Marble cake

A marble cake (or Marmor) is a cake with a streaked or mottled appearance (like marble) achieved by very lightly blending light and dark batter.[1] Due to its zebra-striped pattern, it is also called Zebra Cake. It can be a mixture of vanilla and chocolate cake, in which case it is mainly vanilla, with streaks of chocolate.[2] Other possibilities are strawberry or other fruit flavors, or (particularly in marbled coffee cakes) cinnamon or other spices.

Slices of marble cake
Marble cake
Place of originGermany
Main ingredientsLight and dark batter


Marmor is the German or Yiddish word for marble. The idea of marble cake seems to have originated in early nineteenth century Germany.[3] The earliest version of marble cake consisted of a kugelhopf (sweet yeast bread), one half of which was colored with molasses and spices to achieve a dark colored batter.[4] Bakers next began to do the same thing with sponge cake batter.[3] The usage of chocolate in the Rhein-Ruhr area in the twentieth century has now made this a common version of marble cake across Germany and Austria.

The cake was brought to America shortly before the Civil War, and the term marble cake was first recorded in English in September 29, 1859 issue of Illinois State Chronicle (Decatur).[3] One popular variation of this recipe during Victorian times was “Harlequin cake,”[1] which was baked with checkerboard patterns.

Use as an academic metaphor

In the field of geology, the "Marble Cake Mantle" model refers to the theory of an earth wherein "elongated strips of subducted oceanic lithosphere... are stretched and thinned by the normal and shear strains in the convecting mantle, and are destroyed by being reprocessed at ocean ridges or, on the centimetre scale, by dissolution processes."[5]

In politics, marble cake federalism, also known as cooperative federalism, is defined in contrast to dual federalism, also known as layer cake federalism. The metaphor of marble cake is meant to conceptualize how local, state, and federal governments have interacting, interrelated policy goals. The term was coined by American political scientist Morton Grodzins.[6]

World records

In 2019, British-American television host John Oliver unveiled a 600 sq ft (56 m2) marble cake on an episode of his comedy series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, featuring an image of Turkmenistan's autocratic president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow falling off a horse during a race, intended to satirize Berdimuhamedow's penchant for amassing world records. The cake was submitted to Guinness World Records, but was denied – one of the conditions for certification was a non-disparagement agreement against Guinness, including its relationships with authoritarian regimes, which Oliver described as "clearly ridiculous".[7][8][9] As of 2017, the Guinness World Record for the largest marble cake is held by Betty Crocker for a 732-kilogram (1,613.78 lb), 16 m2 (170 sq ft) cake baked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.[10][11][12]


  1. Olver, Lynne (23 January 2015). "Marble cake". The Food Timeline. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  2. "How to make eggless Marble Cake". Retrieved 2023-01-31.
  3. Marks, Gil (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish food. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-544-18631-6. OCLC 849738985.
  4. Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor (Oxford University Press: New York) 2004 [2007], Volume 1 (p. 162)
  5. Turcotte, Donald; Allègre, Claude. "Implications of a two-component marble-cake mantle". Nature. Nature. Retrieved 12 November 2022.
  6. Grodzins, Morton (1960-12-01). "American Political Parties and the American System". Western Political Quarterly. 13 (4): 974–998. doi:10.1177/106591296001300409. ISSN 0043-4078. Retrieved 2022-11-12.
  7. Locker, Melissa (2019-08-12). "John Oliver Bakes Very Large Cake to Annoy Turkmenistan". Time. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  8. Romano, Nick (2019-08-12). "John Oliver's Turkmenistan segment takes a turn with a very massive cake". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  9. Perkins, Dennis (2019-08-12). "John Oliver batters Guinness World Records' cozy relationship with stunt-happy dictators". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  10. "Largest marble cake". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 22 May 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  11. "Betty Crocker sets Guinness World Record for largest marble cake". Arab News. 26 September 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  12. "Betty Crocker-Panda bake the World's Largest Marble Cake to celebrate Saudi National Day". Saudi Gazette. 25 September 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
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