Secrets of Success

Those of my readers who aren’t entrenched in the American Jewish community may not know that Teaneck, NJ is a the Modern Orthodox mecca. Only the true cognoscenti know the real reason behind Teaneck’s success . . . MARBLE CAKE.

Marble cake is THE cake to buy at Teaneck’s kosher Butterflake bakery. Every Friday,  hundreds (thousands?) of these cakes fly off the shelves and once you taste one, you’ll know why: it’s a great cake that’s light, chocolaty enough without being overwhelming, and it appeals to kids but isn’t too sickenly sweet—in fact, its chiffony lightness makes it work for grownups, too.   So that’s the secret: a cake that everyone loves.

Thanks to our Teaneck relatives, we discovered Butterflake’s marble cake years  ago. Our fearless photographer, REG, fell in love with this cake when she was a toddler and we’ve been importing them from Teaneck ever since.  Sometimes after a visit to the cousins, we buy several cakes and freeze them for the future.

There are times, however, when we have neither this ur-marble cake in the freezer  nor plans to go to Teaneck. When that happens, I turn to my mother’s marble chiffon cake recipe.  It’s not quite what Butterflake makes (and it may be impossible to get the consistency of Butterflake’s glaze without some additive I don’t want to know about) but it’s pretty darn close. There’s actually a disagreement in our family: My husband says this is better than the Butterflake cake but my fearless photographer votes for the bakery version.

A great cake for company Photography by REG

A great cake for company
Photography by REG

Actually, I only recently realized that both marble cakes and chiffon cakes are so passé that (like my pink-tile bathroom) they are about to come back into style.  I’ve always loved the way that marble cake allows me to bypass the either/or choice of chocolate or vanilla.  I also love whipping meringues into light fluffiness though I do wonder which Neanderthal woman first discovered that not only could you eat an egg, but if you separated it and beat it, it would be all light and fluffy and add height and lightness to your baking.

No need to choose--it's chocolate and vanilla photography by REG

No need to choose–it’s chocolate AND vanilla
photography by REG

Thanks to my mother’s extensive tutorials when I was her tween sous-chef, I often bake with beaten egg whites. There’s nothing to be scared of as long as you follow these rules:

  • Your bowl and utensils have to be (and this is mom’s word and I can still her it in my head) “scrupulously” clean and dry.  Any foreign agent will prevent your whites from whipping.
  • Break the eggs when they are cold.
  • First break each egg into two glasses (one for whites, one for yolks) and then add the whites and yolks one at a time to the respective bowls of other whites and yolks. By breaking eggs that might somehow not separate properly into the small cups, you won’t accidentally introduce the dreaded foreign agent (like a pinprick sized drop of yolk) into your egg whites  after you’ve already separated 10 of them.
  • Once you have beaten your whites, gently add the other ingredients. If you are pouring a batter  into the whites, lighten the batter  first with some of the beaten egg whites.  That way you won’t be introducing a heavy and potentially deflating mixture into your  airy and fluffy whites.
  • To properly fold ingredients into egg whites, take a large spatula and lift and fold from the bottom while turning the bowl around 90 degrees with each turn.  This allows you to truly mix it all in while being gentle and not breaking up the egg whites.
  • photography by REG

So without further ado:  my mother’s marble chiffon cake recipe in all its mid-twentieth century glory.

Marble Chiffon Cake

Cake ingredients:

1/3 cup coca

1 ¾ sugar

¼ cup hot water

2 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 scant tablespoon baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ cup vegetable oil (any light, flavorless oil)

6 large eggs, separated

¾ cup cold water

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon extract

½ tsp cream of tartar

 Glaze ingredients

2 ½ squares melted unsweetened chocolate

2 cups confectioners sugar

3 tbs. hot water

1 egg

2 ounces unsalted butter or margarine (yes, margarine because it’s a recipe from the 1960s and that keeps this nondairy for the kosher crowd)

1 tsp vanilla

Lightly grease an angel food cake pan.

For the chocolate part of the marble cake:  Mix cocoa, ¼ cup of the sugar and the hot water and set aside to cool.

For the cake: Separate eggs and beat the whites gradually adding cream of tartar until stiff and dry.

Put sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon extracts and mix until smooth.  Gently fold in around one cup of egg whites into this mixture and then fold the mixture gently back into the egg whites.

Remove one cup of batter and add it to the cocoa mixture. Pour white batter into pan and then swirl cocoa batter into this.

Bake at 325 for 55 minutes and then at 350 for another 15 minutes.

Remove and cool on rack. When fairly cool, invert and then remove from pan when totally cool.  When you remove it from the pan, place it on strips of wax paper so that you can dribble  the glaze and then remove the mess and feast on the chocolate droppings, leaving the serving plate clean.

For the glaze: Melt chocolate, vanilla, and butter/margarine in the top of a double boiler. As this mixture is melting, add the water. When it’s all blended remove from the double boiler and  quickly whisk in the gently beaten egg–and do your best not to scramble the egg.  Add confectioners sugar. When all is encorporated and the mixture is nice and glossy,  pour it over cake. You don’t have to cover the sides but there should be lots of drippings on the side. Ideally, you won’t serve this immediately and the glaze will harden a little.


chiffony lightness photography by REG

chiffony lightness
photography by REG


6 thoughts on “Secrets of Success

  1. judithmargolis says:

    So great that you are doing this cooking blog! It’s your true ”micsoah” there is no doubt. And I have to say the photographs are spectacular! (Love the busoms in the cake picture=like a subliminal nurture image, with authentic 50’s cleavage.very clever. So I kol ha kavod on that too.. oh one other thing, l grew up in Teaneck (before it was the Teaneck you describe) and Butterflake was great then too!

  2. Judith, thanks for the kind words. I don’t know how I didn’t think of singling you out as a Teaneckian–and great to know that Butterflake has been around that long. And the photographer is my daughter & I will share the compliments. Love the point you make about my authentic 50s cleavage!

  3. Yonina Siegal says:

    Yum! I’ve never had Butterflake’s marble cake, but the Helman, Siegal and Quint families all love your mother’s cake! The Helman family has been enjoying it since the ’70s when my mother got the recipe. We started off calling it Rochelle Cake (giving homage to the source), but since my sister’s name is Rachel and it was one of her favorite cakes, we shamelessly renamed it Rachel Cake. My mother included the recipe in the cookbook she put together for me and my sister in 1990 with a handwritten note giving its history. It will be interesting to compare her recipe to the authentic version you posted.

  4. Marble cake is too good to go out of style – ever! I will have to try this recipe – do you know if it freezes well so I can make and save some of it to spare myself the compulsion to keep chipping away at the cake on my counter?

    • Sorry, I don’t know about freezing. I remember my cousin’s grandmother freezing chiffon cakes but I feel like they may not freeze well.
      Interestingly, I turned on the food network yesterday and saw someone making an angel food cake in a loaf pan. She said she can make a smaller recipe that way. Maybe you want to try halving the recipe.

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