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.
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.