By Tori Avey, The Shiksa in the Kitchen
The idea of marbling two different colored batters into a cake originated in nineteenth century Germany. Marble cake made its way to America with German immigrants before the Civil War. Originally the cakes were marbled with molasses and spices. The first recorded Jewish recipe for a marble cake appears in an American cookbook called Aunt Babette’s Cook Book: Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household, published in 1889. This recipe replaced the molasses and spice combination by marbling chocolate into the cake, a reflection of the new American obsession with chocolate. The cake remained popular throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
According to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, “Many Jewish bakeries in the New York area in the 1950’s through the 1970’s would distinctively add a small amount of almond extract to the chocolate marble cake, creating a version sometimes referred to as a ‘German Marble Cake,’ that had a characteristic almond aroma.” Delicious, right?
My German Marble Cake recipe is traditional, with a slightly modern twist-- I like to add vanilla pudding mix to the batter. This little trick is a fantastic way to add moisture and flavor to your cakes. You can use regular or instant pudding mix; just sift it in dry with the flour. It creates a wonderful texture and locks in moisture so the cake doesn’t dry out as quickly. They certainly weren’t doing it this way in Germany 150 years ago, but sometimes it’s fun to improve on tradition. If you don’t have vanilla pudding mix in your pantry, just replace the pudding with an equivalent amount of cake flour. And in case you’re wondering, cake flour is a finer grade of all purpose flour that produces a more delicate cake with a tender crumb. I highly recommend it for this particular cake; it makes a batter just perfect for marbling.
If you’ve never marbled a cake before, click here for detailed instructions on my site. A high quality cocoa powder will bring even more flavor to the marbling in this lovely cake; Valrhona Cocoa Powder, available at Zabars.com, is an excellent choice (and kosher certified for those who keep kosher!).
This cake is perfect for the holidays. The loaf size makes it a wonderful hostess gift. Wrap it in cellophane and tie a beautiful ribbon around—presto! A beautiful and tasty homemade gift from the heart. Enjoy!