This zebra cake recipe is moist, delicious, and comes together so effortlessly. It is the perfect cake for kids, but let’s be real — adults love it too!
This zebra cake recipe is perfect for a kid’s birthday party – especially if you’re are doing animal-themed decorations. Once you slice into the cake, be prepared to have your young guests gasp with excitement over the cool swirls! With a minimal ingredient list and simple prep, you’re going to love it.
What is a Zebra Cake?
A zebra cake refers to any cake that features a marbling of both white and chocolate batter. In this recipe, we up the ante finishing it with a rich layer of chocolate ganache. Below, find a rundown of the flavor, texture, and time it takes to put this cake together.
- Flavor: The flavor of this cake is a perfect blend of sour cream-infused batter, rich chocolate, and sweet cake cream.
- Texture: The texture of zebra cake is melt-in-your-mouth moist. Each forkful features smooth ganache, soaked marble cake, and fluffy cake cream.
- Time: From start to finish, this cake takes just under an hour and a half to make. For best results, you should let it set in the refrigerator overnight but this isn’t 100% necessary.
How to Make this Zebra Cake Recipe
Making this beautiful zebra cake is simpler than you think. Below, find a high-level overview of the recipe before you dive in headfirst.
- Make the Wet Batter: In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter and sugar. Next, use an electric mixer to whisk the eggs and sugar together, followed by the butter mixture. In a separate large bowl, mix the sour cream, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sour cream mixture into the egg and butter mixture.
- Add the Dry Ingredients: Working slowly, add the flour into the batter. Split the batter in half and add cacao powder to one half to create the chocolate cake batter.
- Spoon the Batter Into the Pan: Coat a 7-inch cake pan in cooking spray. Alternating the different batters, place two tablespoons of batter into the cake pan at a time until you run out.
- Bake the Cake: Bake the cake at 350°F for 40 minutes. Once the cake completely cools at room temperature, slice it into 2-3 equal-sized layers with a serrated knife.
- Soak the Cake: Using a squirt bottle or spoon, soak each cake layer in heavy cream.
- Make the Cake Cream: Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream and powdered sugar until you get stiff peaks. Spread the cream on each layer and use the remaining cream to frost the cake.
- Make the Ganache: In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate chips. Whisk until smooth. Follow this ganache recipe for more tips on making and using ganache.
- Decorate the Cake: After the ganache cools for a couple of minutes, frost the top and sides of the cake with it. Decorate as you wish and enjoy!
Pro Tips for the Perfect Zebra Cake
Below, find a handful of pro tips to help you make the perfect zebra cake.
- Use a 7-inch round cake pan. If you use a 9-inch pan or bigger, your batter will spread too thin and you won’t get those signature zebra stripes.
- Check the cake’s doneness with the toothpick test. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to check if it’s fully baked. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
- Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack. To ensure your cake is 100% cooled before slicing it, allow it to cool about halfway in the pan and then remove it allow it to cool the rest of the way on a wire rack.
- Only beat the heavy cream until you get stiff peaks. When making the whipped cream for the cake cream, only beat the heavy cream until you get stiff peaks. If you beat it past this point, it will turn into butter.
Making This Zebra Cake Recipe in Advance
This zebra cake is perfect for prepping ahead of time. It can be made up to 3 days in advance if you store it properly in the fridge. To prevent it from getting damaged or soaking up any smells lingering in the refrigerator, keep it stored in an airtight container. What’s better? Letting the cake set in the fridge helps it develop its flavors and makes the cake that much moister.
What ingredient makes a cake moist and fluffy?
Creaming the butter and sugar together is an essential step to making the cake moist and fluffy.
What happens if you put an extra egg in the cake mix?
Adding an extra egg to the batter will result in a denser cake.
Do you need to add sugar to the soaking cream?
You do not need to add sugar to the soaking cream. The purpose of the soaking cream is to simply moisten the cake, not sweeten it. The frosting will take care of that!
What did your cake come out with a dome-shaped top?
Your cake likely came out dome-shaped if your oven runs as a hotter temperature. If you start to notice a dome forming, turn the heat down by 10 or 15 degrees.
Can you use a different flour besides all-purpose flour for the batter?
It’s not recommended to use a different flour besides all-purpose for this recipe. All-purpose flour yields the best texture.
Other Cake Recipes to Try:
- Cake Prague – Chocolate cake with sweetened condensed milk cake cream
- Ferrero Rocher Cake Recipe – The famous chocolate hazelnut candy in cake form
- Kiev Cake (Ukrainian Classic) – Sponge cake with meringue and jam
- 5 Ingredient “Sharlotka” Apple Cake (Video) – Traditional Slavic apple cake
Zebra Sponge Cake
- 5 eggs
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 100 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- 7 oz sour cream
- 1/3 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Soaking Zebra Cake
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Zebra Sponge Cake
- In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter with 3/4 cup of sugar.
- Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs with 1 cup of sugar.
- Add the butter mixture into the egg mixture.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sour cream mixture into the egg and butter mixture.
- Working slowly, add the flour into the batter until well-combined. Next, split the batter in half in two separate bowls. Add cacao powder to one of the bowls to create the chocolate cake and whisk until well-combined.
- Spray a 7-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Alternating the different colors of batter, place two tablespoon of batter at a time into the cake pan until you run out. This will create the zebra stripe effect.
- Bake the cake at 350°F for 40 minutes. To check if the cake is done, stick a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, it's ready. Once the cake completely cools at room temperature, slice it into 2-3 equal sized layers with a serrated knife.
Soaking Zebra Cake
- Soak each cake layer with about 1/2 cup of whipping cream (use a squirt bottle if you have one).
- Using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar together just until it reaches stiff peaks.
- Apply the cream between each layer and use the remaining cream to frost the outside of the cake.
- In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Next, pour it over the chocolate chips in a medium size bowl and stir the mixture until smooth. Give the ganache a couple of minutes to cool.
- Apply the ganache all over the top of the cake. If you wish, decorate the top with chocolate shavings, sprinkles, or whatever else you'd like. Eat immediately or let the cake set overnight in the refrigerator for best results. Enjoy!
Hello! Am I able to bake the cake in 8 inch pans?
Hi there Sophie, I have not made it in an 8 inch pan, I do recommend a 7 inch for the best results. If you try it in the 8 inch pan, Let me know how it works out. Good luck!
Have been making this for months now, its very simple and quick, takes about 10 minutes prep time and honestly pretty much mistake proof. Thank you for this wonderful go-to recipe that can be made last minute!
Hi Lilya- thank you so much for the feedback! Glad you enjoy this recipe!
yum! That layer of ganache really takes this cake up a level. Delicious and beautiful!
Isn't it so decadent?! So happy that you enjoyed the cake, Dana.
wow! this reminds me of the marbled cakes my mom would make for our birthdays when we were little! thank you for sharing this!
So cool to hear, Kayla! Glad this brings back memories. Let me know how it turns out if you end up making it - it's one of our all-time favorites. 🙂
Mine came out beautiful! This cake is easy but looks so impressive!
Hi Heather - That's awesome to hear! So happy you loved it and it came out perfect. Enjoy every slice!
Do I use heavy whipping cream to soak the layers?
Yes, 1/2 cup of whipping cream is used to ask it. Enjoy
My mom used to bake this in Russia when I was little but she used sour cream as her base for the cream between layers not whipping cream. Any ideas as how I can make the cream with sour cream? And would you still use whipping cream for soaking in this case? Thank you!
Its probably too late but in case someone else has this question. You can use sour cream, that’s what I use. I like to add mascarpone to it so it holds a little better, optional. 1 3/4 cups of sour cream 1-2 tbsp of mascarpone, 3/4 cups of sugar. Whip for a few minutes. You don’t need to soak the layers with whipping cream then since sour cream is runnier and will absorb into them. If you want to decorate with cream, you will need to use a different frosting that will hold shape.
Thank you for the tips, Mariya! So kind of you to share. 😀
I would probably do sour cream, condensed milk and cream cheese. Cream cheese makes it not as runny.
Hey Anya, I don't know of sour cream-based creams. I know they were big in Eastern European countries but I haven't found a recipe that I enjoyed.
So I followed the recipe however j wish instructions were more clear. Whisking eggs - ok for how long ? Or till what consistency. Adding flour- do I whisk it or gently fold it. I know for you it’s so easy but for new recipes it helps having it in detail 😫 also I used a 8 inch pan since I don’t have a 7, and it nearly escaped and baked for 1 hour and 2 minutes. Because the inside was still raw I’d check every 5-7 minutes. And that’s a bigger pan. Unless you meant 9 inch pan ??
