When my daughter turned one year old recently, I was wracking my brain for a cake idea that really suited her personality.
Then I stumbled on a zebra-print sheet of sugar designed to be shaped and placed on a cake, and the lightbulb turned on. It seems that THE fashion for little girls right now is zebra print with pink accents, so what would be more perfect for my little Diva’s cake?
I don’t profess to be too skilled in the cake-baking department. I can count on one hand how many layer cakes I’ve made, including this one. But this cake is easy enough even for kids to make.
For the Cake:
To make the cake, I went with a standard mix. I used to think scratch cakes were the way to go, but then I asked the woman who made my sister’s wedding cake for the secret to the moist, delicious dessert.
“Betty Crocker’s pudding-in-the-mix has always done wonders for me,” she admitted.
From then on, I’ve used cake mixes without shame.
I didn’t fall for the pricey “zebra cake mix” you can find in specialty stores, however. I just took a regular yellow cake mix, and — once the batter was mixed — I split it in half. I used a few drops of red dye to turn one half of the batter pink.
For the Decorating:
From there, it’s simple to make a zebra-patterned cake. You put a scoop — about 1/4 cup — of batter in the center of each of your greased round pans. Give it a moment to settle and spread out. Then take a 1/4 cup scoop of the other color batter and drop it right in the center of the last bit of batter. Continue alternating colors, and you end up with what looks like a bullseye target. Don’t stick a knife in it or anything — just bake it exactly as it looks, and you’ll be amazed when you cut into the cake and find a zebra pattern later on.
As loyal a fan as I am of cake mixes, I can’t stand canned frosting. I think the homemade stuff makes all the difference, and the most delicious recipe I’ve come across is the tried and true Wilton Buttercream Icing recipe you can find here: http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing
I frosted the cake first with a basic layer of white. I know it came out a little lopsided, but in my defense I did have a 1-year-old diva and a wild 4-year-old big brother under foot while I made this cake. Once you have your cake frosted, the sugar sheet does most of the work.
“Sugar Sheets!”, also from the great cake geniuses at Wilton, are sold in baking sections in stores like WalMart and Michaels. Wilton describes them as “edible decorating paper.”
This was my first time trying a sugar sheet, and I loved it. It tastes much better than fondant, and it’s really easy to work with. I literally took a pen and drew outlines of the shapes I wanted for the cake, and then cut them out just as I would cut out shapes on a piece of paper. You “glue” the pieces to the cake with a bit of frosting.
I dyed a little leftover frosting pink and piped a few designs to add a little more polish to the cake. The end result was definitely a bit messy and homemade looking, but it was also adorable and delicious. My little diva definitely approved.
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