The Zebra Cake

17 Oct

I just started the self-cleaning cycle on the upper oven of my almost new stove so I have a little time on my hands before I can make my brownies. It seemed like a good time to do a blog entry.

Since my blogs are about my impressions or views of life as it happens & another little hitch just happened in the stream of the life continuum, it seemed like a good time to share my thoughts. And maybe this blog entry will help some other poor, unsuspecting soul who just wants to bake a unique zebra cake for a Halloween party.

My first advice is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That applies to a great many things in life & now I’m adding a zebra cake mix to that list.

Several days ago I was in the grocery store looking for something to make for refreshments for our club’s Annual Halloween Party. Everyone brings one item for refreshments, which works well & nobody goes broke bringing all the refreshments for the evening.

Our club has an adult membership but once a year at Halloween we sort of step into our perceived worlds of fantasy at our Halloween party & get in touch with our “inner child;” a part of our personalities that is just below the surface & in some cases eagerly waiting to be unleashed. We have a Costume Contest with prizes & play silly games all night & toss caution to the autumn wind. We look forward to it.

So in the grocery store at cake mixes I looked up & saw a cake mix for a Zebra  Cake. It wasn’t a mix by Pillsbury or one of those two cake mix geniuses, Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. It was some off brand name that boasted of “bakery quality cakes” if you’d just give their mix a try. The zebra part seemed like a cool option for a Halloween party cake so I decided to give it a try although the price seemed especially steep for a cake mix… $3.98 … even one of the zebra variety.  I bought it anyway & 2 cans of chocolate icing.

It’s been a busy week getting everything ready for the party so today I decided to make that Halloween zebra-type cake. The party is tomorrow.

The directions began by telling me to grease & lightly flour one 9” round pan. I know my cake pans are round (duh) & I know they’re 9” but I got a ruler & measured one again just to make sure. I didn’t want anything to interfere with the baking of my “bakery quality” Halloween zebra cake. I DID, however, question  why the instructions called for ONE 9” round pan when the picture on the cake mix box showed a three layer cake.

The cake was complicated for a boxed mix; something that is supposed to make baking quick & easy, but I followed the directions to the letter. My zebra cake was going to be the talk of the Halloween Party refreshment table. I planned to WOW the walkers, the witches, the hippies & the Klingons with my creation.

The directions on the box instruct the cook to make 2 separate mixes in two separate bowls – a chocolate cake mix & a vanilla one; both of which come in the same box. To achieve the “zebra hide” look you rotate ¼ cup scoops of each flavor; dropping one on top of the other & waiting for it to smooth out on its own before dropping another scoopful of the opposite flavor onto the last. It was all pretty intriguing. When it was finished & ready for my precisely preheated oven, it looked like any normal single layer of uncooked cake in a 9” round pan.

I stuck it in the oven & set the timer for 55 minutes as instructed on the side of the box. I went off to check email.

About 25 minutes into the baking process I smelled smoke. I went to the kitchen where smoke was semi-billowing from my oven. I turned the hood vent on “high,” hoping to avoid tripping the smoke detector & bringing the fire trucks, sirens at full squeal, racing to find our house. Our alarm system instantly alerts the fire department. Thinking back about this later, it would have been nice to have a little moral support from Engine Company #7, even though I already had Willy’s moral support. There really wasn’t a lot of room for extra hands cleaning the oven.

The partially baked cake had breached the sides of the 9” cake pan & the liquid portion, like lava covering an unsuspecting village, had engulfed part of the bottom oven element. I snatched that erupting mess from the oven & set it on a pizza pan. I turned off the oven & attempted to get the bulk of that puddling zebra off the stoves heating element & lessen the possibility of the arrival of Engine Company #7. It was SUCH a mess. Willy offered to take over the clean-up but I was already elbow-deep in zebra contents so I just forged on; grateful for his company & support.

