Zebra Cake

There’s a zebra loose in our kitchens! You’re looking at chocolate and vanilla cakes baked together in a striking striped pattern. Pretty, right? Much easier than you think to pull off, too. Like marble cake but a little more flashy. Zebra cake is often baked as a single layer cake or a bundt cake, but I needed a fun and towering cake for our friend’s birthday. And an excuse to make chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Zebra Cake


  1. 3 and 1/2 cups (400g) sifted all-purpose flour*
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  6. 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  7. 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  8. 1/3 cup (75g) sour cream, at room temperature
  9. 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  10. 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Chocolate Batter

  1. 1/3 cup (26g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  2. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 2 Tablespoons milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
  4. 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. 12 ounces (335g) full fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
  2. 3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  3. 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
  4. 2/3 cup (52g) unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
  5. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  6. 1-2 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
  7. pinch salt
  8. sprinkles for decorating, if desired


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  • Make the vanilla batter: Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.