old-fashioned marble cake #bundtbakers

Are y’all ready for a very special holiday edition of #bundtbakers?

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

My mom recently renovated and moved into a new house, and a while she was unpacking she asked me if I wanted any of her old cookbooks. She was trying to downsize but the only one I asked for was a well worn book from the 1940s called “The Modern Family Cookbook” by Meta Given. She’d actually had it for so long that she couldn’t even remember where’d she’d gotten it, but thinks it was probably her Grandmother’s.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

As soon as I got it home I started pouring over the recipes and wondering about all the funny old fashioned foods that no one eats anymore. It’s just filled with all kinds of things that I honestly can’t wait to try.

As you can probably imagine, I was most interested in the desserts. Surprise!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

While flipping through the cakes section I came across a recipe that I instantly knew I needed to try. It was actually the caption under the title that really caught my eye.
“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.”

I’d never heard of a marble cake darkened with molasses. Have you?

In my mind marble cakes are always a mix of chocolate and vanilla, and to be honest, I’ve never really been a huge fan. I love chocolate and I love vanilla, but I prefer them as separate flavors. I feel like they sort of get lost in each other, and bring each other down rather than elevating one another when marbled together. But molasses and spice? Now that I could get into!

This version just sounded so terribly interesting, not to mention delicious!  I’ve always been fascinated by food history, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of making a recipe for a marble cake that pre-dates the one we all know today.

old fashioned marble cake | before chocolate, marble cake was darkened with molasses and spice | Brooklyn Homemaker

I find the very idea that the marble cake has evolved from one flavor profile to another completely intriguing. This got me to thinking about how and why this could have happened in the first place.

“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.” I soon realized that if this recipe was published in 1942, and it was the author’s grandmother’s recipe, then the recipe itself was probably from the late 1800s. Then it dawned on me that at that time in history cocoa and vanilla were rare, exotic, and expensive ingredients that many bakers just didn’t have access to. Molasses and spice were easy enough to find, so I’m sure that’s why they were used first.

Maybe it’s just the food nerd in me, but I find all this stuff to be so much fun and I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe and the story behind it with the bundt bakers!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I almost went ahead with this recipe back when I first saw it, but ultimately decided that I should wait until the holidays because it sounded so similar in flavor to gingerbread (just without the ginger). I was a little worried that I’d wait all that time and then my cake wouldn’t fit with the bundt bakers theme for December, but I decided I’d cross that river when I came to it.

Lucky for me, Liv of Liv for Cake played right into my hand and chose “naughty or nice” as the theme this month. How perfect is that? Richly spiced cake with dark, earthy molasses juxtaposed against an ethereal light and airy white cake. Naughty AND nice mixed and marbled together into one perfect holiday cake. Please make sure to scroll down past the recipe and check out all the other naught and nice cakes this month!

The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze but just said, “Frost if desired, but no frosting is required.” I thought I may as well go ahead and drive the naughty point home with a nice boozy rum glaze.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake lends itself perfectly to being baked as a bundt. The original recipe said to bake it in a tube pan like an angel food cake, but only because the bundt pan hadn’t yet been invented! They didn’t hit the scene until the 1950s.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but did decide to add just a touch of vanilla to the white cake part. The original recipe didn’t call for it because it wasn’t readily available or affordable when it was developed, but now that it is available and affordable I saw no reason to leave it out. I’m sure it’d still be great without it, but thought it would really add a nice boost of flavor to the white cake.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

It was sort of a a funny exercise rewriting a 70 year old cake recipe. The first paragraph was just about triple sifting the flour before measuring because flour back then didn’t come pre-sifted. The recipe was also sort of vague and inexact in some places, because most housewives back then already knew how to follow a recipe. It actually said to “bake in a slow oven for about an hour”.

I tried my best to update it and make it easier for the modern baker to follow. If the finished cake was any indication, I think I did a pretty good job.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so glad to have the opportunity to revive a recipe that’s probably over a century old, and even more glad that it came out so absolutely wonderful! The cake is super light and tender, with a healthy dose of rich earthy molasses and a lovely bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove. When I first read the recipe I worried that the clove might be a bit overpowering, but I worried for nothing and wouldn’t change a thing. It tastes and smells just like the holidays, but if you want it to taste even more like gingerbread, you could easily add two or three teaspoons of ground ginger.

