Sunday, August 17, 2008

Zebra Cake

I'm going to admit, you do NOT make this cake for the taste. But don't let that scare you away; you MUST make this cake. I'd be very curious to try this recipe again swapping out the cup of oil for a cup of butter. The oil taste was a little too much for me. But one look at the way this cake turned out visually, and I'm sold. Maybe not all cakes are meant to be eaten?

The process for making the zebra pattern was tricky, asking for some skill and a whole lot of patience. I had a bowl of chocolate batter and a bowl of vanilla batter side by side. Each time I added one of the batters to the baking pan, in a concentric circle design, I had to be super careful not to drip any batter into the pan or I might ruin the design. That is not such an easy thing to do. But if you power through it, the wow factor is there, and it is there when staring at the cake from the outside, and also during the dramatic moment when all eyes are on you cutting into the cake for the first time to reveal the zebra stripe cross section.

I've seen zebra cake recipes, in almost identical versions, all over the internet. I thought, "How hard could it be?" Well, it's as easy as I could have dreamed it...until it's time to put the batter in the baking pan. I dare you to give this a whirl.

Zebra Cake
Recipe adapted from Baking Bites and Open Source Food
Serves 10

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with 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, and vanilla.

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 about 3 tablespoons of vanilla batter into the center of the pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Put about 3 tablespoons 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. Feel free to use more than 3 tablespoons at a time. Be careful not to drip batter across the pan as you put one of the two kinds into the center; it will affect your design.

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.

Step-by-Step in Pictures

Animal vs. Cake: A Study in Stripes
I can't even tell the difference! Which is the animal? ;)


Tiffany K. said...

Great Job, Marni! Do you frost this cake? If yes, what kind would you recommend. Also, salted or unsalted butter instead of the oil? What about applesauce?

Tiffany K.

Marni said...

Tiffany - Thanks! Nope, I didn't frost it because I wanted the outside stripes exposed. I just served it with vanilla bean ice cream. If I changed the oil to butter, I'd use unsalted; there's already salt in the recipe. I am not convinced applesauce would work with this cake because what makes it able to spread in the pan for the concentric circles is that the batters are thin. Or you could try it out and report back!

Asterisk said...

That is the coolest-looking cake ever. :-) I think if I tried it that it would have a psychedelic (or just nauseating) look instead of all of those cool waves.

~ Kate (Hough, second cousin, Karen Hough's daughter)

Anonymous said...

That's some special effects cake! You have patience and you must have a steady hand to do that. Very cool looking!

Marni said...

Kate - I have total faith in your abilities. And hey, psychedelic is a great characteristic for a cake!

Carolyn - thanks. It tested my patience because I do NOT have such a steady hand. But I suppose it could have come out much more Jackson Pollack than Zebra so I did something right. :)

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