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These homemade zebra cakes have all the nostalgia of the Little Debbie classics, except they’re 100% made from scratch. Marshmallow fluff and a decadent white chocolate frosting are paired with mini vanilla cakes, then decorated with chocolate stripes!
Homemade zebra cakes are the perfect party treat. For kids, they’re fun to eat. For adults, they’re nostalgic snacks. Given how much everyone loves them, I’ve decided to make them for my upcoming Halloween party.
These little sandwiches are made with spongy vanilla cake that’s been layered with fluffy marshmallow filling. Covered in white chocolate and then drizzled with dark chocolate, they’re a decadent bite.
These mini cakes are also quite easy to make, but you can always give yourself a head start by making the cake base or filling in advance. This way you can focus on decorating the zebra cakes the day of your party. You can also spend some of that extra time making a Nightmare Before Christmas Cake or Halloween charcuterie board.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
These are a childhood favorite treat for many people, but here are a couple more reasons for you and your guests to love them:
- Make-ahead. Prepare the cake base and/or filling a day in advance. Then all you have to worry about is assembling and decorating the day of your event.
- Crowd pleaser. Both kids and adults absolutely love these cute little cakes. They’re fun to make and even more fun to eat.
- Bite-size. They’re perfect for parties and get-togethers. Because of their mini size, they’re an elegant little dessert that you could honestly serve anytime – including a fancy “high tea” party.
- Reduced waste. Use the leftovers to make cake pops and reduce food waste.
Watch the Video
See how to make zebra cakes step-by-step in this video:
What Are Zebra Cakes?
These are a homemade version of Little Debbie’s zebra cakes. Each “sandwich” is made of marshmallow fluff, vanilla cake and decadent white chocolate. A lovely dark chocolate drizzle is then used to add a zebra pattern.
What You’ll Need
There are 4 components to putting these zebra cakes together: the cakes, the filling, the frosting and the drizzle. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.
For the Cake Base
- Unsalted butter – This is my go-to, but you can also use salted butter, just make sure to leave out the salt in the rest of the recipe.
- Granulated sugar – White or light brown sugar will work for this recipe. Don’t use powdered or dark brown sugar.
- All-purpose flour – In case you’re feeling a little fancy, cake flour is perfect for my zebra cakes recipe too.
- Baking powder – Don’t substitute it for baking soda.
- Vanilla extract
For the Filling
- Marshmallow fluff – There’s no substitute for this.
- Butter – If you used salted butter for the batter, I don’t recommend using it for the filling.
- Powdered sugar – It’s also called “confectioners’ sugar.” Don’t swap it out for any granulated sugar or your filling will turn out grainy.
- Vanilla extract – If possible, use the clear kind. However, dark vanilla extract will taste the same.
For the Frosting
- White chocolate – Good quality chocolate will make all the difference. I love Ghirardelli’s white chocolate baking bars, but feel free to use your favorite.
- Double cream – Also called “heavy cream” or “heavy whipping cream.” Make sure it has at least 36% fat.
For the Drizzle
- Dark chocolate – Ghirardelli, Hershey, and Turin are all great brands for high-quality dark chocolate bars. Use your favorite!
- Double cream
How to Make Zebra Cakes
There are quite a couple steps to these, but they’re still very easy to make. Here’s everything you need to do:
For the Cake Base
- Prepare the tray. Line a rectangular cake pan with parchment paper. It can also be a small-medium sized baking tray. Preheat the oven to 360 F.
- Cream the butter. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat it for 3 minutes on medium speed and then add sugar. Continue beating for another 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. You can also do this using a hand mixer.
- Add eggs. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing until well combined.
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, lift the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer still running on low, incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Add the vanilla extract and mix until the batter is just combined.
- Bake. Pour the batter into the cake pan and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Pop it into the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes. Take it out of the cake pan and let it cool fully before filling or frosting.
For the Filling
- Cream the butter. Use a stand mixer (or hand mixer) to beat the butter on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat for another 1-2 minutes or until combined.
- Add sugar. Sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Add it to the marshmallow fluff mixture and continue mixing until well combined.
- Let it cool. Transfer it to a piping bag. Place the marshmallow filling in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Pipe half of cake circles with filling to taste. Place the remaining cake layers on top to create “sandwiches.”
Assembling the Zebra Cakes
- Cut the cakes. Use a 2.5-3″ size round cookie cutter to cut out 18 circles from the cake base. Set them aside.
- Add frosting. Pipe marshmallow filling to taste on half of the cake circles. Layer the remaining cake circles on top to create “sandwiches.”
- Melt the chocolate. Break the white chocolate into chunks. Pour the double cream into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it for 1-2 minutes. Stir the chocolate into the cream. Let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Use a silicone spatula to mix gently until the chocolate has fully dissolved. Set it aside for 20-25 minutes before using it. You can also melt the chocolate over a double-boiler if you prefer. I explain how to do that in the Trick to Melting Chocolate section.
- Make the drizzle. Repeat the previous step to make the drizzle except you need to use dark chocolate.
- Coat the cakes. Place the assembled cakes on a wire rack on top of a baking tray. Generously spoon white chocolate over them until they’re completely coated. Let any excess chocolate drip off. Place in the fridge for about 2 hours or until the chocolate sets.
- Add the drizzle. Use a piping bag to drizzle dark chocolate over the cooled zebra cakes. Refrigerate for another hour. Enjoy!
