Make Ahead

Tiger Cake

March 28, 2014
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1 cake in a 10-to-12 cup tube pan
Author Notes

This is not the marble cake of your childhood! Even if the cake of memory was delicious, this one is hipper, super simple to make, and gorgeous without your doing anything special to make it so. The batter is made with flavorful extra virgin olive oil, a hint of white pepper, and natural cocoa powder. The tiger stripe marbling happens magically, all by itself, while the cake is baking; all you have to do is layer the batters into the pan. —Alice Medrich

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) natural cocoa powder (non-alkalized, non-Dutch processed)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 cups (385 grams) all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 5 cold eggs
  • 1 cup cold milk
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 10-to-12 cup tube pan with oil spray and dust it with flour.
  2. In a medium large bowl, whisk the cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar, and water until well blended.
  3. In another medium large bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder thoroughly and sift onto a piece of wax paper. Set aside.
  4. In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the 2 cups sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, and pepper until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add one-third of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended. Stop the mixer and add half of the milk. Beat just until it is blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour.
  5. Add three cups of the batter to the cocoa mixture and stir until blended. Pour one-third of the plain batter into the prepared pan and top with one third of the chocolate batter. Repeat with the remaining batters. Don’t worry about marbling the batters—that happens during the baking.
  6. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool. Slide a skewer around the tube and a thin metal spatula (or knife) around the sides of the pan. Lift the tube and slide the spatula under the cake to detach it from the pan bottom. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. The cake keeps for several days, at room temperature, under a dome or wrapped in plastic.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LynneT
  • greglum
  • Sirid
  • chez_mere
  • Raquelita
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

44 Reviews

LynneT May 6, 2022
I’ve made this cake many times. Over the years I have made some modifications. To the dark batter I add a tablespoon of instant espresso powder and a teaspoon or so of chili powder (depending on who I make it for I may make it more or less spicy). To the light batter I will add grated orange rind of 2 oranges and some good cinnamon. And if I have enough time I will rub the grated orange rind into the 2 cups of sugar and let it sit overnight. I will also add some orange liqueur in place of some of the vanilla. I dispense with the pepper altogether. I have also added some cardamom and ginger to the light batter. After that I bake as usual. This cake is a hit wherever I bring it.
MousePadd September 20, 2021
Let me say , this cake is delicious . Period . But I am from the South , and I just can't leave well enough alone . And y'all , it did make it even better . First off I used plain old cocoa . second I had to mix it up all by hand . We had a tornado near here and the power was out . I have a electric ignite stove . but in the store room I kept the old one with pilot lights . I used Wal mart Flour and Sugar . But i make my own vanilla so I used that . I make vanilla sugar for cookies and lemonade . so I substituted a half of a cup of the sugar . I had chopped up up the pods and it gave the cake a nice look. Instead of the milk I used ice cold half and half . It was so excellent . Ms. Medrich please forgive my fooling around ( maybe it was because the winds took off my carport roof)
greglum November 13, 2019
This recipe is a star as written, but this time I experimented with a couple of changes. Instead of cocoa alone, I used 25 gm cocoa powder + about 35 gm black sesame powder (yes, more than the gm total of cocoa as written). Then after I mixed some of the batter into the chocolate/black sesame mixture, I added about 20 gm matcha powder to the white cake and then finished as written. Pretty good! My matcha was a little old so that flavor wasn't as pungent. And next time I'd probably increase the sesame-to-cocoa ratio to get a little more black sesame.
Sirid May 16, 2019
This cake has a rather fine crumb and yet is beautifully most, firm but yielding. I complemented it with a chocolate cream cheese frosting, which isn't necessary but works well together. A hit with my kids & husband.
chez_mere August 10, 2018
Made this cake and added a little orange blossom water + orange zest to the plain batter. Also was able to get it out of a well-buttered and floured bundt cake pan. Finished with a little chocolate glaze :)
Raquelita November 12, 2017
Made this in a 10" springform cake pan for a kid's birthday cake. With this pan, I did some dragging through the batter to get the marbled effect. It worked out great, and I was able to split it into two thick layers. If you're better at that than I am, you can probably get 3. If you have a cake nail to heat the core of the cake, I'd use it with the large solid (non-tube) pan. If I made it again, I'd add more salt and more flavor--the texture was great but for grown-up palates it needs a little extra something.
Lisa L. March 11, 2017
Can someone explain why this recipe uses cold eggs as opposed to warm eggs?
ChefJune October 10, 2016
Making this for dessert on Wednesday night!
Kaite September 11, 2016
I've never been one to like cake. Usually they are too sweet and slathered in tons of frosting. This cake right here is my type of cake! The texture is divine and the flavor is delicious. I didn't have white pepper, nor do I care for white pepper, so I just used black. The flavor is barely detectable but I would still add it in again. I also used plain ole Hershey's cocoa. This one is a favorite for sure.
Kaite July 2, 2021
This is my go-to cake for when I visit people or make cakes as gifts for others. I now add Szechuan pepper to the batter as the floral notes of the pepper play really well with the chocolate.
The K. June 7, 2015
This is the most beautiful cake, with a gorgeous crumb and light texture. I upped the amount of white pepper (freshly ground) and it gave it a nice after taste. Fantastic with a glass of gewurztraminer!
Simone May 4, 2015
Absolutely loved this recipe - had a tight, moist crumb, sliced v well and reminded me of the kind of Asian style butter cakes I sometimes had as a kid that are steamed, not baked. What was initially a really peppery olive oil I had morphed into a fruity element in this cake. Perfect. Thank you!
LynneT May 3, 2015
OMG! This is absolutely DIVINE!! I love it, and I will make it again and again.
cutthecarrot January 12, 2015
I wanted to love this cake. It is beautiful and I have had so much success with a number of Alice Medrich's recipes. Followed exactly as written (using eggs from home raised chickens and maybe slightly more vanilla because I do it by eye having once worked as a baker), this cake simply wasn't all that flavorful.
adeola July 20, 2014
Oh and charlotte was right, it was surprisingly moist. Yummy
adeola July 20, 2014
So I finally tried the recipe today and it is absolutely perfect, awesome! The white pepper added a tingly tasty sensation. I totally recommend the recipe. FAB!
Lisa June 18, 2014
Baked beautifully. I increased the amount of cocoa and white pepper (both freshly bought) but could not taste either much, friends agreed - With a name like Tiger Cake you want it to have bolder flavors :) Leftover batter rose like a dream in muffin cups, would like to attempt this recipe again.
charlotte April 19, 2014
sorry just looked at the recipe again, and I do realise you actually specify in the steps which amount of sugar to use! I must've been too tired last night while baking this!
charlotte April 19, 2014
Made this last night with half the sugar and one less egg and I couldn't be happier! Great recipe :)
Just a comment on the ingredients - I wasnt sure which amount of sugar to use in which mixture. I guess it doesnt really matter as it all ends up in the cake, but I did get quite confused at first when I saw 'sugar' appear twice but it wasnt specified in the steps how much to use at which point.
Thank you for the fab recipe!!!
@adeola, it was moist! :)
adeola April 16, 2014
This recipe does not look like the cake will turn out moist. I think I will replace the milk with butter milk or whipped cream....
breadwhisperer April 9, 2014
I made this last night. The texture is lovely, and the marbling looks pretty, but I wish it had more flavor. Maybe my cocoa powder wasn't up to the task (I used Sharffen Berger) or maybe I was just expecting something as intense as the citrus flavored olive oil cakes. I might try this again using more cocoa powder - or maybe some liqueur. I've never made a marbled cake before and I really enjoyed learning the technique - thanks!