Zebra Cake

Zebra Cake

Visually, I believe that this zebra-striped cake is one of the most impressive looking cakes I’ve ever made. Especially because I have a soft spot in my heart for animal prints. I’ve seen this cake online for a while now, on various blogs and in various forms, but haven’t actually gotten around to trying it myself until now. It has a huge WOW factor for a relatively simple cake and it provides a good mix of chocolate and vanilla flavors in one package.

The pattern looks very intricate, but it is actually very easy to create. The cake starts with one vanilla batter that is divided in half and has cocoa powder added to a portion. The batters are alternately spooned into the center of a prepared baking pan to form a bullseye design. The trick to getting the design is all in how you lay the batters. Put a spoonful of vanilla batter (about 3 tbsp, for this particular cake) into the center of the pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Put a spoonful of chocolate in the center of the vanilla. It will push out the other batter and, as it sits for a moment, will spread itself. Alternating spoonfuls of the two batters, you simply repeat the technique until all the batter has been used up. You can tap the pan on the counter gently to help it spread and eliminate air bubbles, but the batter really must be allowed to spread on its own. Don’t worry about the colors mixing as you continue to add batter; unless you’re really rough with the pan, the lines will stay clean on their own.

My layers were actually a touch less than 3 tbsp of batter each and, as a result, it took quite a long time to get all the batter in the pan. I think I spent 10-15 minutes doing it, although repetition certainly will help your speed if you start to make these cakes on a regular basis. To save time, you could also cut down the number of stripes by using 1/4 or 1/3 cup of batter for each ring.

This is a fairly plain cake and, while it does have a good chocolate and vanilla flavor to it, it isn’t too sweet. Normally, I might consider putting a glaze on a cake like this one, but I didn’t want to cover up the pattern on the top of the cake. The cake is also very moist and keeps well, thanks to the generous amount of oil used. It is important for the batter to be fairly liquidy, so I wouldn’t play too much with the amount of oil and just keep this as an indulgent treat.

If you accidentally mess up the design at some point – your hand slips and you add too much batter, you get distracted and loose the circle pattern for some reason – don’t worry. In a worst-case situation, you can always stick a butter knife into the cake batter, give it a turn and call it a marble cake, then try for the zebra the next time.

Zebra Cake slice, up close

Zebra Cake
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom and sides of the pan.
In a large bowl, mix together eggs and sugar until mixture is light and creamy and the sugar has mostly been dissolved. Stir in milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and almond extracts.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Measure out just over two cups of vanilla batter and place it back in the medium bowl. Sift cocoa powder over the bowl and whisk until fully incorporated.
Put 3 tbsp of vanilla batter into the center of the pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Put 3 tbsp of chocolate batter in the center of the vanilla. It will push out the other batter and, as it sits for a moment, will also spread itself. Alternating spoonfuls of the two batters, repeat the technique until all the batter has been used up.
Bake for 38-42 minutes, until the cake is light gold and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out the cake and remove the parchment paper. Reinvert on to a wire rack and let cool before slicing.

Serves 10.

78 comments

  1. that looks so pretty! excellent presentation. well done!

  2. Wow! Lovely! I like how yours looks better than the others you link to. I’m definitely trying this for the next special occassion! thanks for the recipe!

  3. Ciao!
    I’ts very funny: I’ve just posted the same recipe!!!!
    http://lospaziodistaximo.blogspot.com/2008/07/strisce-golose.html

  4. Great job, that looks really impressive! I’ll have to try it sometime.

  5. That cake is amazing looking! I’ve never heard of a zebra cake before. Very cool!

  6. I’m with you–this looks awesome and lots of fun to make. I wonder since you said it was somewhat plain if you could do a very artistic drizzle of chocolate lines over the top without losing the wonderful spiral effect? Might have to try that. Or maybe some other idea like putting a chocolate ribbon or only decorate the sides with a dark chocolate ganache for effect. Thanks for the great idea!

  7. What a great way to put a twist to a marbled cake. I should have seen this in time for our Safari birthday last month. Oh well, where there are kids there will be parties…

    Alexandra

  8. Just had to try this since I love marble cake. Teased my family by telling them the name when they called home but nothing else. They were intrigued, and thought it was very moist.
    BUT, if you are not a real LOVER of Almond flavoring then cut the amount. The main comment was too much almond. So next time I make this I will leave it out or just a drop.

