Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Checkerboard Cake + Video

How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on

Welcome back to the Monthly Baking Challenge!

We’ve explored lava cake, roll cake, and icebox cake so far in the challenges. Also cupcake decorating and from-scratch pie making. Phew! That’s quite a lot. (Of sugar). So in August, let’s focus on a classic. Just… revamped. Also with sugar.

Pure and simple vanilla cake. Can you really beat 4 layers of fluffy, sweet, and buttery goodness? The answer is yes. Y-e-s, you can. Twist it all up into one seriously mesmerizing checkerboard. So much fun to cut into because the real party is INSIDE the cake!

How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on

side note: Eat Dessert First Fork from Sarah’s shop on Etsy!

Checkerboard cake probably seems a like a huge question mark to most. How? Where? WHYYYYY? Some crazy special cake pan? What is going on?! I’m always majorly impressed when I see them, but had no idea how laughably simple they are to prepare. And I think you’ll be surprised too!

And… another side note. Can I admit to you that I used to have zero cake and cupcake decorating skills? I know I mentioned this back in May, but all of this has come from practice. I’ve never taken a cake decorating class. I’m no where near as talented as some of you, but here’s why I’m telling you all this: if you feel how I did 1 year ago… frustrated, intimidated, and confused by producing beautiful cake creations… then let me encourage you to just TRY. Just start trying. You’ll get there. Just have your family eat the uglies. (I had a lot of uglies.)

There are a few step-by-step pictures I want to show you, but before we get to all that… watch to see how it all comes to life. I’ll also make the cake on Facebook and Insta LIVE tomorrow at 1pm ET!

Not so scary, right? Also… I had my friend Ashlee shoot this video for me. And her video version is obviously so much prettier than my own cake (these pictures). Told you… I’m still learning!

How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on

Let’s get started on the rundown. You’ll make a four layer vanilla cake. The only thing better than the charming geometric design is the cake’s homemade flavor. I love it. It’s similar to my piñata cake recipe, though I opted for 5 whole eggs instead of whole eggs + egg yolks. It makes things easier and I sort of can’t really tell difference. No offense 2015 Sally.

You’ll need at least two colors of cake to make the checkerboard design. So, divide the batter in half. The batter is about 8 cups total, so 4 cups will be 1 color and 4 cups will be another color. My colors were a pretty aqua shade (the teal color in this kit) and funfetti. Funfetti is a color, right? You can use any two colors you like or only tint half of the cake a color. Like pink + plain batter OR purple + green batter OR funfetti + blue (like I did). Honestly, whatever you want. Perfect for showers, weddings, themed parties, team colors, etc. Heck, you could make a new checkerboard cake every week. I’m sure your skinny jeans would love it.

The frosting is homemade as well. Sweet, silky, buttery, and easy to work with.

Once you have your 4 cake layers baked and the frosting prepared, assemble the cake. This is the fun part and the video above is a wonderful visual to walk you through.

How to make checkerboard cake on

How to make checkerboard cake on

Ew, Math

You’ll need a 6 inch cookie cutter and a 3 inch cookie cutter. These sizes are perfect for 9 inch cakes because it wouldn’t make any sense to have, say, a 5 inch cookie cutter and a 2 inch cookie cutter. The checkerboard squares wouldn’t be even all throughout the cake. 3 + 6 ensures the squares are 1.5 inches each. (See photo above.) Alternatively, you could make 6 inch cakes and use 4 + 2 inch cookie cutters. However, this homemade batter wouldn’t fit into smaller pans. So 9 + 6 +3 is best using this batter and frosting.

Does that all make sense?

Now you have to just put the puzzle together. You will have 4 3-inch circles, 4 6-inch circles (well, the outlines since the centers are missing), and 4 9-inch circles (which, again, are just a thin outline of cake since the centers are missing). Place the 6 and 3 inch cakes inside the 9 inch cakes, alternating colors. Layer it up with frosting then frost all around the sides.

How to make checkerboard cake on

Cutting into the cake reveals the completely unexpected, yet whimsical and seriously impressive design. It’s absolutely gorgeous. A showstopper, indeed.

