1st Birthday Cake

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!

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

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 (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


  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.


  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. Milk: If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  4. 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.
  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 | 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

Un-watermarked photos by Megan Brodie Photography


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. I love all your decor! What did you wear out of curiosity and what was the main food you served?

    1. Thanks Iram! We spent a lot of time on dessert and setting up that we ordered out regular food like meatballs, salad, crab dip, and different appetizers. 🙂

  2. Omg. I wish I was I invited! The cupcakes and the cake is super pretty.
    The picture of Noelle is SO cute! Happy birthday to Noelle

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

  4. Thank you for sharing such an adorable photo of your little daughter, as well as her cake and all the goodies. Looked like an incredible party!

  5. You are speaking my language with the make-ahead schedule. When I plan a more formal birthday party or a shower, I have a list just like that in my planner to decide what day to do what… that way I don’t end up trying to do everything the week/weekend of! I have learned from my mistakes and from having guests arriving while I’m still not dressed and have the sink piled high with dirty dishes (which wound up piled up on a tray on top of my dryer for the duration of the shower… yeesh).

  6. Um, yum! Can I come to your parties?? I’m making your strawberry frosting tomorrow and pairing it with your vanilla cake recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. SWEET!! Thanks for sharing! All the goodies look great. However, the cutest pic of all was that cute little girlie at the end. She is a doll!

  8. Love the theme! The cake goes perfectly!! Thanks for sharing your prep ahead like you did in this post! I like to bake on the side and I always have to start prepping several days or a few weeks in advanced to get an order complete with the time I have. I get worried about the best way to prep them early and keep them tasting best, so I like to see what you do!

  9. I love the whole party!! Happy birthday to the sweet momma as well. I love that you scaled the cake down. That’s actually better for all of us with small households. Those gigantic 9″ layer cakes are just way, way too much for us. All the treats look so pretty.

  10. Sally – I LOVE this cake. Everything is so over the top these day it seems – but this cake is simple and sweet and still shows an adorable theme without being too much. Perfection! Looks delicious, too!

  11. Love how this cake is marbled. Very clever! How could I make it in 8 inch pans ? Is there enough batter for 2 8 inch pans?

  12. This cake and party is ridiculous cute, Sally! I love the animal/safari theme & how cute that Noelle finally got her first taste of cake. Of course she won’t remember it, but you will! And she’ll get to look back on these pictures in a few years and laugh. My mom captured pictures of my first birthday party – it was a winnie-the-pooh theme and I had a vanilla cake with yellow icing. I don’t remember any of it, but oh how I appreciate the photos 🙂 happy 1st to your daughter and may the rest to come be even more special!

  13. Congratulations on Noelle’s first birthday! She looks like her momma.Love all your recipes. My children grandchildren love them too!

  14. Sally,
    Super Happy 1st Birthday to Noelle. The cake looks AMAZING and thank you for sharing her picture. She looks so much like you Precious.

  15. I have been waiting all week for this post!! her cake and other desserts are all amazing! those chocolate cupcakes with that swirl frosting look so good! Noelle is simply adorable! Congrats once again!!!

  16. Happy birthday, Noelle.
    The cake looks delicious AND it features my 2 favorite animals. I would love this cake for MY birthday!

  17. Coincidence, I used that same frosting from your strawberry cupcake recipe for my daughter’s first birthday cake almost 3 years ago! It was a hit. I am not a huge fan of strawberry flavored things myself (I know I’m weird) but since it was so natural tasting and not too sweet I did really like your recipe with freeze dried strawberries. My sisters wanted to eat it like pudding (:

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally