A checkerboard cake is impressive and tasty. Try your hand at making one with a few simple steps using concentric cake rings.
A Super Bowl party dessert. That's what I wanted to make.
I read a lot of food blogs, and their Pinterest-perfect presentations often inspire and challenge me. I often try (and sometimes fail) at replicating their recipes, but there's always another recipe to attempt.
One such recipe was for a checkerboard cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I was intrigued as to how it was made, and when I saw that the steps looked easy enough, decided to give it a go.
A checkerboard cake is a great way to show you're a fan of a sports team, a school, a house in Harry Potter (my favorite is Ravenclaw)...anything that has official colors.
My daughter & future son-in-law were hosting a party for the 2018 Super Bowl. Why not try red & blue checkerboard cake for the Patriots?
(Regarding the Super Bowl, I live in Boston...don’t ask & don’t gloat!).
What is a checkerboard cake?
A checkerboard cake is a cake layered with alternating colors, each layer formed as a bull's-eye of those alternating colors.
The trick is to make the concentric rings of equal widths from the layers.
When they're stacked, the checkerboard will come out looking even (more or less, depending on how tall the cake layers rise).
Make the cake batter from scratch...carefully
Using Sally’s recipe for the from-scratch cake, I ran into a couple of relatively small problems (all my fault).
I added an extra ½ stick of butter to the cake (I confused the amount for the cake vs. the frosting). This mistake had the effect of making the cake batter have a curdled look to it.
I noticed it at the time, but didn’t understand why it had happened. A quick internet search later said I could have just added a bit more flour.
The result was baked layers that were a little oilier with a wider crumb (i.e. the pattern of holes in a baked product). You can see the wider holes in the cake layers in the picture below.
Also, the batter color became more yellow than white from the extra butter, so when I added the food coloring to the separate bowls, I got a sort of rose and teal instead of the red and blue I was shooting for.
Assembling the layers
For a standard 9-inch cake, cut a 6-inch and 3-inch circle, either by tracing a pattern cut from parchment paper or using cookie cutters. I chose the latter.
Next, you carefully separate the cake circles and put the middle ring from one color inside the outermost ring of the other color with center circle matching the outer ring.
When you stack the layers (again, alternating the colors), the checkerboard effect will show when you slice into the cake.
Eliminate the droopy layers
Updated 2/2019: I discovered Bake-Even Strips that insulate the cake pans as the batter bakes, and keeps the cake layers even without needing to trim off the tops.
You don't have layers with drooping sides when they're stacked. Check out my Black & White Cookie Cake to see them in action.
Checkerboard cake wins dessert!
All in all, a checkerboard cake still is impressive, tasty, and well worth the effort it took to create. I encourage you all to give it a try, perhaps pink and white layers for Valentine’s Day?
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a little bit of that vanilla buttercream frosting left, and I have a spoon handy…
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for cakes & cupcakes
When you pair cake and frosting, the result are magical. Try these fun ideas for cake!
Recipes for frosting
There are so many ways to frost a cake. Buttercreams, both standard and Italian Meringue, a truly delicious fondant, icings, and even whipped ganache will take your cakes from good to yummm...
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1¾ cups buttermilk, at room temperature, see Recipe Notes
- 2 to 3 drops food coloring, 2 different colors (e.g. red & blue)
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 1¾ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 7 cups powdered sugar
- 6 Tbsp heavy cream or milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- For the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
- With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, then ½ of the buttermilk. Repeat and mix each addition until they're just incorporated (try not to overmix). The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
- Transfer half of the batter to another bowl. Stir in the food coloring, one color in each bowl. Pour and spread the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans, one color in 2 pans.
- Bake for around 24 to 25 minutes or until the cakes a cake tester poked in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
- If you didn't use the Bake-Even strips, trim the cake tops to level them. Using a 6-inch round cookie cutter, cut a circle into each cooled cake. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut a circle out of the 6-inch circle. You will have four 3-inch circles, four 6-inch circles (the outlines), and four 9-inch circles (which are just a thin outline of cake since the centers are missing).
- For the frosting: In a large bowl using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin, more cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is too sweet.
- Assemble the cake: Place one blue 9-inch outline of cake onto a serving plate or cake stand. Fill with a red 6-inch circle, then a blue circle for the first layer. Spread frosting evenly on top.
- Repeat with next layer: 9-inch red filled with 6-inch blue then 3-inch red. Spread frosting evenly on top. Repeat next 2 layers. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate top and sides of cake as desired.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing and serving. The time in the refrigerator ensures a neater slice.
- Serve and enjoy the amazement of your family and friends!
- Use milk mixed with 1½ teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice.
- Use equal parts water and sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt).
- Use 3½ tablespoons sweet cream buttermilk powder (sifted into the flour mixture) and 1¾ cups water (alternate with the flour mixture after mixing the wet ingredients).