Ginger or no, this recipe is as fun and festive a holiday cake as you could ask for.

The rum glaze really adds another level of holiday cheer too, but if you’d prefer to keep this cake kiddo safe though, feel free to skip the rum and use an equal amount of milk instead.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Old-Fashioned Marble Cake

Adapted from Meta Given’s 1942 Modern Family Cookbook

Light Part: 
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Dark Part:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk

Rum Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Generously butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan and tap out excess flour. Refrigerate pan.

Light Part:
Measure flour, baking powder, and salt for the light part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. Beat egg whites until they reach stiff (but not dry) peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Transfer to a small bowl and cover while you proceed.

In the same mixer bowl, cream butter and blend thoroughly with remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) mix buttermilk with vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter being careful not to overmix or deflate the whites. Transfer batter to another bowl and cover while you proceed.

Dark Part: 
Measure flour, soda, salt and spices for the dark part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. In the mixer bowl, cream butter until soft and smooth; add brown sugar and cream together thoroughly. Add beaten egg yolks and molasses, and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour and beating until smooth after each addition.

Drop alternating large spoonfuls of dark and light batter into the pan until all batter is used. Use a dull knife to make a swirled pattern in the batter for a marbled effect.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly with fingertips. Place on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes to cool before inverting to remove cake and cool completely.

To make the glaze whisk the sugar, rum, & milk together in a small bowl until lump free. If too thick, add a drop or two of milk until you reach the desired texture. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cake. Cake should keep, well covered and air tight at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This month is filled with enough naughty and nice to make Santa’s head spin! Even the naughty cakes though, are plenty nice. I wish I could try each and every one!



#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

Happy holidays y’all!



  1. I love the food history, Tux! I definitely need to make this one. Gorgeous cake, as usual. Your glaze is just so perfect. Still trying to figure out why my glazes are never that perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a cool thing for your Mom to share an old cookbook! And yes, you did find a winner here Tux. I have a home office and in it are many, many cookbooks (old and new) amongst others. I adore looking through the old timey recipes and myself have made many. Agree that some instructions are a bit lacking or substitutions used to today’s ingredients that are available to us. Great job and a fun post my friend. Happy Holidays! Cheryl

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a TREASURE that cookbook is, Tux! And in my own nerdy baker way, I LOVE the history behind your recipe. That is one gorgeous Bundt and I adore the molasses marble. Who knew?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the history of the recipe, Tux! And yes, I also have some books from my grandmother, and it is so much fun reading these recipes and thinking about the things they did eat back then. You did an amazing job, by the way, and the cake must taste like Christmas heaven with a touch of naugthy! ;-) Wishing you a merry Christmas!! Xx from Spain!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ok, this cake looks amazing. AMAZING! And, of course, it sounds delicious. Your photos are stunning, some of the best I’ve EVER seen. So crisp, clear, and bright. Did you use natural light or artificial? Inquiring minds want to know! Hah.

    You’re so lucky to have that gem of an old cookbook. Crazy how old that recipe must be and good on you for sleuthing out that they must not have had cocoa, etc available way back in the 1800s (!!). I love finding old recipes to try — there’s always something new, different, and unique about them. Even if it’s just vagueness of bake low and slow :).

    So glad you could participate this month!! Hope you have a wonderful Holiday season and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for your comment! I had a loooong stressful day at work and your comment was the first thing I read when I got off the train on my way home. I needed that! :)

      I was actually kind of unhappy with the way some of the photos came out- especially the 1st and 5th. I feel like where you can see a lot of background it looks grey rather than white and I had a really hard time trying to correct it in lightroom without making everything else look funny. I’m just hyper critical of my own work though- but I know it helps me improve as I go so I let myself drive myself nuts sometimes! hahaha!
      So again- THANK YOU for your comment!
      The grey cast is probably because I don’t ever use artificial light because I don’t know what light to buy that won’t give off a weird color or make my photos look off… Do you ever use a light? What kind do you have?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So funny, the 1st and 5th pics are my fave! hahaha I totally get what you mean about the grey though, I have such a hard time with that too. I’ve never yet been able to get my whites to look truly white with natural lighting, no matter how much editing I do in lightroom. The pics just end up looking grey and flat. Yours though, they look stunning. I didn’t notice it as “supposed to be white but is grey”, the lighting that hits the cake is what I was drooling over! And it’s so crisp. PLUS I saw it on the fp of Foodgawker, so that’s awesome :D.

