Checkerboard Cake + Video

slices of checkerboard cake on plates with forks

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!

slice of checkerboard cake on a white plate with a fork

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!

sliced checkerboard cake on a serving plate with a dessert server

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.

funfetti cake layer with 2 circle cutters creating 3 rings of cake

bottom layer of checkerboard cake with alternating rings of cake circles

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.

2 images of frosting the bottom cake layer and all 4 cake layers assembled with frosting in between each layer

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.

slice of checkerboard cake on a white plate with a fork

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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


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!


  • 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


  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.


  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.


  1. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    This cake is sooo gorgeous. I just love the colors and just how fancy it looks. I’m not much of a cake baker, nor am I a cake decorator. But I really really want to try this one. Now, I just have to get more cake pans and relearn math. lol. I can just imagine what a hit this cake would be at parties!

    1. I def don’t consider myself a cake decorator but it’s really fun to practice!!

  2. Rebecca | Becky Keeps House says:

    I took one look at your checkerboard cake and the first thing in my mind was “nuh uh, I can’t do that, toooo complicated!” But then I read your post.

    I love how, when you talk about stuff you’re learning (like cake decorating) you acknowledge what you don’t know, but you realize that it’s all about practice and experience to get there. It’s all about having a growth mindset.

    The first cupcake batch I ever made was inedible…because I though baking POWDER and baking SODA were the same thing! (Things are a lot better now, Thank God!)

    So I took a look at the video, and yeah, you’re right. It’s actually DOABLE. It’ll take a bit of legwork to track down these cutters where I live, but the surprise reveal is SO worth it. I’m up for the challenge! (By the way, I love how these 1 minute videos make everything look so quick. If only I could bake that fast in real life! LOL!) Take care, Sally!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment!! I’m glad the recipe seems a little less intimidating now 🙂 And yes, I wish I was that fast making baked goods. I’m so slow in the kitchen sometimes!

  3. Afternoon from Rennes! This cake looks great! I wonder if my husband’s co-workers would eat it-I’d love to make it! Quick question for you-do you level your cake layers before you cut the circles?

    1. These bake up pretty flat, but you can absolutely level them off if yours do not.

  4. Hi Sally,Your monthly challenge is always fun.Thank you. I love your video. Your friend did fantastic job.

  5. I think I just found the cake I’ll make for my August birthday! I’m thinking pink and sprinkles for my two layers. Maybe I’ll try some pink-edged frosting roses for the top–thanks, Sally!

  6. Hi Sally,

    is this the same recipe as your classic funfetti cake? I thought the recipe for the funfetti cake was 3 layer not 4 but maybe I’m mistaken. I planned to make it this weekend, if it is I’ll try out this fun checkerboard design!

    1. Nope– it’s the same recipe as my piñata cake 🙂 They taste pretty similar in both flavor and texture though.

  7. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    One of my goals this summer was to try to start making more cakes, and so far I’ve made zero, UH!  This is seriously the cutest though!  How fun for a birthday party!

  8. So fun! And the video and diagram w/ measurements is SUPER helpful. Math is SUCH a huge part of baking, and the struggle is real! Thank you!

    1. Glad you find both helpful, Jenny! Hope you try it soon.

  9. Can someone tell me where the alternate challenge is. I think I’m missing it. Thanks

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

      Any challenge recipe this year so far (there’s a lot now!)”

      This is right before the recipe starts.

    2. Ginger, you can also try the creamy lemon pie.

  10. This is so cute…and I can’t believe that’s all there is to getting the checkerboard pattern!
    On a side note, I am totally loving your Baking Lovers group on Facebook. So many talented bakers out there!

    1. I’m obsessed with the group, Jamie. I’m having so much fun learning from such a talented group of bakers– at all skill levels!

  11. We have three birthdays this month! I’m totally giving this a try!


  12. WOW, WOW, WOW that’s all I want to say Sally!! You are just AAAMAZING!! I don’t know if I would eat it or just keep admiring the cake for its BEAUTY OR just think how INGENIOUS a design it is!! WOW Sally you keep surprising me!! Thank you Sally for always inspiring me!! You never let me down! Love your blog!

    1. Well I didn’t come up with the design at all– I’ve seen them everywhere! But I’m so excited for you to try it.

  13. Could you make this with two different flavors??

    I was thinking about my in-laws anniversary party coming up soon, but my father in law’s favorite flavor is carrot cake and I’m not sure what second flavor would go with it…

    1. I can’t see why not! Vanilla should pair nicely with carrot cake. Have fun experimenting 🙂

      1. Marcel Nagel says:

        Ooh I was thinking chocolate and vanilla would be simple but tasty 🙂

      2. I’m totally going to make it tomorrow for their party! So I found your excellent looking carrot cake recipe that I’m going to use, now I’m wondering about the vanilla. Should I use this and half it or is there another recipe you would recommend?

      3. Also: the carrot cake recipe I was planning on using is your “my favorite carrot cake” from 2015, and it’s already a recipe for two layers. Now I’m wondering if it will work? Will the layers be much thicker than the vanilla layers?

        Thanks for your help!

      4. The carrot cake layers will be slightly thicker, yes. So I would only fill the pans halfway with batter. You can use any leftover batter for cupcakes.

  14. Julie Turner says:

    Awesome, Sally!!!  I had no clue!!  LOL!!!!  It’s so easy a cavewoman or even a caveman could do it!!!

