Ze-bra-vo cake!


I was feeling mighty sorry for myself yesterday after a much anticipated trip to my old home turf, Michigan, fell victim to the astronomical gas prices.  After moping around I decided to do something constructive and distract myself.  Did I do what a self-respecting hausfrau should?  Did I clean the cupboards, scrub the floors, or even *gasp* fold the laundry that has been in baskets for more time than is decent?  Oh, heck no!  I decided to make a beautiful cake.


I had seen a zebra cake on RealEpicurean.com earlier in the day and it seemed the perfect candidate to take my mind off my top-of-the-mitt, Mackinac bridge, pine tree and sand loving troubles.  It was a gorgeous, stripey cake that, if Scott was being truthful, was as easy to make as it was stunning. 


My disappointment over the almost-trip was acute so I decided to up the ante a little and make it more complicated.  I had some leftover vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis from my bannock dessert (post and ingredients found here!) late last week.  What to do?  What to do?  I confabbed over the phone with my stepmom, Valerie.  I told her I was going to stuff the cake with ice cream and drizzle the coulis over it.  She said, “I’d do that and take it one step further.  Hot fudge sauce!”  She’s a genius, that Val!


Thankfully, I had Val’s killer hot fudge sauce recipe handy and even more thankfully, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand.  (It’s not easy to make last minute store runs when the trek to the nearest store is 5 miles round trip.) 


Here’s how it goes down!


Necessary items for this dessert:


Zebra cakes

4 cups vanilla ice cream

hot fudge sauce

raspberry coulis



First:  How to make the cake.


Scott’s recipe looked good, but I messed with it anyway.  I can’t help myself.  He adapted his recipe from this one and impressed the business right out of me in the process.  I’m not even sure I recognize that language! 


(Notes: I have some spiffy little pans from Pampered Chef that form a well in the top of the cake while you’re cooking it.  If you don’t have these pans- never fear!  Just bake your cake off in two 9″ cake pans and scoop out some of the cake innards when it’s cool [I’ll tell you how!].  It’s a little more time consuming, but it can still be done! 


Also- after eating and considering an embarrassing amount of this cake I would probably change out the canola oil for an equal amount of softened or possibly melted butter.  I just love buttery cake.  It’s a personal preference.)


Ingredients for the cake


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus 2 Tablespoons, divided.
1 cup canola oil
1 cup Sprite (or other lemon-lime soda)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
2 Tablespoons dutch-process cocoa
2 heaped teaspoons Baking Powder


 1 vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)











 Grease and flour two cake pans (see note above regarding pans!) and line with parchment paper.  Set aside.


Preheat oven to 350F. while preparing the cake batter.


1.  Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl until evenly mixed.  Sift 2 1/2 cups flour and baking powder into a separate bowl.


2. Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the egg/sugar mixture. Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Add 1/4 of the soda and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add 1/4 of the oil and whisk until completely mixed. Repeat with the flour, then soda then oil until everything is combined. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the dull spine of your knife, scrape down the length of the vanilla bean removing the “seeds”. Add “seeds” to the cake and whisk until evenly distributed.



Sidebar:  Do NOT throw away that vanilla bean pod.  Shove it down into a mason jar half filled with granulated sugar.  Add a tight fitting lid and shake.  In a couple days you’ll have the best sugar you’ve ever had in your life!


3. Divide the batter evenly into two bowls.  In one bowl add two tablespoons of all purpose flour and in the other add the cocoa.  Whisk both until smooth. 


Here’s where you get the fancy effect with minimal effort! 


4. Retrieve those prepared pans.  Beginning with the first pan, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of the plain vanilla batter in the center, thereby creating a small circle. Next take 2 to 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter and pour into the center of the vanilla batter circle. If you want thinner stripes, use less batter each time.  If you want thicker ones, use slightly more. Repeat with the vanilla, then the chocolate and so on until you’ve used half the batter.  Taking the second prepared pan, repeat the process until all the mixture is used.  You don’t need to worry over it, just be careful.  If you’ve kept a relatively steady hand you’ll find concentric circles or something darned near them in your pans!


5. Bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until cake tests done (Gently insert a toothpick, skewer, test straw or tip of a sharp knife into the center of the cake and then remove.  If the implement comes out clean, your cake is done!)  Remove cakes from oven and leave in pan for 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a rack to cool and remove the parchment.  When cakes are thoroughly cool, proceed!


Get the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften slightly while you work on the cake.


