Monday, November 17, 2008

Seeing Stripes


Don't be jealous. San Francisco experienced record high temperatures this weekend. It was 80F on Saturday. I know it's mid-November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner but apparently no one told Mother Nature. It was the most gorgeous and sunny weekend and I had no inclination to bake or cook. Thank goodness for delicious takeout from my favorite Thai restaurant. So I'm digging into my repository of unblogged items to bring you this recipe for zebra cake.

The zebra cake has made its way around the blogosphere for some time now. But it was a couple weeks ago that I finally got around to making the cake. The zebra cake is mostly about the way it looks. Alternating stripes of vanilla and cocoa make for a visually interesting cake. And people were quite impressed with the striped effect. But that's where the impressiveness ended for me. Other people liked the cake, but I found it a bit bland and lacking in flavor. I think I expected a bit more of a pronounced chocolate or cocoa flavor. On the plus side, the cake was quite moist due to the cup of oil in the batter and it had a nice texture. I also liked that it wasn't super sweet.

Creating the stripes was not difficult, but it does take some patience. You start by ladling some of one batter in the center of your cake pan. Then ladle some of the other batter right on top and in the center of the previous batter. As you add each of the alternating batters, it'll push the batter already in the pan and will spread out into a ring pattern by itself. The key is that both batters are fluid enough (but not too runny) and that both the vanilla and cocoa batters are similar in viscosity. Adding too much cocoa powder would make the dark batter too thick and hinder the spreading. Making sure the batter was the right consistency so that it would spread correctly is the reason for the lack of cocoa flavor.


I really wanted to like this cake. I read so many raves about it that maybe I had unrealistic expectations. But don't let my opinion about the taste stop you from trying it. Maybe I have weird taste buds or maybe because as I get older I have something against things that are more style than substance. (Geez, I'm beginning to sound like a crabby old lady. Heck, just call me practical.) Like when I fell in love with this beautiful faucet and had to have it even though the manufacturer did not offer a side spray option. I've learned to live without the side spray, but occasionally I do wish I had one.



Zebra Cake
(makes one 9-inch round cake)
(recipe adapted from here)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk, at room temp
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with a parchment circle and butter the parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar. On medium speed, beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Add milk, oil, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.

On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until the flour is just incorporated.

Divide your batter into 2 equal portions. Keep one portion plain. Add cocoa powder into another and mix well.

Scoop 3 heaping tablespoons of plain batter into the middle of your prepared cake pan. Then scoop 3 tablespoons of cocoa batter and pour it in the center of the plain batter (yes, right on top of the plain batter). Continue to alternate between the plain and cocoa batter (always pouring it in the center right on top of the previous batter) until you use up the batters.

Bake at 350F until golden or until a cake tested comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Cool for 15 minutes in pan and then remove cake from pan to cool on a wire rack.


Mary said...

E' bellissima presentata cosi la torta , fa tanta scena , mi piace ...brava!!!

Mary said...

Sorry I'd better translate, the cake is fantastic with the stripes , its very nice presented like that!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Really beautiful! The stripes are perfect!



Rachel said...

Perfect stripes...

The TriniGourmet said...

It's gorgeous!! I wanna try it :D I think I'll try it with grated pure cocoa, that may make the choccie flavour stronger. I'll let you know!! Maybe a choccie icing may help? ooo i'm so curious now :D

VeggieGirl said...

It's only 32°F here, so enjoy the warm weather for me, please!! :-)


Baker Brian said...

Wow! love how your stripes turn out so uniformly. In Singapore, we have a similar cake, but it's known as marbled cake. It has been around since the 1960s!

Jennifer Hamilton said...

I am in awe of your zebra cake!!!! WOW!

Zesty Cook said...

great looking zebra cake... looks so yummy... My first visit to your site and i love it... i just subscribed to your feed and cannot wait to read more.

thanks for sharing

Kitt said...

Wow. It sure looks impressive! I may try it just for that.

(I'm visiting the Bay Area for the weekend, but it didn't stop me from baking an apple cranberry cake on Saturday. We opened all the windows and let the neighbors drool over the smells.)

Joanna said...

this cake is such a showstopper. this would be a good party cake. i love it.

Madam Chow said...

Well, it does look very nice, even if you didn't like it that much. Thanks for the great tips about the fluidity of the batter - I hadn't thought of that before.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

That turned out beautifully, Mary! Your concentric circles are so even it's mesmerizing.

Christina said...

So beautiful!

Claire said...

So impressive and beautiful!!!

OLGUIS said...

this zebra cake looks really good.