  9. Cheryl – Glad you tried it. To tell the truth, I only estimated the (very small) amount of almond I used and, since my cake didn’t have a strong almond flavor, I probably used closer to 1/8 tsp than the 1/4 tsp I indicated above. I’m going to amend the recipe. Thanks!

  10. Oh, I am so happy you got to bake my infamous Zebra Cake that pleasantly flooded the blogosphere ever since I posted it:) You are welcome to link to the original recipe if you want to.

    http://azcookbook.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/zebra-cake/

    I noticed you added almond extract to the batter. Sounds like a great idea! Glad you enjoyed the cake!

  11. That is pretty darn cool looking. Looks like one of those “gotta try” recipes soon! Maybe just a dollop of whipped cream on top as you’re serving each piece?? I thought of that because my husband doesn’t like frosting–at all. But he would love the whipped cream. I want to try it just to see if I can do it. We’ll have to see about that. Thanks for the recipe. Yours looks amazing (as always).
    And darn, that brownie cookbook looks great, too!

  12. It came out incredibly well! beautiful cake! :-)

  13. WOW this cake is so impressive! a zebra print is so cute.
    I wonder how it tastes, coz usually in marble cakes you can distinguish between the white batter and the chocolate batter, but in this case the two flavors need to work together.
    I once saw this technique in a zebra cheese cake, but this one which is more stripped is even more lovely.:)
    Well done! and you made it work on your first attempt.

  14. That is fabulous! I have to try it sometime!

  15. Very beautiful! I wish you would have posted some pics of the process, it would have been cool to see that. :-)

    I may have to give this a try! My brother loves marble cake, so this would be a nice twist on that!

  16. What a beautiful cake. Thank you for the directions – they are very clear to follow. I will certainly try this one!

  17. I’ve made a load of these this year, the kids adore them. My friend’s daughter had a school project on zebras so I did a photo ‘how to’ with recipe for her, the teacher photocopied the recipe and had to make it. Another friend’s son has requested it for his birthday.

    A choc, strawberry and vanilla version is great.

    Here are the metric measurements:

    4 large eggs
    250 g caster sugar
    250 ml milk
    250 ml vegetable or sunflower oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
    250g SR flour
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    4 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder (I thin the choc mix with a little milk)

  18. Wow! That looks amazing! I am definitely going to try this one soon.

  19. Oh wow, thats fantastic! The lines are even slightly wavy like a zebra. So impresive

  20. the minute i saw this i had to try it. it looks AMAZING thank you so much for the recipe!!

  21. i caint wait to try this! i was just wondering if it would still work in a square pan instead of a round one, or is that needed to make the stripes? thanks!

  22. Wow! This cake is amazing-looking! I’m definitely going to give this one a shot! Thanks for the tutorial!

  23. Can you use a box mix for this? I was thinking about just cutting it in half and adding a couple of tbsps of cocoa powder to that.

    Hugs,
    Melinda

  24. That Zebra cake looks delicious. I want to eat it!

  25. Melinda – Yes, you will probably be able to get a similar look by using this layering method with a box cake mix. I’m not sure what the consistency of your mix is, but it will be slightly easier with a thinner mix, as the cake batter given here is a little on the thin side and very pourable.

  26. I happned to visit your site. This zebra cake stirred up my curiosity and motivated me to try one. I am afraid mine did not turn out to be zebra looking but somewhat similar to it. I would love to try again with green tea powder before not too long. Thank you very much for posting such a wonderful recipe. I am afraid you will not be able to read Japanese but if you ever have chance to see the picture of my cake posted Aug.17,
    would you be able to give me advice what was wrong with my baking? English comment is ok with me. Thank you.

  27. Seems the Zebra Cake is very popular at the moment – I’ve baked it recently, too!

  28. tried the zebra cake,chocolate portion being thicker in consistency settled at the bottom(although i’d mixed little milk onto it…will try again to achieve that soft success bite..!!)

  29. this looks absolutely amazing!

  30. I plan on making this cake for a work potluck on Friday. I’ll frost with buttercream frosting. I plan on making a spiral design with chocolate buttercream frosting as well. And when people cut into the cake, they’ll see the rings. I hope.

