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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. So beautiful, Sally! The birthday cake and the entire spread looks simply perfect!!

  2. What a beautifil display for such a beautiful little girl! Enjoy every moment! Thanks for sharing her with us!

  3. Absolutely adorable! Precious Noelle is so lucky to have such a creative and loving Mom! Happy 1st Birthday Miss Noelle!

  4. What a beautiful cake, desserts and decorations! Noelle is lucky to have such a talented baker for a mom!

  5. This is so perfect! I am definitely doing to make it for my twin daughters’ 2nd birthday at the end of the month! If instead of the 3 six inch pans, I used 2 nine inch pans, would the frosting in this recipe be enough for the entire cake and the inside layer? Thanks Sally, I’m looking forward to my girls delight in all the pink frosting!

  6. Such a sweet birthday girl! I love the cake with the animals. And all the yummy desserts!

  7. Happy Birthday to Noelle! I used your chocolate and vanilla sheet cakes to layer and to carve out a giant #1 for my daughter’s first birthday a few years ago. I’m an infrequent cake decorator and it was a full day cake marathon labor of love. Seeing you celebrate a first birthday of your own makes me smile and bring back great memories.

  8. Happy birthday to Noelle and congrats to you!! It’s not until you have kids of your own that you realize you should have been celebrating your mom on your birthday all these years! She did all the hard work that day! 🙂

  9. Do you think this recipe could be made into cupcakes? If so, would I need to change any of the ratios? Looks so yummy!

    1. Hi Nicole! You can certainly make cupcakes from this zebra cake batter. No need to change the recipe at all.

  10. Hi Sally! Oh gosh, I can’t believe Noelle is one! My daughter turns one next month, and I am planning to make your strawberry cake in a 6 inch size, then also do a layered sheet cake. Still trying to decide on the type of frosting – maybe not strawberry for more visual interest? We try not to over-emphasize “girlie” stuff for her, so I like the idea of the animals on top since the cake will be pink. No idea how I’m going to pull all of this off (I also work like 80 million hours/week outside the home), but I’m excited to try!

  11. 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!!

  12. 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?

    1. Hi Peter! You can make my regular zebra cake and divide between 3 8-inch cake pans. The bake time will be a little longer since the cakes are thicker.

  13. 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?


    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.

  14. 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?

    1. Hi Megan! This isn’t enough batter for a 9×13-inch cake pan. I recommend the original Zebra Cake recipe:

      Bake time will be around 40 minutes at 350F. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  15. 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?


    1. Thanks Taylor! I recommend using my zebra cake recipe (which is practically double this cake) and using for cupcakes. Cupcakes should take about 20-22 minutes.

  16. Hi,
    I am making a birthday cake for my friends daughter. She has asked for a chocolate cake with pink buttercream. Could I use this recipe but make the whole thing chocolate? I find chocolate cake a difficult thing. They can be either too chocolatey for a child or sometimes too bland and a bit dry. I haven’t found a go to chocolate cake recipe.
    Thank you

  17. Hi! If I wanted 2 layers, but still not a huge cake, could I use this recipe and a 9” or 8” pan and just bake for slightly longer?

    Thank you!

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe in those pan sizes but it would probably work as 2 8-inch layers. Let me know if you try it!

      1. Thank you so much for the advice, Sally! I made the cakes in two 8” pans like you suggested and baked them last night – they layers look great! Bake time was approx. 22 mins I would say.
        Going to frost and decorate them tomorrow so it;s fresh for the celebration tomorrow night.
        Thank you again!

  18. Hi! I’m doing the same exact theme for my daughter’s 1st birthday party! So happy I saw your blog.

    I only have 9 inch pans at home so I’m going to try your zebra cake. I want to use strawberry frosting though. Can you tell me how much more should I use, to frost a 3 layer, 9 inch cake?

    Thank you!!!!


  19. Hi Sally! Could i use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour? Also, any idea if the recipe will be enough for a two layer 7-inch cake? I only have 7 inch cake tins at home.

