Sunday, July 05, 2015

How to Make a Checkerboard Cake

This unassuming cake has a deep secret. While seemingly modest with its fluffy buttercream frosting, ruffle borders, and dash of sprinkles, there is actually much more going on than what initially meets the eye. The real party is inside the cake! Last year we introduced you to the Vertical Layer Cake. Now it’s time to discover its geometric cake-cousin: Meet the Checkerboard Cake. Cubes of lemon and strawberry cake make up this anything-but-ordinary party treat. And it’s easier to make than you think!



Materials:
— pink and yellow food coloring
— 4 6-inch cake pans
— long serrated knife
— 4-inch round cookie cutter
— 2-inch round cookie cutter
— offset spatula
— icing smoother
— piping bag and piping tips

Ingredients:
— 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
— 2 cups granulated white sugar
— 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
— 3 whole eggs
— 1 egg yolk
— 3 ¼ cups cake flour
— 1 tablespoon baking powder
— ½ teaspoon salt
— 1 ¼ cup milk
— 2 teaspoons lemon zest
— 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
— 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
— sprinkles (optional)
— 1 batch vanilla buttercream

Baking Instructions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 4 6-inch round cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
4. Add in the sugar. With the mixer on medium speed, mix together until fluffy — about 3-4 minutes.
5. Turn the mixer down to low and add in the vanilla, eggs, and egg yolk, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
6. Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined.
7. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the milk.
8. Add in the second half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t over mix!
9. Separate the batter into 2 mixing bowls.
10. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and yellow food coloring to one bowl. Fold the batter until combined and even in color.
11. Add the strawberry preserves and pink food coloring to the other bowl. Fold the batter until combined and even in color.
12. Evenly distribute the batter into the cake pans so that you have two pans of each color. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
13. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Checkerboard Instructions:
1. Once the cakes have completely cooled, use a long serrated knife to carefully level each cake. They should all be the same height — about 1 inch tall.
2. Using the 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers of each cake.
3. Using the 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers of each of the 4-inch cake pieces.
4. Using just a small amount, carefully smear the insides of each cake ring with buttercream.
5. Alternating flavors, place the cake rings back inside of each other. There will be 2 layers with yellow outside and inside pieces and 2 layers with pink outside and inside pieces.
6. Place the bottom layer on a cake board or serving dish, then apply a thin, smooth layer of buttercream on top with an offset spatula.
7. Alternating colors, place the second layer on top and repeat. Continue with all 4 layers of cake.
8. Crumb coat the entire cake with buttercream, then let chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
9. Frost the outside of the cake with buttercream, then finish off the cake with a ruffled buttercream border and sprinkles.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour four six-inch round cake pans and set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar. With the mixer on medium speed, mix together until fluffy — about 3-4 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low and add in the vanilla, eggs, and egg yolk, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the milk. Add in the second half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t over-mix! Separate the batter into two mixing bowls.


Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and yellow food coloring to one bowl. Fold the batter until combined and even in color. Add the strawberry preserves and pink food coloring to the other bowl. Fold the batter until combined and even in color.


Evenly divide the tinted batter into four six-inch cake pans. Use a measuring cup or mechanical ice cream scooper to help distribute the batter between the pans.


Once the cakes are completely cool, even them out with a long serrated knife. All of the cake should be the same height.


Using the cookie cutters, cut out rings of cake from each layer. Each layer should yield three rings when complete.


For extra stability, smear a touch of buttercream on the inner ring of each cake before putting them all back together. Alternating colors, reassemble the cake layers — like a puzzle!


Once all of the cakes are put back together, place one layer on a cake board or serving dish. Place a dollop of buttercream on top.  Spread the buttercream out with an offset spatula into an even layer.


Alternating between colors, continue to stack and frost all of the layers.


Once all of the layers are stacked, frost the entire cake with buttercream. Feel free to decorate the finished cake with fluffy boards and sprinkles, if desired!


Ta-da! Neat trick, huh?


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