    And to whoever asked about this working with a cake mix…I think it would work. A mix like Duncan Hines’ French Vanilla is pretty thin. And no, I don’t work for them!

  31. I’m back. Thanks so much for this recipe! I modified it slightly (less cocoa, more almond, more vanilla, less baking powder), and it was a hit at work. Everyone tried to guess how I made the stripes (I didn’t reveal my — well, your — secret). And everyone loved that the cake was not overly sweet. I frosted the cake with a medium sweetness buttercream frosting, and pipied a giant chocolate buttercream spiral on top. The stripes were a great surprise on the inside!

    Thanks again!

  32. Hi,

    I tried making this cake but sadaly my cake cracked in the middle. I’m using top and bottom heat with fan oven. Pls advise.

  33. am reply you farway from india but right now am in kolkata .i just have gone through your recipe ,i like to cookin all type of food,but specially my interestsd in baking, let me try this cake.and i will letu know. byyyyyyyyyyy

  34. This cake is incredible! My girlfriend birthday is coming up and i was thinking about making an homemade cake but i know for a fact i will after seeing this.

    Lets just pray that i dont mess it up and it look crazy. Wish me luck

  35. wow! what a lovely swirl! perfect!

  36. I made this cake. and though it did look very nice, it tasted aweful. i followed the recipe exactly. it just tasted very flour-y and not sweet at all. would adding more sugar make it better?

  37. Thank you for explaining how to make zebra cake. I love the pictures in your post and I hope you don’t mind if I use one to illustrate an eggless, milkless, butterless cake recipe on my Spanish blog (giving you credit and linking to your site, of course). If you do mind, please let me know and I will remove the picture. Thanks again.

  38. Thank you for the recipe,I’ve just made it, and it came out so delicious. I’ve tried a lot of other recipes, but this seems to be the best one.

  39. that is the coolest looking cake I’ve ever seen! but…does it produce a good tasting cake? I reckon I’m gonna have to try it myself and see. Oh well. More cake!

  40. Oh my, thanks for the memories! I didn’t know anyone knew this cake outside of the former USSR, where it was widely popular for many-many years… I remember my mom making it when I was just a little girl, and it was always my favorite!

  41. hi, i just wanted to know if i can use powdered sugar for this recipe.. or does it have to be the regular kind?

  42. a lot of the recipes i’ve looked at call for one 9″ pan, but don’t specify the depth. i have a 9″ pan that’s 2 inches deep. is that deep enough? seems like a lot of batter for just one cake tin.

  43. Hiya Nicole,

    Thanks so much for posting up this recipe. I made it last night for my partner’s charity morning tea at work today and it was really pretty (besides the big crack on top).

    I have no idea what it tasted like but I am told that it was a bit dry. I baked my cake at 150 degrees celsius because of my temperamental (crazy) oven but I think my oven was still too hot. My cake did not rise evenly (had a high dome in the middle, but the sides did not really rise). I really need to go and read up on the science of baking.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I had a lot of fun making this cake. I have been following your blog for quite a while and your posts are always a great read. I also like the layout of your blog because it is so simple and appealing. When I finally make a cake that’s really good, I’ll let you know. :)

  44. amazing post ! I will bookmark your blog . thanks

  45. Just made this cake in the form of 20 cupcakes and it was fantastic! Thanks for the recipe.

    http://www.thereddeer.com

  46. I doubled the almond extract & added a thin chocolate glaze after baking & cooling–it was delicious!
    @Eve: Mine domed too, it’s not a big deal. If it really bothers you, cut off the dome after cooling & frost or glaze the top.

  47. so awsome something reall different

  48. i just made this, and something strange happened. going into the oven the design was perfect rings, but after it baked, the rings disappeared! it’s just a blob/mess of color now. do you have any idea what went wrong? (there’s a small circle in the center where the rings came out perfect, but the rest of the cake is just greyish from the colors mixing)

    hopefully the rings will still show when it’s cut, but i guess i’ll have to frost it now!

  49. That looks completely delicious and fun! Thanks so much for posting this wonderful recipe.

  50. hi, i enjoyed making this piece of art,but was dissappointed when i cut the cahe the the stripes had merged,and wasnt sweet enough.I also found it too oily ,can i reduce the oil next time i make the zebra cake?thanx .

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