Zebra Cake

Allow me to introduce you to Zebra Cake! If you’ve never heard of it before, homemade vanilla and chocolate cake batters are layered in pans to create a stunning stripe effect, which makes the inside of the cake resemble zebra stripes. I fill and frost it with a silky smooth chocolate frosting that will knock your socks off. I’m going to teach you how to make it (it’s not hard at all!) and share tips for using different colors or flavors – there are so many possibilities! You’re going to LOVE this recipe!

Zebra cake on a serving platter with two slices on plates nearby.

When you hear “zebra cake” do you think of this striped chocolate-and-vanilla cake, or does your mind immediately go to the nostalgic Little Debbie zebra cakes (hello, freshman and sophomore years of high school!)?

Both are delicious, but today I am going to show you how to make this absolutely gorgeous dual-flavored two-layer cake that is perfect for any birthday or celebration (even if you’re celebrating surviving a random Tuesday!).

Ingredients for zebra cake prepped in bowls in counter.

What is zebra cake?

A zebra cake is a mixture of yellow and chocolate cake that, instead of being marbled, is poured into the pan in such a way so as to create stripes as you would see on a zebra.

The zebra stripe effect is achieved by dropping alternating spoonfuls of batter into the pan. The weight of each additional dollop of batter forces the ones below it to spread out, creating rings of alternating color.

I start with my favorite homemade yellow cake recipe, portion out about half, and add cocoa powder and just a little milk to create the chocolate batter. It’s so much easier than you might think and you’ll wow everyone once you cut into this cake!

Cocoa powder and milk stirred into yellow cake batter.

How to use a box cake mix

If you prefer to use a box mix for your cake batter, you’ll still use the same method as below for separating the cake batter and layering it into the pan.

Because not all cake mixes are the exact same size, you should prepare the cake mix as instructed on the box, then measure the amount of batter and transfer half of it to a separate bowl. Add the cocoa powder and milk to one of the bowls and then proceed with the recipe as directed, following the baking times indicated on the box you are using.

Cake pans filled with zebra cake batter.

How to make different colors and flavors

I love this recipe because it’s super versatile and can be adapted in a ton of different ways!

If you want to do different colors and not necessarily chocolate, simply omit the cocoa powder and milk step, and instead use food coloring to tint the cake your desired color(s). I always recommend using gel frosting versus liquid food coloring so that it doesn’t impart too much liquid into the recipe. I use Americolor gel food coloring for cake batters, frosting, everything!

You can play around with different flavors, as well. Simply add different flavored extracts to one batter or the other; the possibilities when it comes to flavors and colors are really limitless.

Chocolate frosting in a bowl with a spoon.

The best frostings to use

I always opt for a chocolate frosting to pair with the zebra cake; the one I’ve included in the recipe below is the same one I use to fill and frost the original yellow cake recipe. It’s so wonderfully silky smooth and an absolute dream!

However, if you want an alternative, I recommend my classic chocolate buttercream frosting – a simple American-style buttercream that’s more buttery than sugary and only requires butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and melted chocolate.

Zebra cake with a quarter of the cake missing and slices on plates.

Storage tips and freezing instructions

Zebra cake stores like any other layer cake; keep it covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

If you want to freeze it, wrap individual slices in plastic wrap, then place in a freezer-safe zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature. You can also freeze the cake layers before frosting; wrap them in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and place in a zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before filling and frosting.

More beautiful layer cakes:

Individual slices of zebra cake on plates.

If you make this recipe and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much! ❤️️

Zebra Cake Recipe

Servings 12 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

Yellow and chocolate cake batters are layered together to create a gorgeous two-layer Zebra Cake. Filled and covered with a silky smooth chocolate frosting!

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • cup
    all-purpose flour
  • 2
    teaspoons
    baking powder
  • 1
    teaspoon
    baking soda
  • 1
    teaspoon
    salt
  • ½
    cup
    unsalted butter
    (at room temperature)
  • cups
    granulated sugar
  • 3
    eggs
    (at room temperature)
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract
  • cups
    buttermilk
    (at room temperature)
  • 3
    tablespoons
    unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1
    tablespoon
    milk

For the Frosting

  • 20
    tablespoons
    unsalted butter
    (at cool room temperature)
  • 1
    cup
    powdered sugar
  • ¾
    cup
    Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Pinch
    salt
  • ¾
    cup
    light corn syrup
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract
  • 8
    ounces
    semisweet chocolate
    (melted and cooled slightly)

Directions:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans; set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  3. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.

  4. Add the dry ingredients all at once and beat on low speed until just combined.

  5. Add the buttermilk and beat on low for 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 3 additional minutes.

  6. Make the Chocolate Batter: Transfer 2 cups of the batter to a separate medium bowl. Gently whisk in the cocoa powder and milk until completely incorporated.

  7. Drop a large spoonful (I use a medium cookie scoop for this!) of one batter in the center of each pan. Top with a spoonful of the other batter. Alternate spoonfuls on top of each other until you’ve used all of the cake batter. Give each pan a gentle shake to level out the batter.

  8. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely before frosting.

  9. Make the Frosting: In a food processor, process the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powdered, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of bowl, then add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds.

  10. Assemble the Cake: Place one of the cake layers on a serving platter and spread 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the surface. Place the second cake layer on top. Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 1 day before serving. Once cut, leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Nutrition:

Calories: 291kcal
Fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 84mg
Sodium: 119mg
Potassium: 281mg
Carbohydrates: 52g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 26g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A: 170%
Calcium: 119%
Iron: 2.2%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]