Friday, May 27, 2011

Zebra cake and animal prints fashion trend

Sometimes you see something and you like it at the first sight. You may not even know much about it, but you just like it because it looks too cute. Zebra cake is one of those things. When I saw a zebra cake photo, I knew right then and there that I would soon try to bake it. I’m not a fan of animal prints fashion trend, but a cake that looks like a zebra? It’s just too cute to ignore, and one important thing: it’s made of very simple ingredients. I didn’t have to buy anything else to bake this cake, great!

The one and only problem seemed to be making those alternative circles. Some recipes were read, some videos were watched, and I was still not that confident. But in all the recipes, no special tips were noted. So I thought: “Just go on and see” :).

With no special skills, I went on with the zebra cake. The making of those concentric circles was more simple than I had thought. Just one big spoon of vanilla batter and one spoon of cocoa batter, and repeat, and repeat. You’ll see that they work out on their own. Finally, it turned out, phew, a zebra cake.

When I took the cake out of the oven, the surface reminded me of a tiger, not a zebra. It was golden brown with dark brown circles. But when a piece was cut out, you can see why it’s called “zebra” but not “tiger”. Yes, my piece of cake did look like a zebra after all.

Here, the “tiger” right from the oven:

I put a piece of cake on a plate but then it looked so like a lonely zebra, so I added another piece. Now they looked like a zebra couple. Eat some golden kiwi, zebra couple, eat!

But I can’t figure out why there was a big hole under the surface of my cake. Seemed like there was a big air pocket in the batter. I must be careful next time, that’s if I bake this cake again. I’m saying that because the taste of the cake is nowhere near its good look. Despite the impressive appearance, the cake tasted just so-so, nothing spectacular. Maybe this is a bit like fashion trends. They may look very impressive at first but nothing about them is really special. Trends come and go, so if we can’t afford to follow the trends, there’s nothing to be frustrated about. Just save more money and be ready for the next waves :D.

Anyway, I’m just thinking that if I bake another zebra cake, I may use matcha powder in place of cocoa powder. Not that I’m so into matcha taste, I just think a zebra with green stripes may look even cuter :).

Now since this zebra cake included cocoa powder, I’m submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.

The original recipe is from King Arthur Flour. I halved the recipe to make a 16cm round cake. Below is the halved recipe (adapted):
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 120ml whole milk
- 120ml vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 135g All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 9g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I think natural unsweetened cocoa powder is fine too, I like the smell of natural cocoa better than Dutch-processed).
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175oC). Butter a 16cm round baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.
2. Use a hand mixer to blend the sugar and eggs until lightened, about 2 minutes (I blended for 3 minutes at medium speed). On low speed blend in the oil, milk and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine.
4. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine 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.
5. Remove 1 cup of the vanilla batter and place it in a bowl. Sift the cocoa over this batter, and stir well to combine. Be sure to use a sifter to avoid cocoa lumps in the batter. (Now the cocoa batter gets thicker than vanilla batter, and I realized that the cocoa powder didn’t dissolve so easily in the batter. So I guess next time I’ll mix cocoa powder with a little hot water until dissolved, then I’ll add this cocoa mixture to the separated batter. That is, if I bake this cake again).
6. Now you should use 2 large spoons, about 20-25ml each. Pour one large spoon of vanilla batter into the center of the cake pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Next, pour one large spoon of the chocolate batter into the center of the vanilla batter. 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. Note: Don’t tilt the pan to “help” the batters spread out.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar or frost if that strikes your fancy.

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