Torta due colori - two-coloured cake - is name of the Italian version of the marble cake. For us Italians, the marble cake is a delicious treat for every and any occasion: we have marble cake when we crave something sweet for breakfast, or for a merenda – a snack – or when we celebrate a birthday. It is particularly delicious when served with some whipped cream.Jump to Recipe
The ancient Greeks and birthday cake
A classic birthday cake is normally round and decorated with candles. A tradition that dates back to ancient times. Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon, for example, was worshipped with a moon-shaped wheat and honey cake. Artemis’ cake was decorated with wax sticks similar to candles. Just like birthday candles, it was said that those wax sticks would make wishes come true. Since Artemis was also the patron and protector of women and children, women were soon given such a cake to celebrate the birth of a child. The Romans adopted the custom and spread it throughout Europe.
How the cake became multi-coloured
Today, we are rarely reminded of precious, multi-streaked marble when we see a marble cake. The original torta marmorizzata or torte marmorée, as described in various cookery books from the 18th century, probably reminded more people of marble: the cake dough often had several different colours due to the many hues of the ingredients, such as spinach, cherry or plum juice. Once the different doughs were mixed together, a beautiful ‚marble effect’ was created. The dough got its brown colour when either treacle or cinnamon was added; expensive chocolate was only introduced much later to the recipe.
Italian marble cake
- 180 g butter
- 220 g sugar
- 4 eggs
- 360 g flour
- 200 ml milk
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ packet baking powder
- 90 g dark chocolate, high cocoa percentage
- Pre-heat oven to 180° C (upper and lower heat). Line the baking tin with baking paper. Finely grate the chocolate. Mix together the baking powder with the flour, and sieve both. By doing this, the baking powder will be evenly distributed in the dough, which makes the cake spongy and fluffy. Separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until stiff.
- Beat the butter (should be at room temperature) and sugar until creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Then, alternately add the milk and flour, stirring continuously until the dough is smooth. At the end, carefully add the beaten egg white with a hand whisk.
- Divide the dough, and add the grated chocolate to one half. Now, alternately fill the dark and the light dough into the baking tin. Bake at 180°C for approx. 40-45 minutes. Don’t forget about the toothpick test. Leave to cool and enjoy!