Zebra print is a best seller, especially with the younger crowd, in all types of products. From clothing, accessories, room deco, candles and draperies with matching bedspreads to kitchen supplies, cups and car seat covers. Cake decorating patterns are no different. The inclusion of zebra pattern cakes is a great way of saying "happy birthday" to someone of any age.
I had not considered a zebra print cake until my granddaughter asked for one for her 17th birthday. The following month led into another granddaughter wanting a zebra print cake for her 14th birthday. While the two girls had birthdays that fell a month apart, I felt they should have the design, but in a variation. Making the same cake twice seemed lazy on my part.
A few tips on cake baking
As with the toilet cake project, the cake mix is made as per instructions on the box. I used to make homemade cakes with buttercream frosting but due to my work schedule, I now make cake mixes from the box.
After years of experiencing the different flavors of cake mixes, I came to one conclusion. It is of the utmost importance to make the cake exactly as the directions state. It is the time spent mixing that is the key component to moist, fluffy, beautiful cakes. If the cake mix calls for 30 seconds on low and then a switch to medium for 3 minutes, be exact and follow the time perfectly. The cake mixes come out lighter and retain moisture better.
The cake pans used in the zebra print cake design are the 10-inch, 8-inch and 6-inch Wilton brand pans. I normally make a 3-tier cake due to the amount of people in our family and guests invited. Each tier size is doubled.
Spray the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Once the cake mix is ready, pour about half of the mix into the 10-inch pan. If you have two of each pan, fill the second 10-inch and bake them for the recommended amount of time. Repeat the directions for the 8-inch pan and for the 6-inch.
Even out those layers
If the cake turns out higher in the middle than on the sides, don’t worry. The slicing process ensures the cake looks great. After the cakes are baked, each should sit for about three to five minutes. If they cool too long, the cake will adhere to the oil that has cooled on the bottom of the pan. If the cake is removed too soon, the steam that comes from the baking process and cake mixture will cause the cake to stick to the pan. An important step to making the perfect cake is to have good equipment, mix the cake properly and watch the time carefully during the cooling process.
As the cakes are sitting upright on a surface, look across the top of the layer. Find areas that are uneven or are rounded. Cut the cake to an even level by placing a large chef's knife on one side. Move the knife through the uneven area and slice the top until the layer is as even as you can make it. The first layer should go topside up on the cake plate or holder.
Cake layers will sometimes stick to the bottom. Stop the removal process immediately when you see the cake sticking. Flip the cake right side up again and run a flat pie cutter or spatula along the bottom. Work with the cake carefully. Whatever has stuck to the pan can be replaced on the layer to fill the torn area. The frosting will fix most mistakes.
After the first layer has cooled, frost the top of this first layer with buttercream frosting or add a filling such as almond or cherry. The next layer of the same size lies on top of the filling, with the top of the layer down. The smoothest sides (created by the cake pan) should always be face up.
After you have the two layers together, frost them with a light coat of frosting. This procedure is called "dirty frosting," meaning a thin layer that will be filled with cake crumbs. This coating of crumbs and frosting will freeze and hold the crumbs to a minimum. Freeze the layers after each is frosted.
Remove the tiers, one at a time, to finish frosting. Each tier is going to be covered with a type of edible paper, so a light coating of frosting should once again be placed on the tier. Don't worry about frosting in detail.
Wilton Comes to the Rescue!
At one point, I figured I would have to paint the zebra stripes on a cake covered with fondant to achieve the zebra appearance. That day, I discovered the latest (and greatest as far as I'm concerned) product that Wilton has ever put out on the market. Wilton has produced edible sheets of paper of various designs, including zebra print. The paper can be cut into various sizes and create a quick beautiful design in a few moments.
The sheets of zebra print fit around each layer and sat nicely, as long as there wasn't too much frosting underneath. The first mistake I had made was frosting the tiers far too much so the paper sagged a bit at the bottom. Once the cake was frosted lightly, the paper stuck to the cake like glue and didn't sag.
I have now created the two zebra cakes with the help of my two oldest daughters. Both had their charm and both were a huge hit. One of the grandchildren decided to have the black and white theme for the party and the other chose a black and white zebra print with a touch of red throughout the decorations and cake.
I found the cake sheets at a local department store. Wilton products can also be found in craft stores throughout the country. The sheets can be purchased in neon colors, black, white, red, blues, greens, and patterns such as the zebra print. Creativity abounds as the sheets are cut into shapes and even letters, flowers, pictures and more.