Checkerboard Cake Tutorial

checkerboard-cake-tutorial

If you’ve ever ventured beyond making basic round or sheet cakes, you may have considered adding a novelty cake pan like a giant cupcake or a checkerboard to your collection. In most cases, these pans are a waste of money and valuable kitchen storage space, and have very limited use (how often are you going to bake a cake shaped like a castle or a specific cartoon character?). Nearly any shape or pattern can be cut or carved out of regular round or sheet cakes, and this checkerboard cake is one of the easiest “patterned” cakes to make.

If you can cut (or let’s be honest, trace) a circle out of cake, you can make a checkerboard cake using round cake pans without any special equipment. I haven’t inspected checkerboard cake pans in the store, but I’m sure they utilize the same technique. Cutting the cake pieces yourself means you can add as many layers as you want and make the checkers any size you want.

Below are the basic instructions for a two-layer, two-color checkerboard cake. Depending on the size of your cake, you could also cut four rings (making more, smaller checkers) using the same technique, make the cake triple or quadruple-layered, or use as many different colors as you want. You’ll want to choose a cake recipe that’s on the sturdier side so you can make clean cuts and prevent breakage when moving the pieces, even leaving the cakes in the oven an extra minute or two. I used the vanilla and chocolate recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, adding blue food coloring to the vanilla batter.

how-to-make-a-checkerboard-cake

Then decorate your cake as you would any normal round cake. For this cake, I made a basic buttercream, made the stripe pattern with edible paper, and made little fondant sculptures of our pets.

checkerboard-cake-without-a-pan

And that’s it! This is a low-maintenance way to add something extra to a round cake. I imagine it would work similarly with a sheet cake–just cut rectangle rings instead of circles. Please email me if you want clarification on any of the steps, or want to see a tutorial on another kind of sculpted or patterned cake.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Want more pumpkin recipes? Well, you got it!

Every year, my grandma makes a pumpkin cake just like this one on Thanksgiving. I’ve made vegan versions a few times over the years, and I find that a modified version of the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World yields the best results. I double the recipe, leave out the chocolate, and throw some cream cheese frosting on top. Simple! While the pumpkin in autumnal recipes is usually shrouded with a spice blend, the actual pumpkin flavor really stands out in this recipe. Accented with a small amount of cinnamon, this cake shines in its simplicity.

vegan-pumpkin-cake

Like my ugly, warty yellow pumpkin? It rules. Now make this recipe, then eat it for breakfast and dessert everyday.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 9×13-inch cake

Cake recipe adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Ingredients

2 cups canned pumpkin
2⁄3 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (1 tub) vegan cream cheese
2/3 cup margarine
2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Mix until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into a 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray or coated with oil.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the center of the cake is firm and fully cooked (test with a toothpick, if necessary). Let the cake cool.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
  8. Whip together the cream cheese and margarine in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl.
  9. Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Add an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar if the frosting is runny. It should be a little drippy, but not liquid.
  10. Frost the cooled cake. Store in the refrigerator.

I found that the cream cheese frosting is excellent with fruit. Keep that in mind if you have any leftovers!

Do you jump on the pumpkin bandwagon this time of year? If not, is there another ingredient you bring out in the fall?

Chocolate Cake and Dog Cake

chocolate cake

Last week I was faced with the task of deciding what to do with an extra chocolate sheet cake. I know, such a difficult position to be in. I wasn’t interested in making another basic frosted cake, so I grabbed some cookie cutters and started cutting out shapes. The cake was too thick for the cookie cutters to slice through, so I had to finish the job with a knife.

Yet another task arose: what to do with the cake triangles? With some leftover buttercream to work with, the obvious choice was cake sandwiches, with some peaches for good measure. Insta-dessert. Done up with a chocolate drizzle and garnish, an elegant dessert at that.

If you’d like your own cake problem, here is the basic chocolate cake recipe I used. It’s a sturdy cake, so it’ll hold up just peachy (I tried to stop myself from including the pun, but it was quite persuasive) when you take a knife to it. Also, are you sick of overly sweet cake? Me too! The flavor of this cake is more chocolatey than sweet. Enjoy the dark chocolate flavor, or add a few more tablespoons of sugar if you’d like. If you eat it with buttercream, that takes care of the sweetness quite well.

Chocolate cake

Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 9×13-inch sheet cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt.
Mix together the milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and vinegar mixture, agave nectar, canola oil, and vanilla. Whisk together all the ingredients until combined. The batter should be thick, much like muffin batter.

Pour into a 9×13-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 28-30 mins until the cake is very firm, and springs back when touched, rather than smushing down. Let cool before cutting.

Assembly: Everything was all rather improvised! I cut the cake into triangles (saving the scraps for another dessert!), then sliced each triangle in the center to make a frosting sandwich. I chopped up a peach, mixed it into a bowl of buttercream, and spread a spoonful of frosting in each triangle. Finally, I garnished each cake sandwich with a buttercream swirl and a peach slice. This made about 1 dozen sandwiches.

Chocolate cake

So why did I have all this extra cake? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like to do things like sculpting and painting a giant cake that looks like my dog. My grandma and cousin came for a visit, so that was some incentive as well, but sometimes it’s just fun to break out my cake supplies and make something crazy.

Sculpted dog cake

Drake totally loved it, I swear.

Fluffy dog

This supply of cake is pretty much never ending, so stay tuned for cake pops made with the scraps and leftover buttercream!

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