Do It Yourself: Rainbow Swirl Marble Cake!

I would.

I haven’t stopped cooking or eating, but I have been bad about reporting back. Some things, you can’t NOT report. And this is one of them.

When Sam asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine’s Day, of course I said, “Eat!” Later I became a little more articulate and asked if he would make a steak dinner with roasted potatoes. And so he did!

Ask and ye shall receive.

Yes, Sam provided me with a saucer of ketchup for the potatoes (and a GIANT bottle of ketchup to keep refilling the saucer). And he had a mug of tea. And in case you were wondering, he broiled flank steak that had been marinated in balsamic vinaigrette (yes– salad dressing). It was DELICIOUS.

I didn’t want to take take take without bringing anything to the table (literally and figuratively), so I volunteered to make dessert. Sam requested marble cake, and I decided to add a twist (pun?) by secretly making it a rainbow-colored cake. And by doing some spiffy decorating, if I do say so myself.

Pro-tip: Duncan Hines is the only brand that makes packaged marble cake, and I was only able to find it at Von’s, in my neighborhood. I mean, you can make it from scratch or with two mixes, but time was of the essence so I was glad to find the easy version. I also found a big bag of discount candy hearts! (We celebrated the Saturday after Valentine’s, because weekends are more conducive to food-making.)

Ready... set... cake!

I also had to add vegetable oil and eggs, but I already had them so they’re not in the picture. The best thing about cooking is that it begets more cooking because you have the ingredients lying around.

So I mixed the cake (just by hand… for the last time, because the next day I bought an electric mixer!) ($6 at Target), and then deviated from the box by separating all the non-chocolate batter and mixing food coloring into it. I wanted to vaguely approximate the colors of the candy hearts, which would also work as Easter colors, in the coming months. (This was inspired by Whitney’s rainbow cupcakes.)

Fun with pastels.

The food coloring box tells you how many drops to use to dye a WHOLE cake, so I just divided the drops by some common denominator (math in real life!). Like I think the purple was 24 red and 16 blue? So I just divided by 8 and did 3 red and 2 blue? But then it looked pink so I kept adding that same ratio until it looked more distinct. (Ultimately I can’t really see the distinction, but that’s life.)

Then I glooped the colors into my 9-inch pans.

Pretty pretty.

My miscalculation was that I would be swirling a LOT more chocolate in than I realized. It kinda overwhelmed the colors. ALSO, I think the “white” cake was actually yellow? I think Whitney used white cake batter with a lot more saturated color (and gel food coloring, if I remember correctly), so… yeah, you’ll see that my colors got a bit lost in translation. (Also the two layers’ colors somehow aligned, so it looked less multicolored overall, I guess.)

Slight color issues are really the best mistake that could have happened… better than the cake not coming out of the pan. Or the cake getting crushed as I drove it to Sam’s place. Like, the cake came out more-or-less great, given how many things could have gone wrong.

And at least the swirl looked pretty cool.

I forgive you for pooping on my rainbow.

Although, as I said, once it baked the colors looked a little less colorful… on the outside, at least.


For a scary moment after the layers cooled for a bit, they didn’t seem like they wanted to come out of the pan in one piece. It took a bit of coaxing, and with one exception all was well. But I was sort of glad for the little hole, because it gave me a color preview. And a default bottom layer.

Inner beauty.

I closed up the hole after I took the picture. So it really could have been the top layer. A pretty lucky pan-removal process, overall.

And then… I set to frosting.


I like that the marble swirl left an image on the first plate. Once I’d frosted everything except the top, I free-handed a heart with the strawberry frosting. Then I carefully filled in the rest of the top with the chocolate.

Heart flavored.

I had debated frosting the whole cake with strawberry, but I’m glad I didn’t because it has this weird, sweet flavor that’s almost medicine-y? It tastes okay in a childhood memory kind of way, but not in an actually delicious way? Maybe it tastes like toothpaste? I don’t know, it grew on me. But when I first smelled it I was not a fan.

And then I debated just leaving the cake the way it was because it had a simple, chic thing going. But then I was like– wait a second, candy hearts are the REASON FOR THE SEASON.

A heart made of hearts.

I gotta say, I remember candy hearts having more/better phrases? And happy faces? These candy hearts had a bit of a “throw the rejects into the bulk bag” feel, but I found enough winners to line my heart.

The really worrisome part was transporting the cake, especially because I had to pack it up soon after I frosted it. Luckily about 15 minutes in the fridge hardened the frosting enough that it was not marred when I carefully packed the cake in tinfoil.

I expected Sam to be shocked and awed when he cut open the cake and saw the big rainbow “surprise,” but he was pretty even-keeled about it… probably because the colors were swirled/muted. (Also… he’s a guy. They are fairly immune to rainbow surprises. I figured he’d be more surprised/amused that I’d actually made the attempt.) I actually think I could have saved myself some dishes and just done one or two colors, but– go big or go home. Right?

Somewhere, eating the rainbow.

As for the cake– it tasted really good. I ate it the next day, and the day after, and it retained its moisture well.

Hopefully this is the first of many colorful baked goods to come…


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