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This is a simply decorated 1st birthday cake for a pink safari themed birthday party! The frosting is naturally flavored and colored with freeze-dried strawberries. I’ve also published Elmo cake and Cookie Monster cake if you need more homemade ideas for a kid’s birthday cake.

pink 1st birthday cake on a cake stand with safari animal cake toppers

I’ve made hundreds of cakes, but you’re looking at the most special. Today I’m sharing the cake I created for my daughter’s 1st birthday.

pink 1st birthday cake

Her 1st birthday party had a loose theme of pink + safari animals. I decided a petite zebra cake with strawberry frosting was best for the occasion.

Baby Girl 1st Birthday Cake

This is a 6-inch zebra cake, which is chocolate and vanilla cake batter layered into cake pans to resemble zebra stripes. It’s scaled down from my original 9-inch zebra cake. I filled it with vanilla buttercream and frosted the outside with naturally colored and flavored strawberry frosting. The top is garnished with rainbow sprinkles, a one cake topper, and adorable little animal figures I found at Michaels craft store. Thank you so much for the inspiration and idea, Facebook group member Amanda! 

The cake decoration was simple and pretty. I was so busy leading up to her 1st birthday party and there were so many other desserts that I kept the cake decoration easy. Friends and family LOVED it! The 6-inch zebra cake turned out even better than the original; it was more buttery and moist, the perfect complement to both vanilla and strawberry frostings. Have you made my strawberry frosting before? It’s made from freeze-dried strawberries, so it has zero artificial flavor and color.

Interested in other 6 inch cake recipes? Here’s our 6 inch cake recipes page.

image of the inside of a 3 layer marble cake with strawberry frosting on a cake stand

3 layer 6 inch marble cake with strawberry frosting

zoomed in image of strawberry frosting with sprinkles

You can find the video displaying exactly how to layer in the cake batters in the original zebra cake blog post. It’s surprisingly easy!

cake pans with marble cake batter before baking

pink 1st birthday cake with cake topper that says one

The cake was accompanied by a dessert spread of animal cracker cookies, cake batter chocolate chip cookies (a must for ALL parties!), pumpkin cupcakes with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting from my banana cupcakes, and chocolate cupcakes with the swirled frosting from my marble cupcakes. The animal cracker cookies were a hit with kids and adults alike and the cupcakes were a great option since the birthday cake was on the smaller side. It was a big party with lots of dessert, so I began preparing in advance.

Prepping Dessert Ahead for a 1st Birthday Party

  • 10 days before: Bake all the cookies, cupcakes, and cake layers. Let them cool, then freeze the unfrosted treats in large zipped-top bags and Tupperware containers. Wrap each cake layer individually in aluminum foil before placing in a bag or container to freeze.
  • 2 days before: Make the icing and decorate all the animal cracker cookies. Cover and store at room temperature.
  • 1 day before: Thaw the cookies, cake layers, and cupcakes. Frost the cupcakes and refrigerate overnight. (You can also decorate the cake at this time and loosely cover in the refrigerator overnight, but I frosted the cake the morning of the party.)
  • Day of the 1st birthday party: Frost/decorate the cake. Remove cupcakes from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
dessert stand with cupcakes and animal cracker cookies

cupcakes on a dessert stand with safari cupcake toppers

1st birthday cake and desserts on a decorated party table

cake batter chocolate chip cookies on a white plate

animal cracker cookies on dessert stand for 1st birthday party

pumpkin cupcakes

Baby Girl Safari Themed Dessert Table

Here are all the extras to make dessert extra special!

My daughter had her own small slice of cake, which ended up mostly on her hands and face. It was the perfect dessert menu for our celebration. This is a wonderful small cake for any and all birthday parties!

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pink 1st birthday cake on a cake stand with safari animal cake toppers

6 Inch Zebra Cake with Strawberry Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Simply decorated baby girl’s 1st birthday cake for a pink safari themed birthday party!


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (12 Tbsp; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cups (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Chocolate Batter

  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons (13g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

Strawberry & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (about 25g) freeze-dried strawberries
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (720g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (45ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • sprinkles for decorating, if desired


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
  2. Make the vanilla batter: Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, beat in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  4. Make the chocolate batter: There will be around 4 cups of batter total. Transfer half of it to another bowl. Whisk in the 3 chocolate batter ingredients until combined. A few small lumps are ok.
  5. Watch the video in the original zebra cake recipe to see exactly how to layer the batters into the cake pans. Drop a large spoonful of 1 batter in the center of the pan. Top with a spoonful of the other batter. Alternate spoonfuls on top of each other. Give the pan a shake to level it all out. Repeat with each cake pan until all the batter is used.
  6. Bake for around 19-22 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  7. Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Set 1 heaping cup of frosting aside; this will be the vanilla frosting for the inside the cake. Beat the strawberry powder into the remaining frosting until combined.
  8. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard or crumble and use as cake garnish or enjoy over ice cream! Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with 1/2 of the vanilla frosting. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with the rest of the vanilla frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the strawberry frosting into a thick layer all over the top and sides. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight or frozen up to 3 months. The frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before using. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. Flour: Sift flour before measuring.
  3. Buttermilk: You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 3/4 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  4. Why is Everything at Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about the importance of room temperature ingredients
  5. Where to Buy Freeze-Dried Strawberries? I always find them in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s and Target carries them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think! Do not use the chewy/gummy dried strawberries. You need FREEZE-dried strawberries which grind into a powder. If you can’t find them anywhere, just leave them out of the frosting and add another 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar.
  6. Special Tools + Party Decorations: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 6-inch Round Cake Pans | Straight Spatula | Bench Scraper | Confetti Sprinkles | “One” Cake TopperSafari Napkins | Animal Cupcake Toppers | 2-Tiered Wood Serving Stand | Galvanized Metal Tiered Stand

Keywords: first birthday cake

Un-watermarked photos by Megan Brodie Photography

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally I made this for my daughter’s first birthday, as I was nervous about the marbled sponge I used your vanilla sheet cake sponge recipe and it turned out well. I used a gel coloring in the frosting and it was such a bright pink but very fun and looked fab with loads of sprinkles!