    1. Hi Belinda! You can use this recipe for a 2 layer 7 inch cake. Cake flour should be fine.

  20. Hi Sally! If I wanted to do a single layer six-inch smash cake, how would you recommend I split the recipe? In thirds? Not sure how I could split the egg in thirds? Thanks!

    1. Hi Marcee! Yes, I would cut the recipe into thirds. For the egg, crack the egg, beat it together, then use about 1.5 Tablespoons of it.

  21. Hi Sally,

    I baked this cake and it taste like flour to me..its the first time I bake a cake from scratch. I used two 6×2 pans. baked at the required temperature just a little longer to compensate for the amount of batter poured. I weighed out my dry ingredients so I don’t know where I went wrong…any advice?


    1. Hi Lori, I highly recommend dividing this batter into three pans as written. It’s too much batter for only two pans and when there is too much batter in the pan it will not bake properly. As a general rule never fill your pans more than 2/3 full (or less if the recipe calls for only filling cake pans 1/2 full). I hope you get a chance to try it again and that you enjoy it!

  22. The first birthday cake should always be special I have tried this for my little munchkin. Sally you are just amazing and do justice with all sort of baking. Also, the detail is quite helpful.

  23. Hi Sally! Congratulations to Noelle first birthday! Your safari theme looks amazing! I would like to make the cupcakes and the cookies for unicorn theme first baby girl birthday! Could you please share the cupcake recipient and the frosting ! Thank you so much!

  24. I love this, especially the icing! I’ve made raspberry buttercream before but never thought to use freeze dried fruit. Excellent idea and came out fantastic!

  25. Hi! I made this cake with many alterations. Ha! You see, I live in South Korea, and in Korean’s cullinary history, baking was not a thing as they didn’t have ovens here. Many modern apartments come with ovens but so many Koreans don’t use them as they traditionally never had home-made baked goods growing up. Anyway, when I married my husband I told him we needed to have an oven as that was what I was used to cooking with. I think our oven may be malfunctioning a bit. It can be used as a steamer, oven, microwave, etc. It’s sort of a “catch-all” baking appliance. Lately we have noticed that the microwave function will sporadically not heat the food. It comes out exactly as it went in. So when I made this cake in my rectangular cake pan, it came out still wobbly, as in the center was liquified. I then preheated the oven and baked it another 15 minutes and my toothpick came out clean. The cake is very dense, tough, so I wonder if that might have anything to do with having to bake it twice. Or perhaps I over-mixed that batter? I’m not sure what happened.
    Pies are usually my favorite to bake, so I’m not too experienced with cakes. I will definitely be checking out the rest of your blog!

  26. This blog was an inspiration for my one year old birthday party dessert idea!! Loved it and all recipes, cupcakes, sugar cake and vanilla cake, turned out perfect!! Thank you!!

  27. Hey Sally! I love your recipes I’ve used them for so many different events! I am wondering if instead of freeze dried strawberries I could use fresh?

    1. Hi Madelynn! I don’t recommend making frosting with fresh strawberries as the texture will suffer with the added wet ingredient. Stick with the freeze-dried powder.

  28. Hi! Can I make this recipe in 2, 6-inch pans instead of 3, 6-inch pans? Would I need to switch the amount of buttercream? Thanks

  29. Hi Sally! Thanks for always giving us the best recipes. My kids and us adults love them! I’m going to attempt this one for my last baby (insert crying face here), first birthday in two days. But can’t find fried freeze strawbs anywhere!!!! Could I add some fresh ones? If not, good colouring? Don’t really want to add food colouring and may just do a white icing but pink looks perfect! Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Vanessa! I don’t recommend fresh strawberries– they always curdle the frosting and don’t provide enough flavor. Replace the freeze-dried strawberry powder with confectioners’ sugar. You can keep it white or add a little food coloring if desired.

  30. Hi Sally, I was wanting to do just the vanilla cake recipe for my son’s first birthday in June. If I only use the vanilla portion of the recipe, do I still use 3 pans to bake it with?

    1. Hi Danya, yes, if you skip the chocolate swirl, you will still need 3 6-inch cake pans. The bake time is the same.

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