This is where you’ll need to carefully gut those cakes if, unlike me,  you have enough willpower to resist buying silly well pans at a Pampered Chef party.  Here’s how to do it.  If you’re good with free-hand knife work, just “draw” a circle with a nice sharp paring knife about 1/2″ to 3/4″ inside the perimeter of the cake.  Don’t go deeper than about a third of the depth of the cake.  (If, like me, you have a bit of a shaky hand, you might want to cut a circle template that covers the center of the cake but leaves a 3/4″ margin around the edge and use that to guide your knife work.  Repeat with the other cake.


Using your hands (with the help of a spoon to get you started if necessary) carefully gut the cakes leaving that lovely 3/4″ of cake as a wall.  Don’t scoop deeper than roughly 1/3 of the depth of the cake as it would leave it too delicate to hold the ice cream.  Tell the kids to leave the room and quickly eat the cake scraps while their backs are turned and they’re walking away.


Place one cake, well side up, on a cake plate, serving platter or any other large serving plate.  Using a rubber or silicone spatula to help you along, spread the softened vanilla ice cream in the wells on both cakes. 


 *Now take a break and pray that the cake you about to lift and invert simultaneously does not split in half.  It would not render it inedible, it just wouldn’t be as pretty.  I like pretty.  The manoeuvre goes like this. 



Carefully slide one hand under one side of the cake and the other hand under the other side of the cake.  Hold the cake in your hands just to the side of and level to the cake on the plate.  Using the hand that is furthest away from the cake, swiftly and carefully flip the cake, which is ice cream side down, onto the plated cake which is ice cream side up.  If any adjusting of the cake’s position is needed this is the time to do it.  Done?  Excellent. 



Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, cover with a layer of foil and pop into the freezer for at least an hour and up to 2 weeks ahead of time. 



Pat yourself on the back.  The hard part is done!



We move on to the hot fudge sauce…


Ingredients for the hot fudge sauce:


 1 cup granulated sugar


3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate


3 Tablespoons unsalted butter


1/4 cup light corn syrup


1/3 cup boiling water



1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Melt butter and chocolate together over low heat in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan.  Stir in syrup, sugar and water.  Raise heat to medium high, bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and boil for 8 minutes.  It will be thickened and silky looking.


Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into a clean mason jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to use.  This keeps well in the fridge and reheats on command. (The command of your microwave or hot bowl of water, that is.) Keep it on hand so that any time you find yourself wanting to see Grand Traverse Bay or drink a cup of tea with your Grandma and Auntie you can take a big spoonful of fudgy medicine!





Next step?  Eating!



Take your cake out of the freezer about 15 minutes prior to the time you’ll want to cut and serve it.  Cut into wedges. The size of the wedges should be proportionate to how deprived you’re feeling.  How much do you feel like scraping your children off the ceiling?  I’d make their piece smaller if I were you!


Drizzle some raspberry coulis on the plate.  Place a wedge of what is not ordinary zebra cake but is now a Ze-bra-vo cake on the coulis and top with hot fudge and more coulis.  Ahhhhhh.



I just submitted this post to the “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Frozen Desserts…” event over at Mike’s Table.  If there’s anything I like nearly as much as making and eating my own frozen desserts it’s seeing what fellow food bloggers are making and eating for their frozen desserts.  Be sure to check it out.  I’m sure it’ll be spectacular!





  1. says

    Wow, this is beautiful! I love the contrasting colors and the sauce…OMG…the sauce! I wanna lick it up right now so badly!
    I hear about the gas prices. With work, I’m spending over 100 dollars a weeks. Ugh! We’ve really had to cut back on lots of things. Maybe baking will be a good therapy for me too…but after this heat wave we’re going through right now. Thanks for the inspiration though!

  2. says

    This cake looks amazing and what a lot of work. I take my hat off to you for being so dedicated! Gorgeous presentation too. Now, more importantly, do you have a slice left for me?

  3. Rebecca says

    WORC- Thank you. …And I did lick up the sauce. I couldn’t help myself.

    Holler- Thanks for popping by. You’re making me blush! And I’d love to tell you we saved you a slice, but one cake and seven hungry people? I’m afraid that cake didn’t see the sunset. However, it was easy enough to make (don’t let my long-windedness scare you off it) that I’d happily make it again. Three out of my five sons requested it for their birthday cake. That will make a refreshing change from the usual “Please make me a cake shaped like a globe with accurate airbrushed continents, Mom,” and “Can I please have a 15 layer high chocolate cake made to look like a giant sequoia?”

  4. Rebecca says

    Brilynn- Thank you. I don’tknow why I put them together, but I’m awfully glad I did!

    Jude- Confession time. The cake is not nearly as complicated a process as it seems. If you want to use purchased vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce that cuts a great deal of prep time out and the cakes really are deceptively simple. Give it a shot! You’ll be shocked how impressive it looks with very little effort!


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