Friday, November 9, 2012

Zebra Cake

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Some time ago I wrote about the neighbors that I once had, when I was a student in Russia. They were more than just neighbors - they were friends who helped me out when I struggled, either financially, or because of loneliness, being away from my family.

For some reason, Tatiana has been a lot on my mind lately. I was wondering how she is doing and where she is now. When I first moved to the US she and I used to write to each other often, but then I moved and she moved and we lost touch with each other. Enter Odnoklassniki – the Russian equivalent to Facebook. When checking my profile a couple of weeks ago I was astonished to see a message from Tatiana – she found me, 15 years after we last saw each other!

The next day we talked via Skype, sharing tears and laughter and memories. We agreed that we both look exactly the same to each other, only a little more grown up :). At some point, Tania asked me: “Do you remember zebra?” And how could I not! Zebra was a simple coffee cake that we used to bake. We could not afford and really did not have access to any ingredients beyond mere basics, but we made up for that by the cake’s impressive vertical black-and-white stripes. The secret was simple: you would put a couple of tablespoons of vanilla batter in the center of the round pan, then some chocolate batter in the center of the vanilla circle, then chocolate again, and so on, forming alternating rings of batter. When the cake rose, it would form vertical stripes of two different colors.

Nostalgically, I wanted to bake our zebra cake. American sour cream is thicker than Russian, so the batter does not spread as easily. I had to help it by spreading it with a spoon a little. The stripes did not come out as perfect as I remember, but no matter: the taste is still there. When we felt luxurious, we would glaze it with chocolate glaze made from butter, sugar and cocoa powder. In this modified recipe, I take it a step further and make the glaze from real chocolate and cream.

Zebra Cake
For cake:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For glaze:

3/4 cup whipping cream
6 oz dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease (I use baking spray) 10 inch spring form pan.

Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whip butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs, beating after each addition, and vanilla. Add sour cream and flour, 1/3 at a time, alternating and mixing after each addition.

Divide batter into two equal parts. Add cocoa to one half. Spoon about 1/2 cup chocolate batter in the center of the pan and spread it a little with the back of the spoon. Spoon 1/2 cup vanilla batter in the center of the chocolate batter circle. Repeat with remaining batter, alternating chocolate and vanilla. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 10 min, remove from pan, cool on rack completely.

Make glaze: melt all ingredients in the microwave, stopping and stirring frequently, until smooth. Cool completely. It might take some time for the glaze to thicken sufficiently, so you may want to refrigerate it to expedite the process.

Spread glaze over the cooled cake.


  1. Food nostalgia is the best! Glad to hear about reconnecting with an old friend.

  2. I call this cake a marble cake!! and I love it.. there is a simplicity to it that i just adore!! and with that chooclate glaze.. coffee and a couple of friends to share it with and it doesnt get better!!!

  3. Just before I read the story I had thought about Zebra as a cake from my childhood! My mum used to do it as well. Your Zebra looks exactly like form my memories... :-)
    Best regards,
    Mrs. S.

    1. It's amazing how much we have in common with Polish cuisine. I do need to try and visit your country.

  4. so touching story(I'm not sure about word "touching"), but I really liked it and this cake, of course, was one of the most popular in my childhood. Thanks for your story!

  5. Ur recipe sounds YUMMY 👌will definitely try it out ASAP. Thanx


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