The other day my friend Lynda asked me if I would make a birthday cake for her daughter who was turning 3. She was going with an animal theme and had come across the idea for a zebra-striped cake – the first time I’d heard of such a thing. Needless to say I was excited to experiment and after some research on the method, I came up with a variation that I thought worked.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the way it turned out – and of course you can’t really go wrong with chocolate icing on top! (Excuse the messy cutting here, by the way. We had 10 three-year olds running around like maniacs at the time.)
I initially tried a couple of basic cake batters but didn’t like any of them so eventually went with my own recipe for Chocolate Velvet Cake. Instead of making it all chocolate though, I divided the batter into 3 and made some chocolate (flavoured with cocoa), some strawberry (flavoured with strawberry vinegar) and some vanilla (flavoured with vanilla essence). From there it was just a matter of careful pouring to make the stripes.
I was interested to see that the stripes were closer together at the sides and further apart in the middle – the laws of physics at work there! As I doubled the recipe and made it in a large rectangular container (the easier for little fingers to manage), it also spread out a bit unevenly. With a single recipe quantity and a round cake, maybe with two layers, I think the effect would be slightly different. Definitely worth a try at some point!
- Plain cake batter (I used this recipe, doubled it, and left out the cocoa and coffee)
- 2 – 4T cocoa (depending on how much of the batter you are making chocolate, and how chocolatey you like it)
- Strawberry flavour (essence or something like strawberry vinegar)
- 1 – 2t vanilla essence or a squirt of vanilla paste like this
- Pink food colouring
- White food colouring (optional)
- Icing (again I used this recipe, doubled – you could make it chocolate, strawberry or vanilla flavour)
Turn the oven on to preheat to 180°C and prepare your cake pan/s. I oiled the bottom and sides of the pan, then placed a piece of grease-proof paper just on the bottom (cut to size and waxed side up), then floured it all so nothing would stick. This is super-important if you’re making a big cake, otherwise it may break when you try to get it out the pan.
Make the cake batter according to the directions, leaving out the cocoa and coffee. Divide the batter into three parts – they could be equal, but I went with a bigger part for plain, less for chocolate and even less for strawberry as I wanted that to be just a thread through it.
Starting with the vanilla one (so you don’t have to wash your beaters in between), add the vanilla essence/paste and white food colouring if you’re using it. This is optional but will make the batter whiter than the yellow it will otherwise be due to the butter and eggs (especially if you used free-range eggs, which I hope you did).
Moving onto the pink bowl, add the flavouring (if you’re using it) and a couple of drops of colour, then mix well. Add extra colour one drop at a time as it gets darker very quickly, until you have a shade of pink you like.
And finally, add the cocoa to the chocolate bowl and mix well. You could also add coffee here – I just left it out as it’s not good for little ones. The cocoa does tend to make the mix a bit thicker so I also added a touch of milk to get it back to a similar consistency as the other batters.
So you should now have three different bowls with three different colours of batter, and you’re ready to start pouring. You’ll need a separate spoon for each colour so get those ready.
Since I had more white, I started with that. Add a couple of ladles of white batter to the centre of the prepared pan.
As it starts to spread out, add a dollop of chocolate in the middle, and then a dollop of strawberry in the middle of that.
Repeat until you’ve used up all the batters, always using slightly more of the one you have the most of, and less of the one you have the least of. Work as quickly as you can as you really want to get the batter in the oven as soon as possible for maximum rising power.
When it’s all used up, it should look something like this:
Bake until the cake is done all the way through – test it with a skewer in the centre to check. Because this one was so big, it took nearly an hour. If yours is smaller, start checking on it after about 25 minutes. If you make cupcakes, which are also an option, they will probably only need about 15 – 20 minutes.
Once it’s cooked, let it cool at least a bit (or even all the way), then carefully remove it from the pan and put it onto a cooling rack or straight onto your serving platter (when it’s cold). When it’s completely cooled, make your icing and decorate as you please.
Those are Smarties and Lego animals by the way (Lynda’s idea, which worked really well). A more grown-up version might look something like this:
I’m sure you’ll come up with your own way of decorating and your own colour variations – enjoy!
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2015