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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.

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  • Jade
    July 21, 2008

    that looks so pretty! excellent presentation. well done!

  • Lisa
    July 21, 2008

    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!

  • Staximo
    July 21, 2008

    I’ts very funny: I’ve just posted the same recipe!!!!

  • Food.Baby
    July 21, 2008

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

  • Bridget
    July 21, 2008

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

  • Linda
    July 21, 2008

    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!

  • Sweet Tooth
    July 21, 2008

    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…


  • Cheryl Harlow
    July 21, 2008

    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.

  • Nicole
    July 21, 2008

    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!

  • farida
    July 21, 2008

    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.


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

  • Katrina
    July 21, 2008

    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!

  • arundathi
    July 22, 2008

    It came out incredibly well! beautiful cake! 🙂

  • Tal
    July 22, 2008

    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.

  • justJENN
    July 22, 2008

    That is fabulous! I have to try it sometime!

  • Mona
    July 22, 2008

    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!

  • Lynda
    July 22, 2008

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

  • Alex
    July 22, 2008

    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)

  • Pamela M
    July 22, 2008

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

  • Katie
    July 23, 2008

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

  • Frankie
    July 26, 2008

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

  • kat
    August 4, 2008

    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!

  • knittinandnoodlin
    August 5, 2008

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

  • Melinda
    August 7, 2008

    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.


  • lionheart
    August 7, 2008

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

  • Nicole
    August 7, 2008

    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.

  • Sumiko
    August 17, 2008

    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.

  • Scott at Realepicurean
    September 8, 2008

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

  • mocha,cocoa
    September 9, 2008

    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..!!)

  • cathy
    September 16, 2008

    this looks absolutely amazing!

  • Mmmmm
    November 19, 2008

    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!

  • Mmmmm
    November 22, 2008

    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!

  • sam
    December 5, 2008


    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.

  • Urbi
    December 11, 2008

    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

  • Jaylen Derell
    February 10, 2009

    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

  • cuppycake
    February 25, 2009

    wow! what a lovely swirl! perfect!

  • Tiffany
    April 3, 2009

    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?

  • Maria Lourdes
    April 7, 2009

    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.

  • Liya
    May 6, 2009

    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.

  • john
    June 8, 2009

    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!

  • Julia
    July 15, 2009

    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!

  • dani
    July 15, 2009

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

  • Krissy
    August 15, 2009

    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.

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