1st Birthday Cake

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

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I’ve made hundreds of cakes, but you’re looking at the most special. My daughter’s 1st birthday was the other week and today I’m sharing the 1st birthday cake I created for her big day.

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Noelle’s 1st birthday party had a loose theme of pink + safari animals, just how her nursery is decorated. 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 version. It’s filled with vanilla buttercream and the outside is frosted 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 the craft store Michaels. 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.

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Strawberry frosting with sprinkled for 1st birthday cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pink safari 6-inch 3 layer 1st birthday cake with marble cake and strawberry frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with swirled frosting. 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.

Chocolate and vanilla swirl cupcakes for 1st birthday party on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Chocolate and vanilla swirl cupcakes for 1st birthday party on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Baby girl 1st birthday party dessert table inspiration on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Cake batter chocolate chip cookies for 1st birthday party on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Animal cracker cookies for 1st birthday party on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pumpkin cupcakes for 1st birthday party on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Baby Girl Safari Themed Dessert Table

Here are all the extras to make dessert extra special!

Noelle had her own slice of cake, which ended up mostly on her hands and face. After using both hands to pick up the slice, she pressed it into her face and beamed with excitement. So hilariously cute. Her first taste of dessert. ♥ Birthday hat and highchair banner from Etsy, though I can’t find the listing from the shop anymore.

Happy 1st birthday Noelle sallysbakingaddiction.com

It was the perfect dessert menu for our celebration. This is a wonderful small cake for any and all birthday parties!

6 Inch Zebra Cake with Strawberry Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (215g) sifted all-purpose flour*
  • 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 (14g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

Strawberry & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (10-12g) 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

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the small cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  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 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.

Make ahead tip: 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.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Sift flour before measuring.
  2. If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  3. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  4. 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.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Un-watermarked photos by Megan Brodie Photography

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 6-inch Round Cake Pans | Straight Spatula | Scraper/Chopper | Confetti Sprinkles | “One” Cake Topper | Birthday Plate | Birthday Stats Poster | Safari Napkins | Tropical Leaves Banner | Animal Cupcake Toppers | 2-Tiered Wood Serving Stand | 3-Tiered Wood Serving StandGalvanized Metal Tiered Stand

139 Comments

All Comments

  1. Congratulations Sally to you and Kevin on your daughter’s first birthday!
    What a beautiful post, can see all the love you put into her birthday.
    Thank you for you blog and sharing your baking..
    Kind regards, Beth

  2. I’m planning to make this cake for my daughter’s 1st birthday. I also want to make a 9×13 cake and cut it into the shape of a #1 to serve to the guests. Would the amount of batter for this recipe work for a 9×13? Suggested baking time?

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Reviews

Questions

  1. Hello! I love your blog, and this cake is adorable! My son will be one in November, so he isn’t too far behind your adorable little one. I’d like to make a vanilla smash cake along with vanilla cupcakes for our guests. Is the vanilla cake in this recipe a good stand alone cake (doubled or tripled of course), or do you have a different recipe suggestion?

    1. Hi Kimberly! Are you looking to make a 6-inch cake, like this 1st birthday cake? If so, use the vanilla cake batter listed here. Simply skip the part where you divide it in half and add the chocolate batter ingredients. I hope this makes sense!

      1. Ahhh!! Excuse me while I nerd out a little! I’ve never asked a question on a blog, much less to my favorite blogger. It’s so neat that you replied! Yes, the plan is a 6 inch cake for him. I’d originally intended to make his cake and the cupcakes from the same recipe, but after browsing a bit I think I’m going to make either your very vanilla cupcakes or your simply perfect vanilla cupcakes for everyone else. My husband and the official taste tester/big sister are both excited about the trial run. We all love your recipes. Thank you!!

  2. How much would you increase the recipe for a three-layer 8″ cake? Would doubling be enough and make some cupcakes with the leftover batter?

  3. So adorable! I have a question, if i make both the vanilla and chocolate batters but only make one 6 inch cake, could i use the rest of the batters for cupcakes?

  4. Hi Sally!

    I want to make the original Zebra Cake and was wondering if the Strawberry & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe mentioned here will be enough for 3 regular 9-inch layers? Should I double the recipe?

    Thanks,
    Demi

    1. Hi Demi! It *should* be plenty, but in case you like a lot of frosting I would increase the ratios: 1 and 1/2 cups freeze-dried strawberries, 4 sticks butter (2 cups), 7-8 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1/3 cup heavy cream– and you can keep the vanilla and salt amounts the same or add more of each as desired.

  5. Lol this is such a specific question but I’m gearing up for James’ 1st bday and I’m trying to figure out what container to put the frosted cupcakes in overnight (there’ll be like 3 dozen)-any containers you’d recommend? Or any other ways to store them?

  6. Hi Sally,
    This recipe looks amazing and so cute!!! I was planning on using it for my daughters 1st b-day party this weekend. If I wanted to make ~24 cupcakes instead of a cake, should I just double the recipe? How long should they bake for?

    Thanks,
    Taylor

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