Halloween Marble Cake! …and a “Best Baking Blog” nomination

I will talk about the joys and pains (luckily there is a happy ending) of this cake, but first I want to Thank You, for it had to be you, who nominated me for the “Best Baking Blog” award from Foodbuzz. Imagine my surprise and delight to see my name on this list of wildly talented bakers:

7. Best Baking Blog:
1. Bakerella
2. Brown Eyed Baker
3. CakeSpy
4. Joy the Baker
5. ZoeBakes

If you have not yet voted for your favorite blogs I encourage you to cast your vote. Thanks!

Before I had two boys it would never have occurred to me to put spiders on a cake.  Thank god for little boys! Of course, there are deeper things that I have learned since parenting, but seeing the world through their eyes has made me happier, younger and sillier, which is such a gift. There is always their homework, cleaning rooms, taking baths, going to bed and eating spinach to keep us aware of our duties as parents, but sometimes it is about having fun. Spiders on a cake is just plain fun.

Although this cake is very simple to make, it took me two tries to get it right. That sounds more intimidating than it really is. The reason was not my fault, really. I read the recipe and thought to myself that it was WAY too much baking powder, but went ahead anyway. I figured the additional baking powder was because of the weight of the chocolate that is folded in. I mixed it up as written and when I looked in the oven as it baked it was bubbling, not something you really want to see as a cake rises. This is a classic sign of too much baking powder. If the ratio of flour and baking powder is off the leavening agent will create bubbles that are too big and the cake will end up falling due to the lack of structure. You want nice tight small bubbles to allow the cake to rise, but not too rapidly or it will collapse. Within 10 minutes I knew I should have trusted my instincts. I remade the cake with less baking powder and it turned out perfectly, the happy ending! I’ll talk more about how to use baking powder properly as I mix up the batter below.

Halloween Marble Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Marble Cake from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts (A book I got for my 20th birthday and have used over and over again):

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon powdered instant coffee (I used Starbucks VIA™. They sent me a sample and I wasn’t all that excited, but I have to say I am a convert. I love it in recipes because of its intense flavor and very fine crystals.)

2 1/4  (7 1/8 ounces) cups sifted cake flour (not self rising) – this means you sift it into the measuring cup, see below.

2 teaspoons baking powder (the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, which was too much. The rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per cup of flour. Because this is sifted cake flour you can get away with just 2 teaspoons baking powder with 2 1/4 cups of the flour.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons milk

White Chocolate Coffee Icing:

3 ounces white chocolate, melted

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups (1 box) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoons powdered instant coffee, again I used VIA.

Spider body and spider web:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Spider legs:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Sifting flour for cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

When a recipe, like this one, calls for sifted cake flour. You want to sift the flour into the dry measuring cup

Leveling flour in measuring cup with knife | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

and then sweep a knife over the top to level it out. (This is very different from the directions cake flour, sifted. In this case you would measure the cake flour by spooning the flour into the cup and then sifting it.)

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and grease.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Creaming butter and sugar in mixer | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. (I bought a piece of equipment that I originally heard about from Abby Dodge on Twitter. It is the Beater Blade, which fits on my 5-quart kitchenAid mixer (they have them to fit all models) and is a brilliant combination of the paddle attachment and a rubber spatula. The idea is that you can mix your recipe without having to stop every few minutes to scrape down the bowl. It is very light weight, which has me concerned about longevity and it squeaks when it is in an empty bowl.)

Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla, then mix well. Add the dry mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.

Cake batter in a mixer | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The batter is nice and fluffy.

Stirring melted chocolate into cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Split the batter in half and add the melted chocolate and instant coffee powder to one half.

White cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

place some of the white batter in the bottoms of the two 8-inch cake pans.

Chocolate and white cake batter mixed for marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add some of the chocolate batter, then more of the white and any chocolate that is left. It will all look like blobs of batter, not like marble.

Swirling marble cake batter with spoon | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use a spoon to swirl the batter gently together. You don’t want to over due it or you will lose the definition of both the white and chocolate in the layers.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Once baked cool on a rack.

While the cake is baking, prepare the icing:

Add the instant coffee to the milk, set aside. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, alternating with the milk until the icing is thick and smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat until smooth.

Icing cooled marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Unmold the cooled cakes onto a cardboard round. Cover the layer with about 1/4 of the icing.

Two layered marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Place the second layer on top of the icing. As you can see my two layers don’t exactly match, despite both being 8-inch pans, they are different manufacturers and so they didn’t line up well.

Trimming marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make sure that they will make a smooth cake I trimmed off just a touch. It was then a nice smooth even shape.

Iced marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use another 1/4 of the icing to do a crumb coat. This is a very thin layer of the icing that essentially traps the crumbs in place so that they are glued to the cake and won’t make a mess of the exterior of the cake. Freeze the cake for about 10 minutes to set the icing. Because of all the butter, it will harden quite quickly.

Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Now put about 1/3 of what is left of the icing on the top of the cake and spread it flat across the top.

Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Put the rest of the icing on the sides of the cake. Don’t worry about what it looks like, just try to get it on as evenly as possible. You will smooth it out next.

Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the icing is on the cake hold the spatula straight up and down, at a slight angle away from the cake. Turn the cake turn table and hold the spatula steady, don’t press, just hold steady, and it will slowly scrape a thin layer off the sides and make them smooth.

Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the sides are smooth then slide the spatula gently over the top of the cake to smooth it out, again you don’t want to apply too much pressure.

Piping chocolate icing on marble cake Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make the spider web: In a double boiler melt the chocolate and the butter together until smooth. Use a parchment bag to pipe a thin spiral around the cake.

Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use a tooth pick or skewer to draw lines from the center of the spiral out to the edge to create the web. Cover the rest of the chocolate ganache and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Piping chocolate on baking sheet to make chocolate spiders Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Melt the spider legs:

Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler. Fill another paper pastry bag about 1/3 full and pipe out the chocolate in the shape of the number 7 onto a silpat or parchment paper. Make sure you do a size that will fit the size of the spider body you intend to have. Pipe several extra in case you have breakage. Place the sheet into the freezer to set the chocolate.

Piping chocolate spider web on cake Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the chocolate ganache is set up, this may take an hour or two, place it in a pastry bag fit with a round tip. Pipe a large ball of the ganache to create the spider’s body.

Piping chocolate spider web on cake Spreading icing on marble cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use the melted chocolate to draw a line down the side of the cake and pipe a smaller spiders body there. Repeat with as many spiders as you like.

Remove the spider legs from the freezer and using a small spatula, lift up the legs and

Halloween Marble Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

place them on the spider, 4 on each side.

Halloween Marble Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I used the remaining ganache to pipe a simple border along the bottom of the cake.

Halloween Marble Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Happy Halloween! Thank you again for the amazing nomination, I hope you will consider voting for ZoeBakes on Foodbuzz!

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58 thoughts to “Halloween Marble Cake! …and a “Best Baking Blog” nomination”

  1. Congrats on the nom, off to vote!

    LOVE the cake. Halloween is so much fun. I am going to have to put this in my “to bake” file. Adorable, creepy, and tasty!

  2. i voted for you! and I love how different halloween is as a parent as compared to being a kid. As a not super girlie girl, I have recently been making much more pink than I ever imagined (2 girls do that to you.)

  3. Congrats and you completely deserve it for your lovely site! I just did some Halloween cupcakes using melted chocolate and wish I’d had your idea for spiders!

  4. I like Lee Bailey’s books too- have 3 of them. Your spidery cake is very spooky- am so impressed with your spider work!
    Congratulations on your nomination- I voted for you!

  5. Congratulations, Zoe! Why am I not surprised?

    I must save this recipe and your instructions for when my little grandson is old enough to appreciate spiders 😉

  6. Congratulations on you being one of the best baking blogs. You deserve it!

    The spiders look dreadful (=read, very well done and “real”) !

  7. I’m so glad to see this post. I’ve been experimenting with chocolate spiders. Have been trying to make something that you can actually pick up, but they’re very delicate. I like your method & will use on an upcoming spiderweb treat!

  8. Y’know, don’t you, that you’re making your boys’ future relationships next to impossible. Any young woman who samples, observes, or is in any other way exposed to your talents, will hightail it in the opposite direction. Who could possibly measure up to “the way my mom made it when I was a kid.” LOL!! Although, I do know one little girl who might not be intimidated.

    Zoë, as the mother of a “little boy” who will be 40 before year’s end, you are spot on about having fun with your kids. Along with all the hard stuff parents have to do in the name of raising civilized children, my fondest wish is that they will remember that it was Mom who taught them how to jump rope with a string of weenies.

    Bless you! The spider cake is faboo. And the nomination—well! “I knew her back when. . . .”

  9. Congratulations! I voted…good luck! You deserve it. I’ve made a lot of your stuff…the devil’s food cupcakes are my favorite with the coconut haystacks a second. Just sayin’

  10. Whoops, I meant to say “’cause I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO take all those.” Sorry, you can go ahead and delete that other comment. Or edit it, whatever.

  11. Congrats on the nomination! I’ve cast my vote.

    Spiders seriously creep me out, but I think I’d brave the thought for a slice of that cake.

  12. Just a doubt Zoe…when you add Confectioner’s Sugar for frosting a cake, does it not give the frosting a grainy feel? Does it feel as smooth and satiny on the tongue as the Outrageous Mocha buttercream? Thanks…

  13. Hi Sharon,

    It has a very different feel than the Outrageous Mocha Buttercream, but not grainy. The trick is the milk and making sure that you mix it long enough for the sugar to sort of melt with the milk and butter. Having said that, it is not nearly as satiny as the buttercream!

    Thanks, Zoë

  14. Hi Jackie,

    I used the Italian Roast, but honestly I think they both would have given enough flavor! The thing I liked about it was how fine the crystals are so they melt easily.

    Thanks, Zoë

  15. Hello – I just took the cakes out of the oven and they both fell in the middle -one quite a bit more than the other. What could be the cause of this? I am still going to finish the cake, but would like to know for future reference.

    FYI – They came out of the pan just fine and everything else seems OK.