        I actually finally got an EGO light for my birthday in October. I didn’t have success with it until recently when i started using it properly and am really happy with the results. The gingerbread spice and gingerbread cookies from my recent posts are using the artificial light. For it to work, I basically had to be in a pitch black (tiny) room and have a lot of reflectors (just poster board and a plastic reflector that came with the EGO). The pics were actually really yellow straight out of the camera so required a different kind of tweaking in lightroom, but I think the overall effect worked out great. I can’t really use it for cakes though since I dont think it would provide enough light overall.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you again! I’m really glad to hear that it doesn’t read as white that looks grey! And thanks for the info about the light. I’ve actually been noticing that all your cookie photos shot against white backdrops looks absolutely gorgeous, so you’re doing something right! ;)
    I only have natural light in my bedroom – so all of my posts are actually shot on my bed! The only time I think I’d want a light is when it’s really grey and rainy- or now in the winter when the light fades too early.
    I’ve been researching lights but for now I think I just need to be careful about only shooting against white when I have really bright clear light.
    Oh and I just noticed the foodgawker position! So cool!


  7. Being a true Belgian, I never bake a Bundt cake before! This was a lovely recap post, I enjoyed reading it! Cool! I love your adaption too! that added topped glaze sounds really delicious too! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. absolutely love the berries in in your shots. very Christmasy w/o being too Christmasy. might have to add that to my arsenal. :) oh, and beautiful bundt! I bake he shoots | #BundtBakers

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You’ve done it again, Tux – a bundt of yours I can’t wait to try!
    That cookbook is incredible, I hope you continue to share your adventures cooking through it.


  10. The styling on these pics is soooo pretty! I love those little branches of holly (I think it’s holly? Idk, I’m not fancy like you :) )

    I love the story behind this, you’re such a history buff/nerd! I can just imagine you sitting in some sort of leather chair in front of a fireplace, thumbing through your old cookbook drinking bourbon lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! There’s a bodega near work that sells flowers and when I saw these branches I had to have them! My original plan was some kind of pine branches or somethign but as soon as I saw these I knew they’d be perfect- and they went really well with the color of the cookbook too so it worked out!

      I might just have to start collecting old cookbooks now- I’d love to go back even further and try even older recipes!
      Russell’s not going to be happy about ANOTHER collection- you should see my cake stand collection and my prop hoard. I have a problem!

      Man though- now I wish I had a leather chair and a fireplace. And some bourbon!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m a food nerd too so I’m thrilled that you found the cookbook, that cake and the reason that molasses was used instead of cocoa powder. One of the cool items that I read about once was how bakers would keep track of what was in the oven before timers were created or clocks were cheap enough for everyone to own. They’d have songs that matched the baking time in length so they’d sing what was appropriate and when the tune was done, the baked good was ready. Anyhow, sorry for that … your bundt looks amazing. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a fantastic gift of the old cookbooks. I’d be pouring through every page too. Those recipes give so much inspiration. Like molasses instead of cocoa. Genius! And to think we’ve missed it this whole time. A beauty of a cake too (yours always are).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Tux, your bundt is the picture of perfection…It looks absolutely beautiful and what a beautiful story behind it. I love going through all the old cookbooks my mom had…those recipes are the best. Wishing you and beautiful and blessed holiday season and New Year. Take care my friend, Catherine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I actually got two (new) old cookbooks for christmas and I can’t wait to start trying them out! One of them is from 1884! So many fun and interesting recipes! Hope you had a great holiday and have a really happy and healthy new year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.