Monday, 13 August 2012

Zebra cupcakes with vanilla and chocolate buttercream

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for zebra cupcakes. I had made a lovely zebra cake once before (of which no record exists... so I have no choice but to rebake it one day. It is a tough life.) and it had been quite a hit (mostly with myself. I loved it.) so of course I had to try a cupcake version. As a bonus, I topped it of with vanilla and chocolate cream cheese frosting - to keep in line with the zebra theme.

Let me give you the recipe first, then my comments.
Unfortunately I don't remember how many cupcakes I got out of this, but the recipe says 16. I think I had slightly more.

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 g vanilla sugar (that's the content of one standard sachet, alternatively use 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 113 g (= 1/2 cup = 1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (tip: do not use rapeseed oil...)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
I found the recipe at Megan's Cookin' but adapted it slightly, mostly because I had to make do with what I had at home.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (= 350F) - I use a fan oven so if you don't have one, you might want to adapt the temperature/baking time.
2. Sift the the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Set aside for now.
3. Mix eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar on high speed in a large mixing bowl for up to 5 minutes, until it is thick and pale, like this:

4. Lower the mixer's speed and stir in the milk, butter and oil. Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl once in a while. I like to combine the milk and oil in a separate container before stirring it in - this way, I feel that there is less 'oil loss', since the oil floats on top of the milk and cannot leave that much behind. It probably make no difference whatsoever, but that's just how I roll.

Melted butter and combined milk and oil.

5. Stir wet ingredients into the flour mixture.
6. Now the recipe calls for you to transfer a third of the batter into another bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder. I think I used just a bit less than half the batter.
7. Line your cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
8. Next it says to place one tablespoons of the vanilla batter into the centre of the cupcake liner - I used a teaspoon instead to increase the number of zebra lines. The recipe also asks you to let it stand for a few seconds so that it spreads out slightly - but you'll see that this happens automatically since it will take you a moment to fill all the liners. Now drop one teaspoon of the chocolate batter in the middle of the vanilla. Continue alternating the two batters until the cupcakes are about 3/4 full.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when you gently push against them with your finger and a toothpick comes out clean.

10. Let cool for a bit before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now for the frosting:
First, take your basic cream cheese frosting:
  • 113 g (= 1 stick or 1/2 cup) of butter at room temperature, smooth!
  • 226 g (= 8 oz) of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 - 4 cups of powdered sugar - sifted!
  • some vanilla sugar/vanilla extract and some dark chocolate (forgot how much I used... about two rows of a bar?)
Usually I add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream to make it smoother but I had some low fat cheese curd to use up, so I used one or two big tablespoons of that. I figured that the texture and freshness would offset the vanilla and chocolate and the general sweetness nicely. It would probably be better if one didn't use low fat. Will have to try.

1. Cream butter, cream cheese and curd cheese together.
2. Add enough powdered sugar for the frosting to become stiff enough for piping.
3. Divide in half, add vanilla to one half.
4. Melt the chocolate in a bains marie (meaning you bring a bit of water to the boil in a pot and put a bowl with the chocolate in it on top, so that the hot water steam heats up the bowl and melts the choc)
5. Let cool slightly, then whisk into the non-vanilla half of the cream cheese frosting.
6. Now take two plastic freezer bags. Pop them into a tall glass each and fill in the frostings. Like so:

7. Cut bog holes in the bottoms of the bags. Take an even bigger freezer bag, cut a hole big enough in it for a piping tip to fit in there (not too big or it will fall through). I used a fairly large star tip.
8. Now pipe the two frostings rather evenly next to each other in the big freezer bag. It should look somehing like this:

9. Now you're ready to pipe onto the cupcakes. After all these steps, they should be cool enough to be frosted...

And in case you're wondering what the look like from the inside:

So - my comments. I used canola/rapeseed oil. BIG mistake. While my friends really liked the cupcakes, all I could taste was the oil. I strongly recommend using sunflower oil. Or maybe coconut oil would be amazing. I'll have to try out whether that is going to be too overpowering. Actually... I have never worked with coconut oil, so I haven't the faintest clue whether you taste anything/something/a lot actually. But. Bottom line: hands off the rapeseed oil.
But otherwise - they were aesthetically very pleasing. So pretty. If you wanna impress relatively easily - bake these. See:


  1. uuuuh, soo pretty! I like that you included photos of the baking process, e.g. to clarify "thick and pale" ;-)
    love the instructions for the two-colour frosting, i have to try that. but since my cream cheese frosting always gets soupy, anyway... ;)
    Maybe i'll try the vanilla-nougat combination, nomnom...
    i'm very inspired! :-D

    1. Yaaay, my first comment :)
      Thank you, Jonna!