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Marble cake with vanilla buttercream, chocolate ganache drip and macarons.

High Altitude Marble Cake with Chocolate Ganache Drip and Macarons

Heather Smoke
A high altitude recipe for a marble cake, with layers of chocolate and vanilla cake batter swirled together, frosted with vanilla buttercream and finished with rich dark chocolate ganache drip.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
  • 8-inch cake pans (x3)



  • 3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 3 ¼ cups cake flour, fluffed, spooned and leveled
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted, then cooled for 10 minutes
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder, optional
  • ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp milk, only if needed for consistency


  • 3 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 3 oz good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (about 50-60% cacao)
  • macarons, chocolate squares or chopped chocolate, for decoration



  • Preheat the oven to 350 F, and position a rack in the center of the oven. Grease the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then whisk until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, buttermilk, melted butter, oil and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk just until combined, about 10-15 seconds.
  • Remove 3/4 cup of the vanilla cake batter, and stir in the cocoa powder mixture to make a chocolate batter, so that you have a large bowl of vanilla cake batter and a small bowl of chocolate cake batter.
  • Spoon about 1/2 cup of the vanilla cake batter into each of the cake pans. Add about 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter right in the center of the vanilla batter. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of vanilla cake batter in the center of the chocolate batter - it will make the chocolate batter spread out into a ring. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons of chocolate batter. Continue alternating vanilla and chocolate batter in each of the pans, until you've used up all the batter. Now use a toothpick to gently and briefly swirl the two batters together; you don't want to blend the batter too much.
  • Bake the cakes for about 21-25 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Set the pans on a cooling rack, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar by spoonfuls, the meringue powder and the salt, mixing until thick and combined. Add the vanilla.
  • Increase speed to medium and whip for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl down several times, until light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to "stir" and mix for 1 more minute.
  • Remove the cooled cakes from the pans. Stack and fill the cakes with the buttercream, then frost with a crumb coat. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then frost all over with a smooth coat of buttercream. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the ganache.
    For tips, see How to Stack, Fill, Crumb Coat and Frost Layer Cakes.
    Save any leftover buttercream to pipe on top of the cake after covering it with ganache.


  • Pour the cream into a saucepan and warm over medium heat just until hot, and beginning to simmer around the edges.
  • Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Pour the ganache on top of the cake, then use a small offset icing spatula to gently spread it out, nudging it towards the edges so it drips down the sides of the cake. Let the ganache set for about 15 minutes, before decorating the top.
  • Fit a piping bag with tip 1M, and fill with the remaining buttercream. Pipe a few buttercream swirls on top of the ganache, and decorate with French macarons, chocolate squares, or chopped chocolate.
Keyword Chocolate and Vanilla, Drip Cake, High Altitude Cake, Marble
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