  15. MARTIN O'NEILL says:

    Hi Sally
    This looks great. I look forward to trying it. Never been a huge cake baker – I’m more of a cookie and muffin man.
    Just wondering if the layers are 4 separate bake are 1 bake of each and then sliced in half before cookie cutting.

    1. Yep 4 separate cakes– 4 separate cake pans.

      1. MARTIN O'NEILL says:

        Thanks Sally. This is one style of cake I have always wanted to try but never had the nerve to. You have made it look so easy that I think I will only mess it up once or twice.
        Might even be part of my wedding cake if I can get it right and convince my Fiancée to let me make the wedding cake 🙂

  16. mary crutcher says:

    I have the checkerboard cake pan set, but your method is so much easier!!! I would only use my checkerboard cake pan every so often because you had to pour some batter, place the plastic divider into the pan, pour the other color of batter, etc. The checkerboard pattern always “ran” into each other, but the cake was still good!! I will definitely use your method – can’t wait to watch the facebook live!

    1. I don’t have the cake pan, but I feel like this method is so much easier!

  17. Michelle Mahabat says:

    Hi Sally, 

    This cake looks fab. I want to make it but i was wondering if it would take the weight of fondant. I’m not at all good at frosting, something about ‘absolutely no hand eye coordination’. 
    Hope you have a lovely summer 🙂 

    1. Fondant would be just fine on the cake. Enjoy!

      1. Michelle Mahabat says:

        Thank you  

  18. The cake looks absolutely gorgeous & easier than I thought! I had no idea how you were going to do this when you posted the pictures on Instagram the other day. I’m excited to give this a try, and also dreaming up all the colour possibilities (green + red for Christmas? pink to symbolize birth of a baby girl? yellow + orange to welcome Autumn? oh and in that case, you could do the cake with a spice cake instead of just vanilla). Think I’m going to have lots of fun with this one 😉 Thanks Sally for always making some of the more complex recipes feel fun & approachable!

    1. So many great ideas! Checkerboard cakes all year round!! 🙂

  19. I’m TOTALLY psyched to make this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday coming next Monday. About a year ago, his mom showed me a video on how to make it and I was just like yeah okay bye. LOL. Sally, can you think of a good cake combination with snicker doodle instead of vanilla based? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Hope he loves it! I’ve made snickerdoodle cupcakes but not a cake. You can definitely use this cinnamon frosting on a cake though!

  20. Loretta Meyer says:

    The cake is fun and whimsical. I’m definitely going to try it. Video certainly helped. Did your friend freeze her cake before cutting it to get that clean smooth cut, if not how did she get that perfect cut? You cake looks delicious!

    1. She froze it, yes. I didn’t– so mines more crumby. 😉

  21. This cake is so fun, and yes I am surprised at how easy it is to make. Thank you for sharing. Pinned and Shared.

  22. Would absolutely love to try this but only have 2 pans. Can I use foil pans instead?  or just bake two at a time?

    1. You can use 9-inch foil pans OR only bake two at a time, whichever you prefer.

  23. I love this! My daughters birthday is this weekend and I think she needs this cake!
    Question… do you bake 4 cakes total or 2 cakes and split them in half?
    Now I just have to figure out what colors to make 🙂 Thanks for another fun baking challenge!!

    1. Perfect! And there are 4 cakes total 🙂

  24. Elsie Perez says:

    Hi Sally, 

    What a fabulous cake! Can I use egg whites from a carton? I know not to use them for meringue because it never fluffs up. Thank you for the recipe!

    1. You need whole eggs in this recipe, so just use 5 whole eggs 🙂

  25. I love this post! I am very excited to try this challenge! (I love how you wrote “Eww math!”)

    Cat //

  26. Hi Sally, if I would like to make a funfetti circle and chocolate circle, how much cocoa powder would you recommend to add into the other half of the batter? Thank you!!

    1. I don’t recommend it– it would have to be a different cake recipe. Chocolate cakes are unique in their own!

  27. Hi Sally! I am from the Philippines where the weather can be really hot and humid. I follow your buttercream recipes very precisely but still, i find that they don’t hold up. After frosting, they tend to “melt” faster that I can spread them out nicely. I am assuming its the hot weather in my country. Any tips on how to correct this? Currently, I need to freeze the cake after every layer of frosting and work really quickly. Is there another remedy?

    1. Not that I know of- the freeze works wonders! You can always sub shortening for half of the butter, but you will lose a little flavor. Shortening holds its shape better in heat.

  28. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally!
    This cake looks incredible & I cannot wait to make it!!!  My mom’s birthday is coming up soon & this will be her cake. 
    I was wondering about the cinnamon swirl frosting you mentioned to another reader.  If I were to use that for this cake it wouldn’t really be swirly cause i’m not piping it on like with cupcakes.  My question is since in the frosting recipe as is cinnamon is only added to half of the frosting so should I add more cinnamon or is the 1 tablespoon enough? It will just be cinnamon frosting (minus the swirl).   
    Also, I must add that I NEED to make those striped fudge cookie sandwiches ASAP!!! 
    Have a wonderful weekend!!

    1. Hey Austria! I’m confused about what you’re asking. Do you just want to use cinnamon vanilla buttercream frosting? Because I would use this frosting as written and add as much cinnamon as you like, per your taste. Start with 2-3 teaspoons and add more if you want more 🙂

  29. Diane Anderson says:

    Was wondering where you purchased the scalloped sprinkle plate with the pink center on the picture with the checkerboard cake. Thank you. Love your recipes. Looking forward to your new cookie cookbook in September!

    1. Hi Diane! I got it off Etsy. It doesn’t look like the seller carries it anymore.

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

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