan 1, 2013, 5:25:00 PM  

Anon: You're welcome, glad this turned out good for you!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jan 2, 2013, 10:46:00 AM  

Thanks for the wonderful recipe !

Posted by Blogger Peng, at Feb 26, 2013, 11:27:00 PM  

Peng: Nicely done, glad it worked out for you!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 28, 2013, 9:04:00 PM  

Hi thanks for the wonderful recipe! I tried baking the cake it turned out very nicely!!!just wondering is the cake batter suppose to be flowy or lumpy? Mine turned out very lumpy but despite that the cake is superb.

Posted by Blogger Unknown, at Nov 1, 2013, 6:37:00 AM  

Ghim Hui: It was probably because your meringue was edging on the dry side. The batter should be quite smooth.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Nov 4, 2013, 10:07:00 AM  

Ghim Hui: It was probably because your meringue was edging on the dry side. The batter should be quite smooth.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Nov 4, 2013, 10:07:00 AM  

Hi Pick Yin,

tried making this into a cupcake twice, but i can never get the top to be as smooth and moist looking as yours. Its always looks crack and dry. somewhat like a muffin. That being the case, it still is moist and awesome. I'm intending to make these into cupcakes for my friend's cake giveaway for her traditional wedding. Have promised her so. Please help. :[

Posted by Blogger rants4u, at Mar 23, 2014, 5:18:00 PM  

Hi rants4u, try baking your cupcakes at a lower temperature - 10C lower. As cupcakes have a smaller surface, it's most likely to crack by the time the center is cooked. Perhaps you may want to use another recipe to make the cupcakes. Most basic cupcake recipes can be marbled the same way.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Apr 3, 2014, 1:10:00 PM  

Hi Pick Yin,

I've baked this 3x and I think my MIL loved me more when I gave her the cake the 2nd time I baked it (I received rave reviews from my colleagues the first time I baked it)!

The recipe is simple, straightforward and almost fool proof. Thanks for sharing a recipe which may otherwise had gone 'undiscovered', thereby denying us a perfect tasting marble cake!

I have a little question to ask of you though. My friend has asked me to bake this for the first day of the fasting month (I'm honoured that she trusts me, a non Muslim, to bake her cake) and has asked for a square version. What pan measurement should I use, given that it's an unconventional 8 x 3 inch pan that you used? Usually round pans are 2 inches high - I specially got a 3 inch one for this.

I hope you can help me. Thanks in advance!

Posted by Blogger MummyMOO, at Jun 22, 2014, 1:41:00 AM  

MummyMOO: Glad this works for you!

You can bake this in an 8" square pan. It still needs to be 3" high for safety and so that the cake can rise properly while baking. In general square pans of the same measurement can fill more batter.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jun 22, 2014, 12:16:00 PM  

Thank you!! That solves the problem then because I do have an 8 x 8 square. Just didn't want to risk it being too flat :)

Posted by Blogger MummyMOO, at Jun 25, 2014, 5:12:00 PM  

Hey can u pls give the recipe in grams.

Posted by Blogger Unknown, at Jul 10, 2014, 8:26:00 AM  

Thanks a lot for sharing and formatting this great recipe ! I, too, divided ingredients by 2, which was perfect for 6 muffins. It came a bit too salty, because I used salted butter and always add a bit of salt to help whisking egg whites, and almost forgot to add my vanilla extract, but in the end, it is delicious :)
For the ones having trouble with the meringue folding step, I would suggest to add dry ingredients (flour base) and whites at the same time, same ratio. Quite like when making macarons, the dryness helps and you will less likely "kill" your batter by hard mixing your dry ingredients in your batter.

Posted by Anonymous Coralie, at Feb 19, 2015, 7:08:00 PM  

In England,we do not add salt into our cakes. People add salt in America to their cakes. I think this is a regional preference. Marks and Spencer's cakes have salt and they really taste very bad and I think is because Marks' cakes are too sweet and they add salt to mask the sweetness. So, I would not say your friend Naz is wrong to use unsalted butter, which tastes a lot better than salted butter, and add no salt is wrong at all. It is all to do with regional / personal taste.

Posted by Blogger Juyee Teo, at Apr 30, 2015, 12:40:00 PM  

Hello, thank you for the recipe...I tried to converting the OZ to cups/grams but I'm not sure I am getting the accurate measurements. Could you please list the flour/sugar in cups instead of oz? Thanks again.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at May 30, 2015, 11:46:00 PM  

My sister and I made this cake today for my birthday. For some reason i read 9oz. Of flour as 60 g! It's a mess! Probably great when the recipe is followed... Time to go to the eye doctor

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jun 9, 2015, 2:29:00 AM  

Hi you may wish to check on FB Alinah Binte Ali. She used your marble cakes' photos without credit..and her recipe is very different from yours. Apparently she has been caught using another blogger's curry puff photos as her own before.

Posted by Blogger Shaz, at Jul 15, 2015, 12:59:00 PM  

Hi Shaz, thank you for the alert. I will drop her a comment. In this good month of Ramadan we shall try to avoid confrontation. :)

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jul 16, 2015, 1:28:00 PM  

marble cake is currently in the oven! I can't wait to see how it turned out...

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Oct 28, 2015, 10:23:00 PM  

Hi PickYin. I had quite a bit of problem when I bake this cake. My cake batter looks like it curdled when I added the egg yolk mixture into the butter mixture. And it was very hard to fold the meringue into the batter. Is the batter supposed to look "curdled" after adding the egg yolk mixture into the butter mixture?

Posted by Anonymous Michelle, at Nov 22, 2015, 4:15:00 PM  

Michelle: Such problem is quite common, to solve this simply add a bit of flour into the mixture before folding in the meringue. Ensure that your meringue is not too dry, and loosen the mixture with 1/3 meringue (whisk in freely) before folding in the rest.

Hope this helps!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Nov 23, 2015, 7:49:00 AM  

I tried this recipie and it was absolutely delicious

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jan 7, 2016, 4:22:00 AM  

I don't have a convection oven, what would the temperature be for a regular conventional oven?

Posted by Blogger Miss G Songbird, at Mar 26, 2016, 9:26:00 PM  

Can you give me the temp conversion for a conventional oven? I do not have a convection oven. Really want to back this cake. Thanks

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Mar 31, 2016, 9:26:00 PM  

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