If you've ever ventured beyond making basic cakes, you may have considered adding a novelty cake pan to your collection. Giant cupcake, anyone? 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 cake, and this checkerboard cake is one of the easiest "patterned" cakes to make.
How to make a checkerboard cake without a special pan
If you can cut (or trace) a circle, you can make a checkerboard cake 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.
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. Alternatively, make the cake triple or quadruple-layered, and 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. This also helps prevent breakage when moving the pieces. 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.