1868 Marble Spice Cake

Today was a pretty busy Saturday at the McCuiston House. Originally, I had planned to work outside today. The hopes were to finish painting the picket fence, prep a 1840s window to replace a 1980s one in the addition, and general yardwork. But–as usual for this time of year in this area of the South, it was pretty humid and hot. So instead I gave the main house a good cleaning, and then I went to work in the kitchen.
My parents have 15-year-old Concord grape vines which have had a mega crop this year. My mom offered to bring the extra grapes to my house so we could put up some jelly. We spent the afternoon and late evening doing just that, which I look forward to sharing with you in a later post. (Fourteen pounds of grapes… yes, folks, that’s a lot of jelly.)

Before my mom arrived, I started prepping to make one of the marble cakes out of the 1868 recipe book I recently acquired. (I shared the story of the recipe book earlier.) Mrs. Reed has a number of recipes for marble cakes, all of which are simply labeled “Marble Cake”. What stood out to me about this one was the number of spices she used. I personally have a huge love of anything that reminds me of fall–my favorite season–and all of the spices in this cake made it sound like it would taste just like fall.

Since fall is right around the corner (hooray!!) I thought we might enjoy bringing this old recipe back to life.

I always like to start out by pre-measuring every single ingredient and assembling it all together before I start mixing things. This leaves less room for mistakes, which I feel like I am going to be more likely to make as I am trying to bring this recipe into it’s modern-day equivalent. Thankfully this recipe did mostly use our modern forms of notations and measurements, although once again there were no instructions given; just ingredients. There were a few markings that I took to be the equivalent of today’s use of ” ” signs when we repeat things in a list, so I assumed they meant for me to use the same unit of measurement as was used above. I also used the usual temperature and time of baking a cake.

One thing I was able to keep in line with the original recipe as much as possible was the cake mold. I began collecting useable antique cake molds about a year ago, and this was the first time I had a recipe calling for this big old cake mold. It is, by far, the biggest one I own. I am not exactly certain as to it’s age, but I assume it’s likely from the 1860s-1880s. If any of you have any kind of knowledge of antique stoneware cake molds, please share it with us in the comments below! (Sidenote: I have learned that some antique stoneware may contain lead as lead was sometimes used to obtain particular colors. If you choose to use an antique stoneware cake mold, I recommend you get a sample lead kit from your local hardware store to test it just to be safe. I myself always check to see that the glaze is intact with no chips before I will even consider purchase. I collect antiques, but I’m not living in a museum, so I want to be able to have the option of being able to use anything I own. As far as the lead is concerned, I am probably already doomed because I once ate some of the paint chips off my grandparents’ kitchen porch door as a kid. Tasted kinda like almonds…)

Mrs. Emma Reed’s original 1868 recipe

This old kitchen was about to smell incredibly good!


Dark Part

  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of molasses
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup of butter (I melted mine)
  • The yolks of 4 eggs (you will use the whites later)
  • 1/2 spoon of [baking] soda (I used 1/2 of a soup spoon)
  • 1 teaspoonful of cloves (ground–remember in 1868 you ground your own cloves. You didn’t buy them pre-ground for you. It’s actually more flavorful that way)
  • 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoonful of allspice
  • 1 teaspoonful of black pepper
  • 1 nutmeg (again, remember they ground their own spices like this back then. An internet search states one nutmeg is equal to about 2-3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg. I used 2 teaspoons.)
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour

White Part–mix separate from dark part

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of [baking] soda
  • 1 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
  • Whites of 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet milk


Preheat oven to 350. (If you are using a stoneware cake mold, do not preheat the oven. You will need to put the stoneware with the cake batter in the oven to allow it to heat up gradually, elsewise you may likely crack the stoneware.)

Lightly grease and flour the cake mold. Set aside.

For the dark portion of the cake, combine flour, spices, and soda together thoroughly. In separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, egg yolks, butter, and molasses.

Slowly add about 1/2 of the flour mixture to the liquid, then add about 1/2 of the buttermilk until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk until combined. Set aside.

For the white portion of the cake, combine flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix together white sugar, egg whites, and butter.

Slowly add about 1/2 of the flour mixture to the liquid, then add about 1/2 of the sweet milk until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and sweet milk until combined.

Pour approximately half of the white batter into the cake mold. Pour small sections of the dark batter on top of the white batter. Top this with the rest of the white batter and drops of the rest of the dark batter.

Take a butter knife and slowly pull it through the cake batter, taking care not to scrape the sides of the cake mold. Continue until you have achieved your desired amount of marbling.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until a butter knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in mold for 2-4 minutes. If using a stoneware mold, you will want to turn the cake out of it as soon as possible as the stoneware will retain a good amount of heat which could burn the cake.

Turn cake out on wire rack and allow to cool off a bit before placing on plate for serving.

Note: As with most pound cakes, this cake’s flavor enhances when allowed to rest overnight.


I can’t even begin to tell you how good this cake is. The best part is how good your house will smell while you’re baking this! This cake isn’t a very sweet cake, which is one thing I like about it. You can really taste the different spices. Of course, it goes great with coffee. (what doesn’t go great with coffee?) I think it will also go very well with a spiced apple cider. Come to think of it, I make a mulled spice cider which is always a big hit every time I fix it. If you’re interested, I will be glad to share that with you, too.

Go–run to your kitchen, make this awesome cake, and let me know what you think about it in the comments below!

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