Look at you! You just created a cake masterpiece. If I can do this, so can you.

How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on

If you’re not into today’s recipe, here is the alternate August Baking Challenge:

After you made the baking challenge recipe or alternative, share your photos throughout this month using #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or email me, tweet me, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page. And tune in tomorrow, August 2nd, to my Facebook LIVE (on my FB page) or Instagram LIVE at 1pm ET where I’ll walk you through the whole recipe start to finish! See you soon.

Checkerboard Cake


  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 1/3 cup (50g) rainbow sprinkles (plus more for garnish)
  • 2-3 drops teal food coloring (or any color)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (3 and 1/2 sticks; 400g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 7 cups (840g) confectioners' sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour four 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt 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 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 and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.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. There will be 8 cups of batter total-- transfer half of it to another bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup sprinkles into half and the food coloring into the other half. Pour/spread batter evenly into prepared cake pans.
  5. Bake for around 23-24 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.
  6. Use the video above for a visual of this step. Using a 6-inch round cookie cutter (it's large!), 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 4 3-inch circles, 4 6-inch circles (the outlines), and 4 9-inch circles (which are just a thin outline of cake since the centers are missing).
  7. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin, more cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is way too sweet.
  8. Assemble the cake: Again, use the video above for a visual of this step. Place one blue 9-inch outline of cake onto a serving plate or cake stand. Fill with a funfetti 6-inch circle, then a blue circle. Spread frosting evenly on top. Repeat with next layer: 9-inch funfetti filled with 6-inch blue then 3-inch funfetti. 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 with extra sprinkles, if desired.
  9. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing and serving. The time in the refrigerator ensures a neater cut.
  10. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. It tastes much better fresh though!

Recipe Notes:

*Sift flour before measuring.

*If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

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.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.


Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | 9-inch Round Cake Pans | 3-inch Round Cutter | 6-inch Round Cutter | Icing Spatula
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.
How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on
How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on


  1. Hi Sally!
    Been following you for a while and haven’t made anything yet but I finally think I’m going to brave it and give this one a try!! I’ve just recently moved to a high altitude (5,000 feet) and am learning to adjust my recipes. Do you have any suggestions for how to alter this recipe for baking up here? 

  2. Thank you for your quick reply. I’m sorry the seller doesn’t carry it anymore, it is really darling!

  3. Just curious – when finished, about how tall is the cake? I want to make it for a party but am worried about my cake carrier not being tall enough!

    • I’m unsure– I’ve never measured it before. But I’d say each layer is a little over an inch. Plus the frosting in the middle, too.

  4. Hi Sally I’ve only got 8″ tins, would it still work or would there be too much mixture? 

    • Too much batter– and, in order to get even squares in the checkerboard cake, you need 3 + 6 + 9 inch cut-outs. OR 2 + 4 + 6 inch. But this batter wouldn’t fit into 6 inch pans, so that’s why 9-inch is best.

      • Thank you Sally – looks like I need to go shopping (unless I’m lucky enough to win the competition ) 

  5. Made this cake and posted it on Instagram with the #sallysbakingchallenge hashtag and tagged you! The cake was so moist and so flavorful. This will definitely be a repeat in my household! I also loved the frosting recipe. It calls for more butter than the recipe I typically use, but it turned out fantastic. I chose a funfetti and baby pink checkerboard with piped pink rosettes on top for fun. Oh, cant forget the sprinkles! Thanks for all of your tips and tricks to make this fun cake easy!

  6. I made this for my niece’s 3rd birthday and it was GREAT!! Sally’s step by step instructions and pictures were so helpful. I didn’t have 3 or 6″ cookie cutters so I just cut out that size in parchment paper. I stacked the 4 cakes up and cut around the parchment paper to try to get them as even as possible. They were definitely not perfect, but I made it work just fine. One of the outer circles was too big so I just sliced it and made it smaller – it held up just fine in the cake. I colored 1/2 the batter pink and the other layer I did funfetti with sprinkles. I froze the layers after baking them to allow easier cutting of the round shapes and I always find that easier when frosting layered cakes. I refrigerated the cake after frosting to get all the layers to set together. This definitely helped ensure clean slices when cutting. This was a huge hit and so fun! Everyone was amazed and thinks it’s way more complicated than it is. Truly easy and very tasty! Would definitely make this again and try different colors. Thanks Sally for such a fun challenge and great recipes!