The Trick to Melting Chocolate
My microwave method is perfect for days when you just can’t handle another dirty bowl or spatula. All you have to do is heat the cream for 1-2 minutes and pour it over the chocolate. You don’t even have to use two bowls! Just add the chocolate into the same bowl as the hot cream and mix well. The chocolate should fully melt within 1-2 minutes. Set it aside.
However, double-boilers are my preferred method for melting chocolate when I have the time and patience to deal with standing over the stove. Fill a pot with water until it’s 3/4 full. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat so it simmers. Place a heat-proof bowl on top that’s the same size or even wider than the pot. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the chocolate and double cream. Stir continuously until the chocolate has completely melted. Set it aside.
In addition, here are my top tips for getting the chocolate to coat the cakes nicely:
- Add more cream. If your chocolate is too thick, it won’t coat the zebra cakes seamlessly. If needed, add more double cream to the melted chocolate until it’s runnier.
- Use a wire rack. Place a wire rack on top of a clean baking tray. Place the assembled zebra cakes on the wire rack. Generously ladle a large amount of melted chocolate on top of the cake and let it run down. Carefully lift the wire rack and scoop the chocolate from the tray. Pour it over the zebra cakes again as necessary.
- Use an off-set spatula. If the sides have a few spots that weren’t covered with chocolate, use an off-set spatula to gently spread some from the sides until the zebra cakes are completely covered.
More Tips for Success
Follow these easy tips to make even better zebra cakes than Little Debbie’s:
- Watch out for moisture. Don’t let any water from the bowl or your spatula jump into the bowl when you’re melting chocolate. Moisture makes chocolate seize and separate into a grainy mixture.
- Freeze. Pop the assembled zebra cakes into the freezer for up to 1 hour. Then coat them in white chocolate. This will set the cake and freeze any loose crumbs in place that might make coating the cakes annoying.
- Chill the cake. Place the cake base in the fridge for 1 hour. Cutting out cake circles will be much easier if the cake is cold. Warm to room-temperature cake tends to crumble much more easily.
- Use a Ziploc. If you don’t have a piping bag, transfer the drizzle to a Ziploc bag. Snip the corner off and use it as a DIY alternative.
- Tap the cake pans. Lift the cake pans about 3″ from the counter and then let them drop carefully. Repeat this two or three times to even out the batter and make any large air bubbles surface.
- Use room-temperature ingredients. Stay away from cold ingredients because the temperature shock in comparison to the rest of the batter will make them harder to incorporate. This can lead to over-mixing, resulting in dense, rubbery cake.
How to Store Zebra Cakes
Place the zebra cakes in an airtight container and store them at room temperature for 2-4 days. Make sure they’re away from the sunlight or any heat source.
If you’d like to store them longer, refrigerate them in an airtight container. Don’t stack them. They will keep for up to 7 days.
Can I Freeze Them?
Yes! Place the decorated zebra cakes on a parchment-lined tray. Pop them into the freezer for 3 hours or until fully frozen. Then wrap each cake in plastic wrap and transfer them to a freezer-friendly bag or container. Freeze for up to 6 months.
When you’re ready to eat them, unwrap them and leave them in the fridge overnight. The next day, place them on the counter until they reach room temperature and enjoy.
More Halloween Food Ideas
Homemade Zebra Cakes
For the cake base:
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
For the filling:
- ¾ cup marshmallow fluff
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp clear vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 7 oz white chocolate
- 3 oz double cream
For the drizzle:
- 1.25 oz dark chocolate
- 0.85 oz double cream
For the cake base:
- Prepare the tray. Prepare a 13 x 8 inch cake tin and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to360°F.
- Beat the butter. Fit a large bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter with sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Incorporate the eggs. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed for 30 seconds after each addition. Make sure to also scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Add the dry ingredients. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add them to the cake batter, mixing just until incorporated. Add vanilla extract and mix everything together for an additional minute on low speed.
- Bake. Pour the batter into the cake tin.Bake at 360°F for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. After this time, take the cake out of the oven, place it on a cooling rack and let it rest for 20 minutes. Then, remove from the cake tin and allow the cake to cool completely.
For the filling:
- Beat the butter. Add marshmallow fluff and butter to a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the ingredients together until combined.
- Incorporate the sugar. Add powdered sugar and mix for a few seconds to combine.
- Refrigerate. Place in the fridge to let it rest while working on the next steps.
Assembling the zebra cakes:
- Cut the cakes. Using a standard size cookie cutter, cut 18 cakes out of the baked cake base.
- Add frosting. Layer the cookies on a cooling rack, set on parchment paper. Pipe out the frosting on top of one cake, then top with another cake cutout. Repeat with the remaining cutouts.
- Melt the chocolate. Break the white chocolate into pieces and place it in a bowl. In a separate, microwave-safe bowl heat the double cream for approx. 1-1.5 minutes. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it rest for 5 minutes, then mix gently to combine. Set aside for approx 20-25 minutes before decorating. Repeat the same steps with the dark chocolate for drizzle.
- Cover the cake with chocolate. Using a spoon, cover each cake generously with white chocolate. Place in a fridge to let the chocolate set before decorating with drizzles.
- Add the drizzle. Using a piping bag, drizzle the dark chocolate over the top of the cakes as desired. Enjoy!