Hi Vika, thank you for all your tips. We will try to improve for the future. It's really hard to think of all the different scenarios before sharing the recipe. We did use a 7-inch pan, not sure why the size didn't exactly work out for you.
This is such a tempting cake. Can’t wait to bake for my niece. A big request, if you could also make a video of this recipe will be very helpful.
Ok, adding to the list! 🙂 it’s really great!
This is such a perfect cake! SO delicious, too!!
Toni, thank you for sharing! Glad to hear this!
Not only beautiful but delicious!
Thank you Melissa!
I think it's the first cake I tried baking as a teen but of course lost the recipe since then! Your recipe is absolutely delicious!! Thank you!
Julia, this is so good to hear. Made me smile!
the batter turned out very thick with 2 cups of flour.
Hey Ruz, did you use all-purpose flour? The texture should be thick but still runny. Thank you!
I have made this cake 3-4 times this week. Do you have an idea why it bakes with such a dome and the top isn't ever leveled? Too much baking soda or powder?
It's hard to say, maybe try turning down temperature. It almost sounds like it bakes quicker on the outside. Some ovens have different temperatures.
would you recommend freezing this cake, after it's all done? cake prague too?
Honestly I wouldn't, unless you have some leftovers and they can be kept in a container than you can. Otherwise cream wouldn't be the same after freezing
It turned out that i froze both of those cakes (zebra and prague), and the cakes were delicious after they thawed. Great cakes to make ahead for busy days! Thanks for such great recipes!:)
Thank you Annie for letting me know. I am so craving this cake, it's just so hot in my kitchen now to be baking 🙂
Beautiful cake ... The whip inside of the layers is not sweetened is that correct? Does it just taste creamy without sweetness?
For soaking no but the cream is sweet.
This is an awesome recipe! Very simple, and great results=)
Thank Katya, I am glad you loved the recipe 🙂 I love this cake too, it looks cool when you cut into it. 🙂
I made chocolate glaze and it looks too runny. I am trying to cool it to see if it forms. Any suggestions on how to make it thicker?
You can add a bit more cacao. But if its runny just apply it in small portions to create layers, as it soaks in it will create nice glaze.
I just made this cake a couple of days ago and my husband and I (with some help from our two-year-old son) have almost finished it!! It's so pretty and delicious! I love the chocolate glaze, I used salted butter and it tasted SUPERB!
Oh with a nice kick of flavor. I love that idea. Thank you for sharing 🙂
This is a very cool looking cake! 🙂
Luba, thank you for sharing your website with me. I enjoyed reading your recipes.
Yeah, they cake is so easy to prepare and looks pretty amazing too 🙂
It looks lovely! This cake has been on my to do list for a while...probably it's time to make it:)
Thank you so much. I have been making this cake for years, making it again recently reminded me how delicious this cake is 🙂
Natalya, Thats one of the best zebra cakes I have laid my eyes on 🙂
Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂
You are sweet 🙂 Thank you! it is an easy to create cake and tasty 🙂
I'm making it right now 🙂
do you cover the entire cake with whipped cream I see(where you are pouring chocolate gaze on top) that in a picture its white but it says to apply it just between two layers...?
I applied just a little all around but its not necessary. It only made harder to apply the chocolate glaze. Apply the cream only between the layers. 🙂
So how much whipped cream do you use without the powdered sugar to initially ice the inside of the cake?
About 1/2 a cup.
This is such a pretty cake... I am not very clear on the step where you make the layers.. Do you put two tbs of each and then continue doing so until you used all the two batters?? Also do you swivel the two to create the marbel effect before cooking??? In that picture looks like u stirred the two colors
You place two tablespoons of batter until you run out. Dont swivel the batter, by placing the colors of top of each other thats what makes the marble effect.
Thank you so much.. I will let u know how it turned out
I hope you love it! Happy baking to you 🙂
The cake turned Out delicious. ..mine however didn't turn out as tall as yours...how much cocoa did you use in the second batter? I want to do it again.. Its easy pretty and delicious
I used 3Tbsp. Thanks for catching that 🙂 To make it taller you can use a smaller size cake pan.
Thank you so much!