Checkerboard Fun

Double-layer, 8″ round Checkerboard Cake with Vanilla/Almond Buttercream

Cakes from the Test Kitchen sometimes turn out a bit “iffy.”  I was really happy with the results of today’s effort.  Let me walk you through the Checkerboard Cake.

I wanted to bake something and I was feeling a bit uninspired.  But, on yesterday’s walk, I was paying close attention to the cobblestones of my neighborhood – they come in different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Often, I see quilt patterns in the stones – instead, this time I saw a checkerboard cake.  It’s quite a common production; it has even been used in advertising (I’ve got this image pinned on my Retro Baking Advertising Board on Pinterest). 

Instead of baking a vanilla cake (which is totally delicious), I went with the White Cake and its lovely almond flavor.  Fall colors seemed like a natural choice – though it does look more Easter than Fall, but whatever.

I didn’t evenly divide the batter, so there was green leftover with which to bake a few cupcakes.  What’s not to love about that?

Ensuring each level is the same height is critical.  The green layer was just a fraction taller than the orange.  I used a cake leveler to make it as exact as possible.  I learned that was an unnecessary step and it would have been fine to leave it (and the crumbs) in place. #testkitchen

My high-tech kitchen measuring devices were my sewing tape measure, an IKEA bowl, and the lid from the Baker’s Joy non-stick spray.  I had a hunch this step would be critical in getting all the pieces and parts to line up evenly (it paid off later!).

I measured the outer rings to be about 1 3/8″ wide; the center is double that.
Hot tip: Use a serrated knife when cutting cake.
Simply be sure each ring is completely separated,
this will prevent the cake from breaking when switching the rings around.

So far, so good.  I don’t always use a cake board for a test-kitchen cake, but
I knew we would be taking this little charm out when meeting friends for dinner. 

And just like any other layer cake, I filled and stacked the layers and spun a decent crumb coat on.  It sat in the cake fridge for about an hour – enough time to tidy the kitchen, read my FB newsfeed, and post a quick pic to instagram.

Adding the Buttercup/Lemon Buttercream to the top of the crumb-coated cake. 
This layer was a bit darker than the filled layer – I was hoping it would look more Autumn.

The smooth top of the cake – I wasn’t worried about the smoothness of the sides.
First attempt at this technique.  I didn’t like it at all – the dots were too close together
and it appeared “crowded.”  I smoothed it over and started again, paying close attention
to spacing.  I also went down in size for the piping tip.  I used a Wilton 2A tip.

The cake decoration is a re-visit from the Polka-Dot Cake I frosted last Spring.  This technique is all about the right consistency of buttercream.  I didn’t have that today, but I’ll be working on this more often – I really do love the design.

I love it when I’m baking a first-time cake and things go together nicely.  Of course, it’s hard to know if things are going smoothly until that first slice is cut. 

…the spacing was better.
Again, the consistency needs to be more smooth; I’m working on it.
Hot tip on the cupcake buttercream – due to the color of this medium yellow, I opted for the
Wilton 1M Open Star tip instead of the Wilton 2A Open Round tip for the same reasons
I don’t use a round tip with chocolate or peanut butter frosting. 
It can look too poopy.  “Who sat on my cupcake?!”

After taking a look at this cake and other examples on line, most checkerboard cakes are triple or quadruple layers.  This makes a lot of sense to me, but I still like this double-layer first attempt.  Next time, I’ll add more layers and see what happens.

“Quick!  Get a picture of this!”
I knew the careful measuring would be rewarded.
Ok, maybe the lighting isn’t perfect…it’s the test kitchen after all.

I can’t wait to bake this cake again!  The color combinations are endless as well as the flavor profile… Red Velvet Cake and White Cake?  Dark Chocolate Cake and White Chocolate Cake? 

Cakes can be surprising.  Just as sobriety can be surprising.  And relationships, too.  I’m surprised to be sober today.  My life partner surprises me every day – his goodness isn’t surprising, but he does make me laugh.


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