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How to Make the Zebra Effect on Allergy-Friendly Cake

You can use this technique from Kathy P and apply it to any safe cake recipe and make an assortment of flavors.



Vegan Zebra Cake

by Kathy Przywara

Makes an 8 or 9" cake


1 1/2  cups  flour
1  cup  sugar
1  tsp  baking soda
1/2  tsp  salt
1  cup  milk alternative
1/3  cup  oil
1  Tbsp  vinegar
1   tsp  vanilla (optional)
1 1/2 - 2  Tbsp  cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 °F. Prepare an 8" or 9" cake pan. I use Cake Release* and parchment, but you can also grease well and flour your pan.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. In a smaller bowl, combine the milk alternative, vinegar, oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet works over the dry works. Whisk gently until you have a smooth batter. Do not beat or overmix.

Pour half of the batter into another bowl - I use the bowl I had the wet works in. Add the cocoa powder to one half of the batter and mix well.

Here is where the zebra stripes get formed and technique is important. I use a #16 disher (like an ice cream scoop with a sweeper). You can use a 1/4 cup measure. When using a disher, I was able to use the same one for both batters, but I don't recommend that if using a measuring cup unless you scrape it each time. Otherwise it will just mix the batters by the end.

Starting with the white batter, put one disher of batter into the center of the prepared pan. Let the batter spread naturally, don't try to move the pan around to get it to flow. Put one disher of chocolate batter in the middle of the white batter. Again, just let it flow naturally. Don't wait a long time between each addition - just keep going with an even rhythm. Continue in this manner until all of the batter is used.


Bake at 350 °F for 25-30 min or until it tests done. All ovens are a little different, so go by doneness check and not time. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a rack. Transfer to serving plate.

You can frost this if you wish, but it's pretty and delicious all on it's own. 

Search for allergy-friendly cake recipes to avoid your allergens: Safe Eats recipe collection.


Kandi has used this zebra technique to make a rainbow-colored cake:

Just separate your batter and color it differently using natural food dyes, pureed fruit, or artificial food dyes.



*Cake Release Recipe by Kathy P

1  cup  shortening
1  cup  flour
3/4  cup  vegetable oil


Mix together thoroughly. I dump everything in my stand mixer and let it go for a minute or two. Store in an airtight container. Do not refrigerate.

To use for preparing a pan, apply with a paper towel or pastry brush to surface of pan. A paper towel works fine for regular pans, but a pastry brush works much better on shaped and intricate pans. Be sure to get in all of the nooks and crannies.


I have not tried this with any non-wheat flours, but it should work. Be sure to pick a flour that has a long shelf life. Do not use a flour that will go rancid easily. I wouldn't recommend brown rice flour since it is gritty.

Use any solid shortening that is safe for you.

If you have any questions, please post them on this blog or log in to our support forums and ask!


Kathy Przywara is the mother of two children with food allergies and has volunteered for Kids With Food Allergies Foundation (KFA) since we opened as a nonprofit. She is our recipe coordinator and a leader in our Food & Cooking support forums. Her recipe for Wacky Cake is KFA's most popular recipe. 



Images (4)
  • Zebra Cake by Kathy P
  • Zebra Cake by Kathy P
  • Zebra Easter Cake by Kandi
  • Zebra Cake by Kathy P

Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). AAFA is the largest and oldest nonprofit patient organization dedicated to asthma and allergies. KFA educates families and communities with practical food allergy management strategies to save lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families. Our online community includes public blogs. To post a comment, you will need to register or sign in. Registered members have access to additional specialized support forums for food allergies. Registration is free!

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Comments (12)

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Hi Kim,

Just be sure to read every ingredient label of every thing you use. Be aware that some ingredients in your kitchen may be contaminated if you ever double-dipped. The safest thing to do is buy all new ingredients.


If you want to make a frosting/icing for this cake, you'll need to use milk and soy free shortening or margarine. Options are Earth Balance soy-free (red packaging) or coconut oil (among a few others). You can keep it simple and just do the solid fat (safe margarine or shortening), powdered sugar and tiny bit of flavoring (vanilla).  If you want to do chocolate, look for milk-free cocoa powder.  If you want to melt down safe chocolate chips, look for Enjoy Life choco chunks or mini chocolate chips.


Here are some recipes for frosting:

How to Make Allergy-Friendly Vanilla Silk Frosting


Strawberry Butterfly Cake: Allergy and Kid Friendly...

Note that Crisco and other common shortenings are made with soy oil which may not be okay for the kiddo you are baking for.


Best of luck and let us know if you have any questions~



Melanie Carver
Chief Mission Officer
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Kids With Food Allergies is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. KFA and AAFA are committed to teaching parents and families how to prevent and treat severe allergic reactions in order to save children's lives.

This education is only possible from generous donations from our supporters.

You can use whatever brand all purpose flour they normally use.  The vinegar is whatever works. I generally use cider vinegar. For milk alternative, I recommend SoDelicious coconut beverage. Use the unsweetened. If the friend has a milk alt they use for the kiddo, just use that.

That's cool! I've done swirl cakes, but I've never used this technique. I love the "zebra" effect.

Linda Coss, Food Allergy Author Founder and Former Leader (for 13 years) of Local Food Allergy Support Group in Orange County, CA Mom to: Jason, 24 - ANA to peanuts, tree nuts & eggs; asthma; misc. other unrelated diseases & chronic medical conditions; Kevin, 22, outgrew food allergies by the age of 5; Plus - I can't eat dried legumes, garbonzos, or anything spicy, and I have multiple EA's

Kids With Food Allergies
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1235 South Clark Street Suite 305, Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1.800.727.8462)
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