Checkerboard Cake

This weekend, a friend of mine asked me to make a cake for a bachelorette party she was hosting. So, in addition to some very fun Jello shots, I designed a cake for her friend. All I really knew about the bride and wedding was the wedding colors, so I decided to incorporate them in to the cake. And this lent itself perfectly to a checkerboard cake!

For the cake:

First, assemble your ingredients.

You are going to need:

  • Your favorite vanilla cake recipe (white cake works better than yellow because of the food dye)
  • Bowls and spoons for mixing each color (I did this using 2 colors, but you can use up to 4.)
  • Food coloring (I use these because the gel food coloring provides a more vibrant color without thinning out the batter.)
  • Knives for measuring out food coloring
  • 8- or 9-inch cake pans (You will need 2 pans if using 2 or 4 colors. If using 3 colors, use 3 pans.)
  • Cooking spray (for baking, I am a big fan of PAM’s Baking spray)

Begin by dividing your batter evenly. (Again, this post makes a 4-layer cake with 2 colors. Adjust accordingly if using 3-colors to make a 3-layer cake. If making a 4-color cake, follow the procedure below for a 4-layer cake.)

Using the gel food dye, add a pea-sized amount of dye to each bowl.  (I use chopsticks or butter knives for measuring out the food coloring because spoons are too big to fit in the pots.) Mix each of the colors together.

Spray your cake pans with cooking spray. Beginning with one color, divide your batter evenly among the two pans. Set the other color batter aside. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean.

When done, remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for approximately 5 min or when until they are cool enough to handle. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Let your pans cool to room temperature and repeat with the other color. Remove last two layers to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

To assemble:

First, assemble your ingredients.

You are going to need:

  • Your cooled cake layers, chilled for an additional 15 minutes in the freezer to make carving them easier
  • Your favorite vanilla icing recipe, doubled, at room temperature (If you’re buying pre-made frosting, 3 tubs should be enough. I always prefer to overestimate on icing than not have enough.)
  • Icing spatula or knife
  • 10-inch cake board or plate
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Skewer or toothpick
  • Various sized round bowls/cutting guides (not shown)

Begin by selecting various sized bowls or other round stencils to cut out your cake rings. You can use either 3 or 4 rings. (I chose 4 because of the sized stencils I used. You should choose according to what you have available. Your rings should be mostly even.)

Starting with one layer of the cake, cut out the largest ring. (If your cake layers are not level, begin by carving off the top of the cake to level the layers, then begin cutting out the cake rings.) The easiest way to do this is to place your bowl/stencil on the cake and trace with a toothpick or skewer. Remove the bowl/stencil and cut out the center of the cake.

Cut out the remaining rings.

Repeat with the remaining layers of cake.

Reassemble the cake layers by swapping every other ring, alternating colors. (If cutting three rings, swap the middle ring between the layers.)

Repeat with the remaining layers of cake.

To assemble the cake, place a small amount of icing on a cake board or plate. Place the first cake layer on the cake board in the center, top-side up.

Add a thin layer of icing to the top of the first layer.

Next, place the other colored layer on top of the first layer, and add a thin layer of icing to the top of the second layer.

Repeat with the remaining two layers of cake, adding a thin layer of icing in between the layers. Add a thin crumb coat to the top and sides of the cake. The crumb coat is a very thin layer of icing that will “glue” any crumbs down. Start by spreading a thin layer of icing onto the cake. The icing layer should be very thin, so don’t worry that you see the cake and crumbs. Let the crumb coat dry for approximately 15 minutes by chilling in the refrigerator.

Once the cake has chilled, ice as normal. The crumb coat will hold in all of the loose crumbs. Smooth the cake by leveling the icing with the edge of your spatula.

You can choose to serve your cake completely white, with the surprise checkerboard inside, or you can decorate it as you choose. I piped a border around the bottom of the cake using a star tip and added a message using a gel writer.

Enjoy!! 😀

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below! And thanks for reading! 🙂

PS. Wilton does make a checkerboard cake set, but I am not a fan of buying a tool that can only be used for one purpose. Also, the set has mixed reviews about the batter colors spreading in to each other. I prefer to carve the ring colors to make sure they are even and defined!


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