Zebra Cake

Here’s the last of a cake I made for a coworker’s birthday; also for Mother’s Day.

I actually made five layers and wow, was that an undertaking! Fourteen eggs, eight cups of flour . . . actually the recipe is quite simple for such a fancy effect, as long as you just make one cake at a time. If you’re going to double the recipe as I did, I recommend making the first cake layers and then while they’re in the over making the second batch of cake layers, unless your mixing bowls are muuuuch bigger than mine.

I got this recipe from Martha Stewart Living, a magazine which my mother gets. She passes me the issues and I look over the recipes. This one was a keeper. I made it almost-but-not-quite according to the recipe.

Zebra Cake

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
4 C flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (the recipe called for two tsp, but I think that was too much)
3 large eggs, separated, room temp
4 egg whites, room temp
2 1/2 C sugar
2 C whole milk, room temp, divided
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla (the original recipe calls for a Tbsp, which I think is way overboard, but you can certainly try it that way if you like)
1/2 C cocoa powder

2/3 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (I left this out)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C hot water
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 sticks butter (I substituted cream cheese for half the butter), softened
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate chip, melted (the recipe called for 10 oz)
3 Tbsp corn syrup

Line two 9-inch cake pans with circles of parchment. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

Melt the butter.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Whisk together the egg whites and sugar until light, opaque, and foamy, about two minutes. I used a stand mixer and it didn’t take two minutes to get to this point. Whisk in 1 1/2 C milk, butter, oil, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Combine egg yolks, 1/3 C milk, and cocoa. It says to whisk until smooth, but this forms a very thick dough, so I suggest a spoon.

Add 3 1/2 C vanilla batter to the cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Here you really can use a whisk.

Whisk the remaining milk into the remaining vanilla batter.

Now, pour 1/4 C of vanilla batter into the center of each cake pan. Then pour 1/4 C of the chocolate batter right in the center. Then pour another 1/4 C vanilla batter right in the center . . . you can see how this is going, right? Just keep pouring alternate batters into the center of the pan. This will form concentric circles of batter right out to the edge. It really will. I suggest using a very generous 1/4 C of batter each time, though, or maybe a scant-ish 1/2 C, because what tends to happen is very narrow stripes indeed around the outside and then much bigger circles toward the middle.

I bet what would actually work best is using a 1/2 C measure for the first four or five times you pour batter in the center of each pan, then switching to a 1/4 C measure. If you try that, I bet you will get more even stripes right through the cake.

It will be beautiful no matter what you do, though.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through if necessary for even baking. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, turn out onto racks, and peel off parchment. Cool completely.


This is a very nice frosting, not too sweet. I liked it a lot and I generally throw the icing away when I get a piece of cake at a party or whatever, because it is usually much too sweet for me.

Whisk together the cocoa, espresso powder if you use that, salt, hot water, and vanilla. Beat butter and cream cheese with powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate. Beat in cocoa mixture and corn syrup.

Frost cake with swirls and swoops of frosting. Chill to store, but bring to room temp before serving.

I found this cake a little heavier than some, which probably comes from using melted butter rather than beating the butter with the sugar for five minutes or so like you normally would in a butter cake. But it was good. I definitely suggest you try it if you want to impress people, because I doubt anybody will have seen a vertically striped cake before!

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3 thoughts on “Zebra Cake”

  1. This looks great! I’ve wanted to try a rainbow cake, but I like this better. I’ve also been looking at this recipe lately: https://food52.com/blog/2932-herve-this-chocolate-mousse
    Have you read his book? I only just heard about it, but it sounds interesting.

    I made the Rosewater Cardamom cookies several times after you posted them. My mother and in-laws love them (I increase the rosewater and cardamom though), and even my husband, who doesn’t like cardamom, asked for more! Last iteration, I made 5/8 of the recipe (I only had 5 oz of rice flour), but used a whole egg. Much less dry, though not as white in color. Also, I don’t know what difference it makes, but I used sweet (glutinous) rice flour, despite your admonition.

  2. I don’t have Molecular Gastronomy, but it’s on my radar. It does sound fun.

    I know glutinous rice flour gives anything steamed or baked a different texture, but I wonder now if that might be a good thing. I was thinking of making these cookies again one of these days because they grew on me over time. I don’t think I’ll increase the rosewater, but probably the cardamom — and maybe I’ll try using glutinous rice flour and see how that goes!

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