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

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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!

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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

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

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.

Recipe Notes:

  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

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Tag @sallysbakeblog on Instagram and hashtag it #sallysbakingaddiction.

Un-watermarked photos by Megan Brodie Photography

143 Comments

  1. So adorable (your baby and the desserts!)!! Love the make-ahead tips, too! Congratulations on Noelle’s 1st birthday! 🙂

  2. Oh my gosh, I love the mini cake. It is perfect and looks amazing.
    I have a baking question that perhaps you can make a suggestion about. I would love to make a version of this cake but I want to sub out a pumpkin batter for the chocolate. I am thinking if I add 1/4-1/2 cup of pumpkin, some pumpkin pie spice , perhaps some additional flour and no additional buttermilk, it might work. What do you think? I love the two tone effect but the person I would be making it for adores pumpkin. The icing would be a brown butter cream cheese. Any advice would be sincerely appreciated.

    1. Hey Nancy! A pumpkin/vanilla zebra cake sounds SO SO SO much fun! Instead of the chocolate batter ingredients, I would add 1/3 cup pumpkin and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. No additional sugar or milk. Please let me know how it turns out because I want to try something like it sometime.

  3. 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!

  4. Wow Sally, the love for your little girl just radiates from the amount of time you put into all the preparation for her first birthday!
    I’m afraid I don’t get anywhere close to that for our children’s first birthdays…

  5. Beautifully done!!! You had so many yummy desserts and carefully planned too. Thank you for the timeline. Noelle loved her zebra cake!! She was so cute in her hat and highchair!!!

  6. 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.

  7. Happy 1st Birthday Noelle! She is precious and that cake looks amazing! I know it tasted fantastic! I know I am in for a treat when I make one of your recipes! Your blog (and cookbooks) are the best!

  8. What a lucky little birthday girl to have such a talented mommy to bake her those scrumptious treats! Noelle is beautiful, I cant believe she is a year old already!

  9. Noelle is so cute! Hard to believe a year has passed.
    My birthday is next month; I am going to make this.
    It’s the perfect size, and I love that frosting.

  10. I see a lot of you in that sweet baby’s face, Sally! She is precious and the party cake and decorations are adorable!

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. What a beautiful beautiful celebration!

    Now I am inspired to get a set of 6 inch cake pans. I have a set of 7 inch pans but I suspect those will not work.

    Wondering how many other lovely cake recipes can be “scaled down” to this lovely size from the standard 9 inch pans? For an intimate gathering, something like this would be ideal.

    (Would love to make a “mini” Hummingbird Cake actually.)

    Happy Birthday!

      1. Thank you Sally. I’ll do the math on the standard “two layer” recipe I have and see if I can turn increase it by a third, and then half it. 🙂

  13. Happy belated birthday Noelle! Sally, this birthday set up is adorable! You did an incredible job 🙂 she looks so cute in her little birthday hat; look at those bright eyes!
    Also thank you so much for sharing the timeline of preparing birthday desserts. I’ll need it in 3 months!
    I hope you enjoyed Noelle’s big day. It looks so special.

  14. Wow! Your little lady just keeps getting cuter. Congratulations, to the three of you, for making it through YEAR ONE!!! I know it can be a lot of work, but a lot of reward comes with it. It looks like you’re doing a wonderful job with your bundle of joy…and her cakes. Looks delicious!

  15. 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!

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