I still remember the anticipation I experienced as a young boy, waiting for Sunday evening to come around. Because Sunday evening you see meant it was time for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. With my guide Marlin Perkins, and his assistant Jim, I could leave the confines of our Nebraska farm-house, and travel the world to exotic locations in search of seldom, or perhaps never before seen creatures. What a thrill it was to watch from the safety of the canoe while Jim wrestled the giant anaconda.
It was on a recent recipe excursion of my own, searching for something different to prepare, something not seen before (in my kitchen anyway), that I happened upon a recipe that took me back to that canoe. Zebra cake, how wonderfully exotic. Immediately I knew it was time to put on my pith helmet, get out the camera, and fire up the oven.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup milk, whole, 2% or 1%
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons dark cocoa
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder
- Hershey’s chocolate syrup, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9″ x 2″ cake pan with a light coating of cooking spray (for a slightly thicker cake use an 8″ x 2″ pan). Place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan and spray again.
Blend the sugar and eggs using a mixer until lightened, about 2 minutes. Mix in the oil, milk and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry mixture to the liquid ingredients a third at a time. Mix on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until the batter is smooth and lump free. Be sure to scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing.
Remove 2 cups of the vanilla batter and place in a separate bowl. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter, mixing well to combine.
To create the zebra effect, Spoon about 3 tablespoons of vanilla batter into the center of the cake pan. Next, spoon 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter into the center of the vanilla batter. (I use two small measuring cups of the same size) This causes the vanilla batter to spread out. Continue to alternate batters, in bulls-eye fashion until all batter is used. You will now have thin rings of each batter on the outer edges of the pan, thicker rings towards the center.
Bake the cake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa. Add a small amount of the Hershey’s syrup and mix. Add more of the syrup as needed, (mix well each time you add), until the mixture becomes smooth and has a “flow-able” consistency. (Whisking for about 1 minute will bring a shine to the icing)
A fresh brewed cup of coffee is the perfect companion for this striped wonder.
Since double dark cocoa is unsweetened, I decided to add a thin icing to counter balance the bitter chocolate. Icing this cake is optional. You can dust with powdered sugar instead.