Chocolate and Pumpkin Zebra Cake

Chocolate and Pumpkin Zebra Cake

By Kat Boytsova, Epicurious

You don't need mystical powers to conjure the magical swirl in this spooky cake that's perfect for a Halloween party. Alternating layers of chocolate and pumpkin cake batters create a stunning zebra-stripe effect.


8–10 servings

Active Time

1 hour 25 minutes

Total Time

3 hours 25 minutes


For the cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Orange food coloring (optional)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • Black gel food coloring (optional)

For the ganache:

  • 24 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Black gel food coloring (optional)

For the spun sugar (optional):

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup

Special Equipment

  • 2 (9") round cake pans; a candy thermometer; plastic spider rings (optional)


Make the cake:

  • Position a rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour cake pans. Whisk cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, ginger, cloves, and remaining 2 1/3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Mix pumpkin purée, milk, and vanilla in another medium bowl.
  • Cream sugar and remaining 1 cup butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, 3–4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with pumpkin mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  • Transfer 6 cups batter to a large bowl. Whisk in orange food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time until desired color is achieved.
  • Add cocoa powder to remaining 3 cups batter and beat with stand mixer on medium-low speed until smooth. Add black gel food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until desired color is achieved.
  • Spoon 1 cup pumpkin batter into center of each prepared pan. Spoon 1/2 cup chocolate batter directly on top of pumpkin batter. Repeat 2 times with each batter, spooning batter into centers of pans and occasionally tapping pan firmly on work surface to ensure even distribution. Divide remaining chocolate batter into centers of both pans. The batter will look slightly domed at this point; carefully smooth with an offset spatula, being careful not to disturb the layers too much.
  • Bake cakes until centers spring back when lightly pressed, 55–60 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cakes cool.

Make the ganache:

  • Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium. Bring to a low simmer, then immediately pour over chocolate. Let sit, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Add vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add black gel food coloring, if using, to achieve a scary black frosting. Let ganache cool at room temperature until thick, about 30 minutes.

Make the spun sugar:

  • Place 2 wooden-handled spoons or spatulas horizontally about 5" apart over a large bowl. Prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl.
  • Heat sugar, corn syrup, and 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan fitted with candy thermometer over medium, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Cook until thermometer registers 300°F. Immediately dip bottom of pan in ice bath, stirring with a fork. The sugar is ready once it thickens to the consistency of honey but still flows in a steady stream. Remove pan from ice bath and dip fork in hot sugar. Raise fork about 10" above the wooden spatulas and quickly move the fork back and forth, making thin threads of sugar. Repeat, dipping fork back into hot sugar and layering the strands. Form enough strands to create a loose mass resembling a spider web.

Assemble the cake:

  • Spread 1 Tbsp. ganache in the center of a platter. Place 1 cake layer in the center. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups ganache on top of cake with an offset spatula, pressing outward toward edges. Carefully place second cake layer, top side down, over, gently pressing down to secure. Evenly spread remaining ganache over top and sides. Chill at least 15 minutes to let ganache set.
  • When ready to serve, top with spun sugar spider web and plastic spider rings, if using.

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Cake Magazine: Chocolate and Pumpkin Zebra Cake
Chocolate and Pumpkin Zebra Cake
You don't need mystical powers to conjure the magical swirl in this spooky cake that's perfect for a Halloween party.
Cake Magazine
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