Saturday, April 30, 2022

Z is for Zebra Cake


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

I have been dreading my "Z" post a bit, not only since it's one of the tough letters, but also because I wanted to go out on a high note, and I hadn't found any topic to fit the bill. Desperately scrolling through Pinterest and trying to pull up ideas that started with "Z," I finally found something: Zebra Cake.

In all my Pinterest prowling, I had never run across a zebra cake before. It looked like it could be more trouble than it was worth, but desperation will get you the day before the deadline, so zebra cake it was. I found a recipe from Half-Baked Harvest, where I got the amazing Hot Honey Chicken, but it had ingredients I wouldn't use if you held a gun to my head, namely, coffee, so I kept looking. Betty Crocker had a much less complicated version made with cake mixes instead of from scratch, and I rationalized using this one since the zebra cake is more about the process than the method. Scratch cake, mix cake, the process of getting a cake to look like a zebra was still the same, and I was REALLY over complicated recipes.

Here is my "inspiration" photo, from Half Baked Harvest:

Here is the one from Betty Crocker:

Here's the process, regardless of whose recipe you use: make a vanilla batter, make a chocolate batter, layer them in cake pans, bake, frost, done.

I made the white cake batter first, because I could transfer the batter to another bowl and then make the chocolate batter in the Kitchenaid bowl without washing it first (work smarter, not harder). That was the easy part.

What I had in the pantry

Neither source had really clear cut instructions, and this is the one time a video would have come in handy, because the directions were to put about a quarter of a cup of white cake batter in the bottom of each of three 9" cake pans followed by a quarter cup of chocolate and so on. Each layer of batter was supposed to spread out on its own, but mine didn't. They just sat there, thickly, and refused to move, even if I jiggled the pan, so I put a little more batter in, more like half a cup of each batter but with no better results. I resigned myself that it was still going to taste good, even if it looked no more like a zebra than I did, and put the pans in the oven.

Here I am, doing it wrong

It quickly became apparent that I did not put the same amount of batter in each pan (maybe because I kept forgetting where I left off) when, after baking, each of the three layers were a different thickness. I had a Papa Bear layer, a Mama Bear Layer, and a Baby Bear Layer. I decided to put the Papa Bear layer on the bottom and the Baby Bear on top, and perhaps the weight of Baby and Mama would smoosh the Papa Bear layer, and in theory, that would have worked. In practice, it did not.

Papa Bear, Mama Bear, 

The cake, when cooled, was supposed to be frosted in white, but I had already determined that this zebra was going to need vet care anyway, possibly ending in euthanasia, so instead of white frosting, of which I am not a huge fan unless it's a wedding cake, I made chocolate and I am not one bit sorry.

Layer, layer, layer

Adding frosting

So yes, I was expecting the inside of the cake to be mostly beige with splotches of brown at worst, and at best, just a marbled cake. And know what? I actually got some zebra stripes, leading me to believe that, had I not panicked and only used a quarter of a cup of cake batter with each layer, I would have had a more zebra-y cake.

My husband, who didn't see a photo of a zebra cake before I made this one, was impressed, not only with the stripes, but also the taste (I couldn't really screw that up, since I used mixes). "It's really cool!" he kept saying. He took his empty plate back to the kitchen, presumably to put it in the dishwasher, but came back with another big slice of zebra cake. 

Behold, a zebra filet!

What better way to finish out the A to Z Challenge than with a win! 


  1. Way to go out with a bang! If you hadn't told us you had problems and just shown the photo of the finished cake, we would never have guessed. Like your husband. I really enjoyed your A to Z and Congrats on completing.

  2. Wonderful! It looks like a cake children would really adore, too.

    Congratulations on a successful A to Z!