Checkerboard Cake + Video

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

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!

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!

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

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

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.

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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to make checkerboard cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

Print
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slice of checkerboard cake on a white plate with a fork

Checkerboard Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 servings
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Checkerboard cake features homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design. Impress your guests when you reveal the beauty inside this impressive cake!


Ingredients

  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons 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
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 1/3 cup (50g) rainbow sprinkles (plus more for garnish)
  • 23 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

Instructions

  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 attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 5 full minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 whole 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.
  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 25 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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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!
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | 9-inch Round Cake Pans | 3-inch Round Cutter | 6-inch Round Cutter | Icing Spatula
  3. Flour: Sift flour before measuring.
  4. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 3/4 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

130 Comments

  1. What can I use instead of buttermilk? I really want to try this recipe!!

    1. You may have already found this, but in the notes there is a buttermilk substitution. I hope that helps!

  2. the video was so helpful i made it for my family and they thought i bought it from a bakery proudest day of my life

  3. I want to make this with 2 of the layers being chocolate. What should I add instead of food coloring to make it that way?

  4. This cake was fun! I used purple and orange colors for the cakes to match sprinkles for a Halloween cake. I also applied what I learned from her recipe to a square Minecraft cake this year for my daughter’s birthday!

  5. I am preparing to try this recipe for the first time but have a question. Is it possible to eliminate the yolk of the eggs and use only whites? Do I need to make any adjustments in the recipe for this change?

    1. Hi Patty, I don’t recommend it. This cake needs the fat from the yolks. I suggest following my recipe for white cake and making it twice for 4 layers (for best texture make it twice, don’t double it).

  6. Made for my daughters graduation from elementary since she didn’t get a ceremony to due Covid. I did half vanilla and half strawberry. She loved it and my husband raved about it. Thank you!!!

  7. I really want to try this. Can I use 8 inch pans, what size cutters will I use to make the checker pattern.

  8. Hi Sally! I want to make this for my daughters 2nd birthday next week. Would you still recommend using AP Flour or using cake flour instead? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Felicia, While cake flour could work, for best results we recommend sticking to sifted all-purpose flour.

  9. My set has 3 pans and the cutter but no instructions. Can I use a cake mix and if so how many mixes for 3 pans?

  10. Can I use your chocolate and yellow cake recipes to make this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mallory, That should work. However, the chocolate cake is very moist and I fear it would crumble when cut into the circles. I recommend that you use the sour cream version written in the recipe notes as it has a sturdier crumb. Let us know if you try it!

  11. Denise Antoine says:

    This cake looks beautiful! Is it possible to do the checkerboard design using your vanilla cake recipe and your chocolate cake recipe, in order to make a vanilla chocolate checkerboard cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denise, That should work. However, the chocolate cake is very moist and I fear it would crumble when cut into the circles. I recommend that you use the sour cream version written in the recipe notes as it has a sturdier crumb. Let us know if you try it!

  12. Hi Sally,

    I tried this recipe many times following the steps except for the sugar. I put half of sugar because I don’t like when cakes are two sweet.

    I have noticed that the cake always loose structure when it come out of the oven.
    I have no idea why.
    I tried the same process 4 times, same results.
    Did you have this issue and could you please tell me why?

    Thank you

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chloe, We recommend following the recipe as written. Sugar in baked goods is for texture and moisture as well as taste!

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