  16. Oh dear Sandra,

    I’m sorry to hear that! It happened to me as well, but once I fixed the amount of baking powder, they came out just fine.

    One thing that comes to mind with a marble cake is the distribution of the chocolate layer. Because of the weight of the chocolate it needs to be spread thin throughout. In other words if there is a big splotch of the chocolate right in the middle of the cake it may cause it to fall. Do you think this may have played a part?

    Please keep me posted, I’m also very curious to figure this out! I really like the flavor, but it seems it should not be so mysterious a process.

    Thank you for letting me know!


  17. I decided to cut into the cake to see what happened and it was just not done in the middle. On the layer that fell the most, there was a a bit of chocolate on the top.

    I had inserted a toothpick into the center to check for doneness and it came out clean. I am going to try again.

    I am very new to food blogs. I really do enjoy your website. Thank you for the inspiration!

  18. Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for the details, I think I will change the instructions adn be more specific about the marbeling so that others don’t have this problem.

    Thank you for persevering! I enjoy the process so much, but I know it can be so frustrating to have a cake fall. I appreciate the feedback.


  19. There is one more thing – I used the sour cream and milk that I had on hand. The sour cream was low fat and the milk was 1%. Could that have added more water and not allow the cake to cook in the alloted time? I will try again with regular sour cream and whole milk.

  20. Hi Sandra,

    I will be surprised if that will makes a significant difference, but please keep me posted.

    The other thing to try is tapping the pan several times on the counter before placing in the oven. This drives the larger bubbles to the surface and they are the ones that threaten collapse.

    Thanks! Zoë

  21. Hi Sandra,

    How wonderful! I’ve been thinking about you and your cakes all day! What do you think made the difference?

    Thanks! Zoë

  22. Hands down– you are the best baking blog. The stories, the pictures, the instructions, the recipes. I don’t bake much, but you’ve inspired me to try several cakes that have all turned out. My fav is still the devil’s food. perfect every time. thanks zoe!

  23. I am not sure, I did bake them a tad bit longer. I have some old stainless steel cake pans from the 80s, could it be that they cook in a way that would be more concentrated form the outside toward the middle? What type cake pans do you use?

    My soon to be, 29 year old son was born on Halloween. So, I am baking the cake to take to him this weekend. He is not a dessert person, but my daughter-in-law is. So, we will enjoy the cake for him.

  24. That is the cutest ever and looks yummy too. I’m sending the link to my friend whose son just finished a spider project – they would love it.

    Can’t wait to read more about baking powder. I’m so not the baker but am wanting to learn.

  25. Hey. I just wanted to let you know that I made this cake today for a friend’s birthday. It was a big hit! Thanks for this post.

  26. I love your choc. devil’s food cake recipe. Can you tell me if you have an equally good, moist yellow cake recipe?

  27. Your cake looks incredible delicious. I got a copy of your bread recipe “Healthy bread in 5 mins per day”. It is sold in MPH bookshop Malaysia. I like most of the recipes and it turn out very well. I even bought a second copy give to my sister Due to rice is our staple food and the kids are so get used to soft texture. I have to adjust the water content to make the bread softer.
    Here is the type of bread we eat in Asia. In general it is softer and sweeter too. http://home-baking.net/english/bread/menu-butter-roll-arrange.php

    Hehe I’m working in baking supply industry too. Here is our mail order outlet . May be you can source some unique products from us.

  28. Wow, it looks so creative and yummy! Love the lovely twist that you did to it. I absolutely love shopping around for baking tools, if anyone is looking for good prices on them, you can try taking a look here http://www.pronto.com/bakeware Now I get to put my new tools to use, thanks!

  29. Hi Zoe,
    I’m planning to bake this cake for my niece for her 4th birthday next month; she loves spiders, lol. But I would like to do some preparations ahead as I have to attend to 3 kids (2+, 1+ and a 3 month old) and I don’t think it is possible to do it all in a day (not for me anyway, lol).
    Can I bake the cake say on Thursday, then do the frosting on Friday and bring it to the party on Saturday? Will it be okay?

  30. I baked this cake for my niece’s birthday and it was a hit! Even I was shocked; I mean I used the cake flour that has been sitting in my pantry for probably a year or so and the layers didn’t rise as much. The frosting was quite thick and grainy and it was really difficult to frost the cake. I used warm spatula but that didn’t help. In the end I just used a paper towel and smooth the frost on the cake. There were also bits and pieces of hardened white chocolate on the frosting.
    Everyone love the cake nevertheless and thank you for the recipe.

  31. Hi I found your blog thru Pinterest and I love it! I’m pinning this cake and I’m going to try to attempt this cake for Halloween. I also have 2 boys and they’re going to love the spiders!

  32. I just stumbled upon this recipe and would like to make enough for a 12 inch layer cake. Do you anticipate any problems if I double it?

  33. I made this cake for my son’s Birthday, delicious! The only changes i made i used whole wheat pastry flour. To the icing i end it up mixing coffee with whipping cream and whipped the cream then added with butter and white chocolate, that way i had more cream available. Also adjusted the sugar in a cake and cream.

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