    • Great tip to use parchment paper as a guide for the circles if yo don’t have the proper size cookie cutters! So happy it was a hit for your niece’s birthday!

  7. Hi Sally!
    I made this cake for my mom’s birthday this week.  I did plain & purple for the 2 colors & I had the cakes in the freezer for a while before cutting the rounds.  It turned out SO well!! And not at all difficult!! I added cinnamon to the frosting & it was delicious! The cake itself was super soft & moist & very yummy!!! Thanks so much Sally!! You always teach me so much about baking! Have a wonderful weekend!!

    • I’m so glad you tried it!! Cinnamon frosting sounds unbelievable and a nice switch up from traditional vanilla buttercream on cakes like this. Thank you for reporting back to me about it! xoxo

  8. Today’s the day i’m trying it!  I’ll post it if it comes out right.

  9. Hi Sally- I will be baking this cake today and have a question regarding buttermilk.  Does it matter if I use whole buttermilk or low fat buttermilk (not non-fat!)?  I bought low fat buttermilk but after rereading your recipe, I’m not sure if I should go back to the store to buy whole buttermilk.  Thanks, Carol

  10. Hi sally- would it be okay to substitute cake flour for the all-purpose flour in the recipe?

  11. Does the recipe make two cakes which you cut in half or do you have to make two batches to get four layers. Sorry just a little confused ‍♀️.

  12. I made your checkerboard bake with chocolate and vanilla for my son’s birthday during Labor Day weekend.  I used your chocolate recipe from your Triple Chocolate Layer Cake and the vanilla from this post. SUPER FAB! Your recipes never let me down!!! That vanilla cake recipe is the best one of all your vanilla recipes. YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY! Thank you for being so generous and sharing your recipes!

    • What a wonderful birthday cake! I’m so glad it was a hit and thank you so much for reporting back to me about it!

    • Elsie! Great idea to make the chocolate and vanilla – I’m trying to do that too! I made half of this recipe that I split between two 9 inch cake pans and the full triple chocolate layer cake (split between two pans), but the chocolate are much taller than the vanilla from this recipe. What proportions did you use? I’m tempted to make the full vanilla recipe over again so the layers are a big bigger. Right now, I have to remake one of them since the layers will be very uneven if I don’t. Any suggestions you have here would be great!

  13. Hi Sally,

    I am making this for a party later in the week and already baked the cake layers and put them in the freezer. Should I defrost them in the fridge overnight before the day I plan to assemble it? Or can I assemble directly from the freezer?


  14. Hi Sally, I understand that the batter is too much for smaller pans. Is it a problem to adapt the quantities? So in this case when I want to use 7 inch pan, all the ingrediënts x 0,65?? 

  15. Hi, Sally!

    How would you recommend baking the 4 cakes? All 4 at the same time and rotate once during cooking? Or 2 at a time?


  16. Hi There – I just made half of this recipe (with sprinkles for funfetti) and the Triple Chocolate Layer cake recipe for the other two layers only . . . the chocolate layers are much bigger than the funfetti layers (which are quite small). I think I’ll remake the funfetti layers – but 3/4 of the original recipe instead of half. Do you think that will do the trick or should I try a different recipe (like the New Favorite Layer?). I could just cut down the chocolate layers but I always vote for more cake 🙂

    Thank you! I love your recipes!

  17. Can half of this batter be made chocolate instead of colored?

  18. Hi Sally. I’m planning to bake this cake for my son’s birthday. I imagine his face when he sees the inside of this cake;))) I wonder if you know how many cups of dough are in each pan? Because I don’t have kitchen scales. Thank you 

  19. Hi Sally can i use chocolate ganache to cover this cake?

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