Growing up, my mom’s go-to treat for all of us was her marble cake, or Marmorkuchen, in German.
It was so simple and yet it wasn’t. It wasn’t overly sweet. But my, the chocolate side was chocolatey, and the yellow side was lemony. As a kid, I would alternate bites so that I could savour each flavour to the full. We never got tired of that cake. We thought mom was the best when she pulled this out of the oven, and the aroma filled the kitchen.
It’s really just a pound or butter cake. But for some reason Germans love making it as a marble cake. Years later when I was on my own and wanted to relive my mom’s cake, I pulled out my ‘Joy of Cooking’ to see if there was a marble cake recipe in it. There was. I made it. It tasted nothing like my mother’s. Don’t get me wrong. It tasted…nice. Just nice. I was comparing it to what I remembered so vividly. I found another recipe in a different cookbook. Tried it. Meh. Again, nice. But not my mother’s. What was I doing wrong? I remembered a certain ‘bitterness’ to the chocolate side that simply made my memory swoon. How could I have such a distinct expectation, when it didn’t seem to be in any of the recipes I had tried?
Finally, I did what I should have done in the beginning. I phoned my mom. “Mama, remember your Marmor Kuchen?” “Of course I do, I’m not getting forgetful, yet!” “How did you get it to taste so amazing?” “What do you mean?” “The chocolate part was always so…strong, chocolatey. And the yellow side was so lemony.” “Aaahh…yes…that would be the rum.” “Rum, there’s rum in the recipe??” “Of course.” “Okay, Love you, Bye.” No one had told me about the rum!! And it wasn’t in any of the recipes I found, even years later, when Pinterest was born. But looking back, it makes total sense. I had tasted and remembered that bitter, alcoholic nuance that made the chocolate so wonderful.
So I played with a few recipes through the years, and this is the result. This cake is exactly what I remember as a kid. Swirls of chocolate amidst moist yellowness. The play of dark against light. Moody bitter chocolate against happy fresh lemon. It is still a simple pound cake. But it isn’t. A perfect loaf to bake up when friends are coming for tea. Of course Jim will always want it warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So predictable. But a drizzle of chocolate sauce over it would be amazing as well. This cake will always remind me of my mother.
German Marble Cake
A moist, chocolatey and lemony marbled pound cake, perfect for company or for breakfast!
- 2 cups plus 2 tbsp AP flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk room temperature
- 1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- 2 tbsp brewed espresso or strong coffee, cooled
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 tsp lemon extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter or grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch (or similar) loaf pan. Line the the pan with parchment paper going up and over the long sides, and grease the parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.
Add the sugar and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and milk, alternating, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing only until each addition is just incorporated. Keep the empty bowl that the flour mixture was in nearby.
Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and scoop half of the batter into the now empty flour bowl. Set aside. This will be the lemon part of the marble loaf. The chocolate part of the marble loaf will be made with the remaining half of the batter in the stand mixer.
Whisk the cocoa powder, coconut palm sugar, rum and coffee together in a small bowl. Add this chocolate mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and combine on low speed till well incorporated.
To the vanilla batter in the other bowl add the zest and lemon extract and stir well to blend.
Randomly drop spoonfuls of the lemon and chocolate batters into the pan.
Try to cover the bottom with half of each batter, and then layer the remaining batter on top, dropping chocolate on lemon, and lemon on chocolate.
Take the top end of a wooden spoon and plunge it into the batter at one end of the loaf. Drag the spoon to the other side of the loaf pan in a zig-zag motion, careful not to exceed 5 zig-zags.
Don’t get too picky about a perfect marble, it is best not to over-mix the doughs once they are in the pan. That's why I use a wooden spoon and not a knife- a knife tends to mix up too finely and you get more of a muddy mess.
Bake the loaf, on a cookie sheet, for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then run a knife along either end and use the parchment paper to pull it out of the pan and cool on a rack.
Wrapped tightly in cling film, this will actually taste better the next day.
This cake freezes well.