Afterward, while I tasted the cooked edges of the cake eruption (which were really quite tasty), Willy back-tracked, reading all the steps of instruction on the cake mix box. I hadn’t taken one uninstructed step so we were at a loss to understand why that zebra cake that was going to WOW the masses at tomorrow’s party was lying in a bubbling, pulsating mess OUTSIDE my 9” round cake pan.

The off-brand cake mix company actually has a Facebook page so I sent them a message. Here is what I said:

I was excited to make one of your zebra cakes for a club Halloween Party tomorrow night, even though the price of your cake mix was a little steep at $3.98 a box.

I checked the instructions. Was surprised that this was only a single layer cake & the instructions said to prepare ONE  9″ round pan. The picture on the box clearly showed a three-layer cake.

I KNOW my pans are 9″ but I measured them anyway. Yep … 9″ round pans. I’m imagining any pan that is a 9″ round pan is a 9″ round pan. If depth were a concern I’m guessing your instructions would have mentioned that somewhere. But a 9″ standard round cake pan is still a 9″ cake pan … isn’t it?

So I made the cake & followed the instructions exactly. About 25 minutes into the baking process I smelled smoke. Went to the kitchen & smoke was coming out of my oven fairly fast. I opened the oven door to find the cake running over the side of the cake pan (9″ as instructed) & burning as the batter hit the heating element. This is a fairly new stove with no thermostat problems.

I’ve just spent a lot of time cleaning up my kitchen & the inside of my stove … waiting for it to cool down so I can run it through a cleaning cycle. My whole house smells like smoke & so does my hair. Fortunately, our fire alarm didn’t go off triggering a visit from our local fire department. We can be thankful for small blessings.

The cake is in the garbage can but the part around the edges that was cooked was really good. I’m sorry the people at the Halloween Party won’t get to try it. I was really excited to see the zebra pattern but could hardly make it out as it burned with a vengeance on the element on the bottom of my stove.

I’m going to make some brownies for the party as soon as I get the last of the burned cake scraped off the floor of my oven & finish the oven cleaning cycle. I swear NEVER to buy anything again without reading the instructions before leaving the store. But even if I had questioned this being a single layer cake when the picture on the box clearly showed a three layer cake, I probably would have bought your zebra mix anyway. It sounded like a cool novelty for a Halloween Party. And who doesn’t like a zebra???

Thanks for listening.

I’m so sorry I won’t be taking a really unique cake to our Halloween Party but my oven probably needed to be cleaned anyway. I’m trying to look at this as the glass half FULL & find some benefit from my zebra disaster.

I know I won’t be trying any bazaar animal hide cake mixes again & I hope I’ve helped some of you by telling you about my zebra cake mishap. If you don’t absolutely NEED a zebra as part of your Halloween experience I’d just let that slide & go for a typical chocolate cake with a plastic cat head & 4 plastic cat feet. You can buy those little cat kits at craft stores.

Happy Halloween & I’ll let you know if I get a response to my letter from the cake company.

 blog zebra



3 Responses to “The Zebra Cake”

  1. Les October 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    Awe, so sorry about the “Zebra” cake, it sounded like a big hassle for sure. Really enjoyed this blog and can’t wait to hear if you get a response from the cake company. Maybe they will send you a check and an apology…that would be cool. Keep me posted!!


    • heimdalco October 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Leslie. It was a huge mess & the house probably still smells funny but we’ve been in it all night so we really can’t smell it anymore. I guess it’s like having BO. After a while if it’s yours you just can’t smell it.

      The party will be fun even without the zebra cake but it would have been cool to take it. Hadn’t thought about a refund from the company but that would be nice. I could go out & buy a bunch more zebra cake mixes & use them when I need to clean my oven.

      Love you …


  2. Tony October 18, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Lol Linda.
    You are so Funny.
    Oh yeah and I’m glad you didn’t burn the
    House down. J K. Lol : )
    Thanks for sharing and have a nice. No have
    A better day : )


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