Happy Birthday America! I baked you this cake. Although I customized this cake to be a patriotic red, white, and blue, a checkerboard pattern is easily achievable for any holiday or party with a color scheme. This guide will walk you through the steps to make a fantastic checkerboard cake that is guaranteed to impress.
Step 1: Bake 3 8x2" layers of vanilla cake
Most cake recipes will only make 2 layers of cake. If you find choose one like this, simply make 1 + 1/2 of the recipe to achieve the 3 layers necessary for this cake. If you find a recipe that makes 1 8" layer, triple it. As this guide is more about technique than recipe, I will leave you to locate your favorite vanilla cake on your own. Just make sure it is vanilla or white cake!
Step 2: Separate the batter evenly into three bowls and add food coloring
To one of the bowls, add red food coloring. A strong American red is the hardest color to achieve next to black, so add more than you think you'll need. Gels are typically better than drops for food coloring. In another one of the bowls, add blue food coloring. Again, add more than you think you need or you will end up with a light, teal-ish blue. To the last bowl, add nothing - this is the white layer of the red white and blue cake. If you're not doing a patriotic cake, then color each of the three bowls with your desired colors.
Step 3: Bake the layers
Pour each of the separated batters into respective well-greased cake pans. Baking time and temperature will depend on what recipe you pick but typically you will be baking at 350 F for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. When the cake is baked, allow to cool to room temperature.
Step 4: Chill
The checkerboard pattern is much easier to assemble when the layers are cold. After cooling the cake to room temperature, turn each out onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap completely and then wrap again (double-wrapped) and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Do not stack the layers on top of each other.
Step 5: Assembly
Start with the blue layer. Remove from fridge and place cake on tray or plate you are serving on. Level the cake with a serrated knife. Place a 4" cookie cutter or something of similar size in the center of the cake (I used the lid of an oatmeal container, you can maybe use a bowl or the lid of something else?) Cut around the circular item and remove it carefully from the outer blue. Place blue-center piece aside. You now have blue-doughnut on your serving plate. Place a very thin layer of frosting around the inner wall of the blue-doughnut.
Remove red layer from fridge and repeat by leveling and cutting center out with same object creating a red-doughnut. This time, put the ring aside and place the red center inside of the blue doughnut. Frost top of blue-doughnut/red-center layer.
Place red-doughnut on top next, lining it up with the blue-doughnut layer so there are smooth sides. Frost inner wall of red-doughnut with a thin layer of frosting. Remove white layer from fridge and level and cut out center using the same object. Place white-doughnut aside. Place white-center inside of red-doughnut. Frost top of red-doughnut/white-center layer.
Place white-doughnut on top next, lining it up with blue-doughnut layer and red-doughnut layer so there are smooth sides. Frost the inner wall of white-doughnut with a thin layer of frosting. Place blue-center inside of white-doughnut. Your America-themed checkerboard pattern is now assembled.
Step 6: Frost
If your sides do not line up, use a serrated knife to even them out. If you are using butter cream frosting, frost the entire cake first with a thin layer. This is your crumb coat. A crumb coat locks all the cake crumbs inside of frosting so the second layer is smooth. Do a second layer of frosting and decorate however you want. If you are using a store-bought canned frosting or cream cheese frosting, don't worry about the crumb layer because it will not work. Simply do one layer of frosting and decorate.
Step 7: Impress!
To cut the cake, run a knife under hot water for 10 seconds. Quickly dry the knife and make a cut into the cake. Wipe it clean and repeat by running it under hot water, drying, and making the second cut. This method makes smooth and easy cuts so you can show off your checkerboard pattern! Ta-Da! Look at you! That wasn't that hard right?
Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July!
Photos by: Zac Wolf Photography