One of my dad's signature desserts has been a checkerboard cake. If you have never had a checkerboard cake, well, you've missed out. It's a 3 layer cake that when you cut into it, the interior resembles a checkerboard, making you scratch your head and wonder...how the heck did he do that?
Well, Dad is something of an experimenter. Kinda like and "inspector gadget" of the kitchen. He took 3 9 inch cake pans and made 6 rings in 2 sizes from paper bags to fit concentrically inside the cake pans. Then he would make a 2 cake batters: one chocolate and one white. He would then CAREFULLY place them thusly in each of the 3 pans: in 2 pans starting from the center, he would put chocolate, white, chocolate; in the third pan he would place the batter from the center white, chocolate, white. Then he would CAREFULLY pull out the paper rings and bake. When stacked correctly, voila...a checkerboard cake.
I had seen Dad do this several times and knew that I was capable of producing the same cake. I may have done it once or twice but frankly, it was A LOT of work, what with cutting the bags, getting the rings the EXACT size. Then, I happened to stumble upon one of these several years ago:
It came with 3-9 in pans and a snap on set of rings:
Now, that alleviates some of the issue, but I'll be honest, it's still a lot of work.
So, last week was a friend's birthday and I volunteered to bring the cake. Ever a "culinary wanna-be overachiever", I decided to make a checkerboard cake.
Now, I'll tell you a little known secret that my friend Tami clued me in on: Duncan Hines/Pillsbury/Betty Crocker...they have done all the hard work. And they're fine. But if you substitute milk for the water, butter for the oil, and add an extra egg...you will turn that "fine" cake into EXTRAORDINARY. And so, that's what I did.
I thought I'd be able to pour the batter but really, that didn't work well and I ended up spooning each layer into the rings. This is to help keep the batter in the like layers before carefully removing the rings. You can do 2 pans (identical...chocolate, white, chocolate), then you have to wash the rings before doing the third pan in the reverse order (white, chocolate, white). You should end up with this:
Bake according to the directions for a 9" cake. Let cool slightly, then remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting. My preference for frosting is buttercream. Equal parts butter and butter flavored Crisco (about 1/2 cup each). Then I start beating in confectioners sugar until it won't take any more. Then I add vanilla and half and half (or milk) to taste and consistency. Once I get it where I want it, I remove about 1/3 of the frosting and mix 2-3 Tbs of Karo syrup to make a crumb coat. The crumb coat is a THIN layer of frosting that will allow some of the crumbs from the cake to roll into the frosting. DON'T WORRY. You're going to cover the whole cake with a second layer that will hide all the crumbs. This is what a crumb coat on one layer looks like:
You will also note that I put wax/parchment paper under the edges of the cake so I can pull them away when the cake is frosted and leave me with a clean serving plate. I also put fresh strawberry slices in between each layer, completed the crumb coat on whole cake, then used the remainder of the frosting to cover the crumb coat. Then, of course, I had to add a little "bling". Because that's how I roll.
Here's the best part. This tasted as good as it looked. The cake was very moist, the strawberries added a nice surprise and the frosting wasn't coyingly sweet, neither did it leave that film on the roof of your mouth like some bakery frostings will.
Thanks Dad. Lesson learned.
23 hours ago