The Best Zebra Cake Recipe

A slice of zebra cake on a plate and a mug of coffee.
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Image © andriimoniuk, under a Creative Commons license.

A zebra cake is a bit like a marble cake, in that it has two contrasting flavours and colours: usually chocolate and vanilla.

This zebra cake recipe makes a show-stopping centrepiece for a birthday or any other sort of party. You can be sure everyone will want a slice of this impressive swirling cake.

Children love to be part of whatever you're doing and you can get your child involved with this recipe from as young as two. Let them help pour, measure and stir. Cooking is a wonderful science lesson whatever their age, and a great shared experience too. Just be sure you're the one who puts the cake in the oven and takes it out again.

If you've been looking for zebra cake recipes, you can stop now and start baking: this one's terrific!

Ingredients

For The Vanilla Cake Batter: 375g flour; 1/4tsp salt; 1tbsp baking powder; 200g butter softened to room temperature; 200g caster sugar; 240ml milk; 4 eggs; 1tsp vanilla extract.

For The Chocolate Cake Batter: 3tbsp cocoa powder; 50ml milk; 1tbsp caster sugar.

Plus: Extra butter for greasing.

Equipment: Baking parchment, 1 x deep-sided 24cm/9in round cake tin, mixing bowls, spoons, a knife, a cooling rack.

A whole zebra cake, the vanilla and chocolate swirled together, on a white plate.
Image © user13763324, freepik, under a Creative Commons license.

Method

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cooking time: 50 minutes   Serves: 10

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

2) Grease and line with parchment paper the round baking tin.

3) In a large bowl, beat together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

4) In another bowl, beat together the cocoa powder, 50ml of milk and 1tbsp of caster sugar.

5) In a third bowl, beat together the 200g of room temperature butter and the 200g of caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is incorporated before adding the next. Finally, add the vanilla extract.

6) Remove 475ml of the vanilla batter and add it to the chocolate batter. Beat until the two batters are completely mixed in.

7) Using two separate tablespoons, so they don't contaminate the different mixes, alternate spooning one tablespoon of the chocolate batter and one tablespoon of the vanilla batter into the prepared cake tin. Start in the middle of the pan to get the best zebra cake design. However, doing it this way does take patience and a bit of time. If you're short of either, you can simply pour first one and then the other colour on top, then use a knife to create the swirl effect. Bear in mind that you want to fill the cake tin to about 2/3 of the way up so it has room to rise.

A slice of zebra cake with chocolate glaze.
Image © vkuslandia, under a Creative Commons license.

8) Place the cake on the centre rack of your preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes. Check if it is done with a wooden toothpick or skewer. If it comes out clean it's ready. If not, give it a few more minutes, but continue to check every so often so it doesn't dry out. It's very unlikely to need to cook for longer than 60 minutes in total.

9) Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the cake tin on a wire rack.

10) When it's completely cooled, place a plate on top of the cake, hold both sides of the cake tin and give it a firm downward shake. The cake should come out. Put another plate on the bottom and flip it over so it's right-side up.

Tips And Recommendations

1) You can serve this zebra cake as it is, or give it a chocolate glaze. To make a chocolate glaze, you will need: 2tbsp unsalted butter; 50g unsweetened chocolate, chopped;  120g icing sugar and 2tbsp boiling water.

Put the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir continuously until melted and mixed together. Remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar. Next, add drops of the boiling water until the mixture gets to the right consistency. You'll want it fairly runny, so that it will dribble all down the sides of your zebra cake. After you've poured it over the top of your cake, you can spread it around with a palette knife. Allow it to cool, as it will harden as it does so.

You can also melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave oven. Put the two ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on a medium heat for 60 seconds. Stir, then continue to cook in roughly 15-second intervals, stirring each time you stop until both the chocolate and butter are melted, smooth and completely mixed in together. Continue from stirring in the icing sugar as above.

A slice of zebra cake with chocolate frosting and a cup of coffee beside the plate.
Image © tyson6644, under a Creative Commons license.

2) If you want more colourful zebra cake ideas, instead of adding cocoa powder to the second batch of cake batter, add your choice of food colouring. You can take this zebra cake idea one step further and add a different food colouring to the vanilla flour batter too so you could end up with, say, a pink and blue zebra cake!

3) If your zebra cake recipe needs to be gluten or dairy-free, switch to a gluten-free flour and vegan butter and milk.

Good To Know

This cake will keep in an air-tight container, such as a cake tin, at room temperature for up to five days.

If you want to make this cake in advance, you can freeze it for a later date. Just don't glaze it first. Wrap the zebra cake tightly in Clingfilm or plastic wrap. It will keep for up to two months in most freezers. You can still glaze it before eating. Just allow it to defrost completely at room temperature first.

Alternatively, if you don't finish the cake off in one sitting, you can freeze the leftovers as above. Put it in the freezer uncovered for an hour first so that the glaze sets hard, before wrapping it tightly in Clingfilm or plastic wrap.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

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