  2. This sounds so yummy! Will using 6 inch springform pans work for this? Thanks!

  3. Hi Sally, would marbling work if you used the vanilla cake recipe and the strawberry cake recipe? Looking at this for my daughters first birthday! Thank you!

    1. Hi Ariel, We have actually never tried those two batters together but it should work. Let us know if you try it!

  4. Hello your cakes look so tasty and Inspiring, thank you so much for the inspo!
    I only have 20cm spring form baking rounds, will this still work? Or should I order 6 inch rounds?
    I am looking to bake this for my daughters first birthday too which is on 26th November. I’ve already bought the animal figures and sprinkles
    Thanks Sally!

      1. Thanks so much!
        Also what would a substitute be for sour cream?
        Thanks so much !

  5. Hi Sally! Where I live there is no buttermilk and I can’t seem to get it right when I make it home made! Is it possible to use whole milk in this recipe or will it not work at all?

    1. Hi Beatriz, instead of buttermilk, use 1/2 cup (120g) of sour cream and 1/2 cup (120ml) regular milk. (This means you’ll increase the sour cream already called for in the recipe to 1/2 cup.)

  6. Hi there! Making this for my little ones 1st bday. Just wondering if this buttercream would stand up well for rosettes?

      1. Thanks for the response! Actually made it this past weekend with rosettes. Needed a bit more liquid as the frosting gets pretty thick, but it was delicious and beautiful!

    1. Hi Zoe, there’s too much batter here for only two layers, but you could use the extra batter for a few cupcakes. Fill the pans 2/3 full and use the leftovers for cupcakes. Or you can use this handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to scale the recipe for only two layers. Hope this helps!

  7. Good morning Sally!
    I want to bake this cake using two round 5 inch cake pans.
    Will the cake still look nice if it’s only a two layer and how long would I need to bake it in the oven for since I would be going down an inch in cake pan size?
    Will I also have enough batter left over to bake off some cupcakes?
    If so how many do you think I will get out of the remainder of my leftover cake batter and how long would I need to bake them in the oven for?

    1. Hi Jessica! You can absolutely do a 2-layer cake and have leftover batter for a few cupcakes. We’re unsure of the exact bake time for the smaller layers, but it will be a few minutes quicker — keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. For the cupcakes, bake for about 19-22 minutes. Enjoy!

  8. I made this for my niece’s 3rd birthday. It turned out amazingly- super yummy and it looked spectacular. Thank you for the recipe! I highly recommend it.

  9. Hi Sally,
    I’m looking forward to making this for my daughters first birthday! I want to make the 9 inch version, can you tell me the ingredient proportions for the frosting to cover the 9” cake please?

    1. Hi Faith! For the 9 inch Zebra Cake, we’d recommend making 1.5x the strawberry frosting from this strawberry cake. That should give you plenty for your 9 inch, 3 layer cake. Have fun baking and decorating!

  10. I’d say it’s okay as long as it’s not a lot of cake, as with anything else really.

  11. Hello,
    I was just wondering if you think this would work with freeze dried blueberries instead of raspberries? I would like if the cake was blue… or do you think a bit of food colouring would do the trick?

    1. Hi Fiona, freeze dried blueberries should work beautifully! You may still need to add some food coloring, natural blueberries can lean purple instead of blue.

  12. Hello. I love all of your recipes! Any suggestions on how to make this cake without eggs?

    1. Hi Becky, We haven’t tested any egg substitutes in this recipe, but let us know if you do. Hope you love them!

  13. Hi Sally! Thank you so much for another incredible recipe! I made this for my daughter’s first birthday tomorrow and from the samples I had it is delicious! She is going to be so excited to smash and eat it! The freeze dried strawberry make such a difference!

    1. Thank you so much for making our recipe, Melly! We hope your daughter enjoys her first birthday cake 🙂

  14. Hi Sally!! I did a test run of this cake for my little guys 1st birthday smash cake and I loved it!! So delicious!! I’m making it for his birthday but we have rented a house for the weekend and are doing his smash cake on the Saturday. So I have to travel with the cake Friday. I’m thinking the best option is to frost and freeze the whole cake so it will be firm during transfer but am wondering how is the best way to freeze an entire frosted cake? I’m thinking a bakery box won’t cut it?

    1. Hi Nikki! If you can, it would be best to cover the cake with plastic wrap to help prevent the frosting from getting freezer burn / moisture from forming. Keep in mind that however you freeze it, a completely decorated cake will contract and expand during the freezing/thawing process, ruining some of your hard work. Here are more tips on freezing cakes. Hope this helps!

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