Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zebra Cake

Difficulty level: Pretty easy
Time consuming: Only slightly

So over Memorial Day weekend, my friend Jamie (who came up with the name "Sweet Your Heart Out" for me) and I had a lock-in with the high school cheerleaders.  Jamie is the head coach, and I am one of her two assistants.  We thought it would be really nice to bake a cake for the girls and also double it as a birthday cake for one of the juniors.  This is the cake we made:

Making a cake is actually more of a one person job, since most kitchens (mine included) only have 1 of things, like mixers.  So Jamie and chatted while I made the cake.  She helped with the pouring of batter and taking some fantastic pictures.  

Start with 2 boxes of cake mix: a white cake and a chocolate cake.  I recommend using the same brand for the cakes*.  I used a box of Kroger White Cake Mix and a box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge cake mix.  The mixes had 2 different consistencies which made "zebra-ing" the cake a little more challenging.

Mix them up according to package directions.  You will now have enough cake to make four 8" round cakes.  You only need two.  I'll show you how we dealt with that, believe me, it was far from traumatic.

Prep your two 8" round cake pans by spraying with cooking spray, placing a round of parchment in the bottom, spraying with nonstick spray again, and dusting with flour.  This is crucial to keep your cake from sticking to the pan.

 Starting with whichever cake you'd like (I picked chocolate), place a 1/4 cup of batter in the middle of your pan (or if you're like me and lost both of your 1/4 cup measuring cups, use a 1/3 cup, it's fine.  Find the 1/4 cup measuring cups in the sink later).  Then switch cake batter and add a 1/4 cup of batter in the middle of the first.  Keep going, alternating and forming concentric circles.  Be careful to only fill 1/2 to 2/3's up the side of your pan.  3/4's is definitely too much!
 Big thanks to Jamie for taking such awesome action shots.

Repeat with the second cake.  You will have extra batter.  Make mini cupcakes (bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes), or eat it.  No judgements.
Bake the 8" cakes according to the directions (most likely 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Rotate your pans if you worry that your oven has hot spots.  Like mine.

If you over filled your pans, they would have taken longer to bake and come out looking like this:

It's fine.  Give them about 5 minute in the pan to cool, loosen the edges with a plastic knife (I use a "lettuce knife" that my husband constantly teases me for having), then turn upside down onto a cooling rack to completely cool.  If you leave them to cool in the pan, they will get soggy.  Once flipped onto the cooling rack, wait for them to cool then cut off the tops using a serrated knife so that they stack evenly.  Don't waste the extra, save it and add the extra frosting you will most likely have for a tasty (but sloppy looking) sample of your finished product. 

After they've cooled, stack your cakes and frost them.  I used this fantastic cream cheese frosting recipe and dyed it hot pink (I bought "rose" colored Wilton brand food gel at Michael's).

I put the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and piped roses on top of the cake.  That's the only fancy thing I know how to do with frosting.  The cream cheese frosting was too soft to pipe roses on the sides of the cake, so I just smeared pink around the edges of the cake with an offset spatula.

 When you cut into your cake, it will look really cool, like this:
Looks like this zebra is white with black stripes.
If I had used smaller amounts of batter for each circle, there would have been more, thinner stripes.  But eh, you get what you get, and I'm still quite happy about it.

When all was said and done, the cheerleaders only ate half of the cake and were not nearly as impressed by hot pink frosting and zebra stripes in a cake.  I left the rest in the staff lounge refrigerator to hopefully be gobbled up before the end of the school year.  Teachers are better at appreciating things, anyways.

And as for the mini cupcakes I made: I brought them to a Memorial Day cookout at a friend's house where they were devoured.  My friend, Amy, made this amazingly delicious orange cake with chocolate chunks, homemade whip cream, and ganache.  I have to get the recipe from her.  There was so much good food, but I honestly wished I would've skipped on dinner just to have enough room for two pieces of her cake.

*If you use two of the same box mixes, I assume (but you know what happens when you assume things.....) you will end up with batters of similar consistency.  If you don't, then when you layer your batter in circles, the heavier batter will fall a bit more, and the lighter batter won't sink in as well to the heavier one.  My chocolate batter was more dense and my white batter was fairly thin.  This caused the chocolate batter to fall nicely into the white batter, but the white batter kind of ran over the chocolate instead of sinking in to form a pretty circle. 

*A second note: Although the cream cheese frosting tasted ah-mazing, I didn't love the flavor combination with the cake. I think either a good vanilla or chocolate buttercream would have been better but the birthday girl requested cream cheese icing.

Inspired by this zebra print cake.


  1. Cake looks interesting! But like you suggested, perhaps a chocolate icing would've been better (even though the girl requested cream cheese icing). Have you tried the Wilton Sugar Sheets? There is one that looks like zebra stripes!

    1. Chocolate definately would have been better!! I have not tried the Wilton Sugar Sheets, although I eye them frquently when I'm at Michaels, next time I have a good reason to, maybe I'll try...