My kid’s all bring their lunches to school every day and have ever since elementary school. One of their favorite Little Debbie snack cakes are the infamous Zebra Cakes. It is important to note that they are only interested in the actual snack cakes – not the zebra rolls. We have tried them both in our house over the years, and the rolls seem to have less cake in them.
These delicious little cakes are really tasty and convenient, but as a mother, one can’t help but notice the preservatives in them too. So, I decided to attempt to try and find a copycat recipe or at least something comparable.
The hard part has been getting the filling correct. Most recipes call for a marshmallow cream or whipped cream center. I have tried both. The store bought marshmallow cream doesn’t taste very good and also doesn’t help with the goal of trying to find a less preserved version. The whipped cream tastes good, but doesn’t hold the layers together very well.
After some trials and several errors, I opted for making my own homemade marshmallow cream. It is actually quite easy, but does take a little extra time.
As far as the actual cake goes, you can use any preferred yellow cake recipe as long as it is a little dense. The light and fluffy sponge cake textures don’t hold up as well as some of the others. After trying a few options, my favorite was the adapted version of the Imperial Sugar cake recipe.
For the frosting, it is simply melted chocolate. The trick is getting it on in a VERY thin layer. If it is too thick, the cake will taste very heavy and too rich.
Homemade Little Debbie Zebra Cakes
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon water
Marshmallow Filling Ingredients:
- 3 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
- 12 ounces white chocolate baking bar or chips I prefer Ghiradelli.
- 4 ounces dark chocolate baking bar or chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
- With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined and light in color. (About 5-7 minutes.)
- Add one egg and 3 egg yolks and mix until combined. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternate adding dry mixture and milk to the mixing bowl ending with the dry ingredients. Do not overmix or cake will be tough.
- Spread cake batter evenly and thinly into jellyroll pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out of cake clean.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan. After cake fully cools, cut into 2 inch squares.
Marshmallow Filling Directions:
- Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer until light and fluffy and forms stiff peaks. While egg whites are mixing, continue to the next step.
- Place water, sugar, and light corn syrup into a medium sized saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Insert candy thermometer into side of pan.
- Bring mixture to 240 degrees and stir occasionally only in the center of pan. Touching sides will create crystals.
- Remove mixture from heat once temperature is reached. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes. Turn electric mixer (on medium speed) with whisk attachment and slowly stream cooked mixture into the egg whites. Make sure to add to center of bowl.
- Once all the cooked mixture has been added continue to whisk on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the filling is glossy. Add vanilla. Add filling on the top of one cake square and sandwich with another. When all are assembled, refrigerate cakes for 30 minutes before adding icing. (Remaining filling will store nicely for 5-7 days in an airtight container.)
- Place white chips into a microwave safe bowl and select the melt setting. Stop and stir every 30 seconds to avoid overcooking. When white chocolate is fully melted, take a frosting spreader or butter knife, and thinly add a layer over each cake. The chocolate will harden quickly, so you may have to reheat.
- After the white chocolate has set, melt the dark chocolate in another bowl and pipe lines over white cakes. Zebra cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Enjoy!