Friday, January 17, 2014

Lemony Rainbow Checkerboard Cake

It's been a busy two and one-half weeks since I last posted, and I've missed you terribly! Those of you that keep up with me on Instagram or Facebook know that during this time I made a great big red velvet groom's cake with a cute little crabby topper. What a job! But it was so much fun, and I'd like to extend a thank you to those of you who rooted me on. Those typed words look extra small to me today, but just know that your encouragement really carried me through. Big virtual hugs!

I'm getting back in the swing of things with, what else - more cake! I've got a serious crush on rainbow cakes of all kinds, but I wanted to make something a little less expected. I considered making another Battenberg Cake (only in rainbow colors and much bigger) but I decided against it when I saw this gorgeous cake.

News flash! You don't need a special pan to make a checkerboard cake. You just need a couple of circle templates - you could even use a cereal bowl and a bottle cap as make-shift guides.

The first order of business is to make your cake layers. After they're  baked and cooled they all need to be leveled to the same height. I used a cake leveler so they'd all be perfectly even. Place them in the refrigerator to chill so they'll be much easier to cut into circles.
I used 6-inch cake layers, so my circle template guides were a condiment cup with a 4-inch rim and a 2-inch cookie cutter. Just place the cup straight down onto the center of the cake and cut around the rim. Avoid cutting at an angle - place the knife straight into the cake vertically and cut around the rim using up-and-down cutting motions.

I really loved how the cakes looked disassembled, but they were really something when they were all put back together! They reminded me of a Kandinsky painting. There's really no rhyme or reason to my color pairings - I just sketched something out quickly on my tablet and went with it. Each smaller circle will need a dab of icing on the outer edge before they're nested into the other circles- but not too much! Just enough to hold them all together when the cake is cut.

When the layers are all stacked and sliced - wow! Talk about some crazy vibrant color! It appealed most to the part of me that wants to be the next Willy Wonka (can we please make that happen, universe?). The cake layers are all zingy and lemony, and cream cheese frosting makes it taste like you're having a little cheesecake with your cake. I am a fan of this.

As you may know, I have a small tabletop cotton candy maker, and I just love it. I used it to make a fluffy beehive hairdo for this cake, just because I thought it would be cute and funny. This is the model I own, it's relatively inexpensive and it's held up rather well over the past couple of years, so if you're looking to buy one, this model is pretty decent. Using cotton candy for a cake topper is a gamble (it's not recommended humid weather), but it will hold up for several hours in the wintertime when the weather is cold and dry.

This cake was a delight to make, especially when the view outside my window is so dreary (I need color in my life to function normally, okay?). It takes some time to put together, but probably not as long as you'd think. Or maybe it didn't seem so awfully long since I was having so much fun making it. I joked with my hubby that you might have to be a little cuckoo to dream up a cotton-candy-beehive-sprinkle-topped-rainbow-checkerboard-cake. He never passes up an opportunity to call me a fruit-loop, so of course he agreed. But it's good to be a little crazy sometimes.

Lemony Rainbow Checkerboard Cake
[click for printable recipe]
Yield: One six-inch layer cake, about 8-10 servings
Source: Sprinkle Bakes original recipe
Prep: 3 hours, total time about 5 hours

Using 6-inch cake pans (as I have) will require making the batter recipe twice. Use 2-inch and 4-inch circle templates for the 6-inch layers. This cake can be made into a standard 9-inch cake by making the batter recipe three times and dividing each batter between two pans. Use a 3-inch circle template and a 6-inch circle template for the 9-inch layers.

A quick note about the cream cheese frosting. Use Philadelphia brand cream cheese if you can find it. I'm not much of a loyalist when it comes to brands and I rarely endorse products, but it is simply the best product on the market flavor-wise for this frosting.

First three 6-inch cake layers
2 1/2 cups/ 320g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup/ 8.2 oz. whole milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
12 tablespoons/169g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups/ 300g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon red gel food color
1/2 teaspoon yellow gel food color
1/2 teaspoon orange gel food color
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 six-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a 4-cup measure, stir together milk, vinegar, eggs and lemon extract; set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add 1/3 of the flour to the butter mixture and mix on low speed. Add 1/2 the liquid mixture, mix well on low speed. Alternate the remaining flour and liquid, ending with the flour mixture. 
  4. Divide the batter evenly into thirds and place in separate bowls (a generous 1 1/2 cups batter per bowl). Color each batter with the red, yellow and orange food color. Pour into pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow cakes to cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Level cakes with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm, about 1 hour.
Next three 6-inch cake layers
1 cake batter recipe (above), without added food color
1/2 teaspoon blue gel food color
1/2 teaspoon green gel food color
1/2 teaspoon violet gel food color

  1. Divide the batter evenly into thirds as before and tint each batter with the blue, green and violet gel food color. Bake as previously directed. Cool, level and refrigerate as previously directed. 
Cream cheese frosting
1 cup/ 226g unsalted butter, softened
4 cups/440g confectioners sugar
16 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar on low speed until just incorporated. Switch to medium-high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese 1 piece at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and salt; mix again.

Mixed rainbow nonpareils
Cotton candy, if desired
  1. Use a 4-inch circle template to make the first cut (you could use a small bowl or cup with a 4-inch rim). Place the template onto the center of the cake and cut around it with a knife held vertically; avoid cutting the circles at an angle or your checkerboard will be uneven. Use up-and-down cutting motions so the cake doesn't tear as you cut it. Remove the center of the cake and use the 2-inch template to cut a small round from the center of the smaller cake. Repeat process with all cakes. 
  2. Lay all the cake pieces out on a large piece of parchment paper. Lightly frost the outer edge of a medium circle and place it inside a different color large circle. Frost a small circle that is a different color than the first two circles and place inside the medium circle. Repeat process with all cakes, so that there are six tricolor cake layers. Frost the tops of two cake layers and stack them. Place the third unfrosted layer on top. Frost entire cake with the cream cheese frosting, creating swirls with an off-set spatula. Top with rainbow sprinkles and cotton candy. 
  3. Due to the cream cheese frosting, cake will need to be stored in the refrigerator. 


Cookbook Queen said...

You KNOW how much I adore your cakes. This is STUNNING!!

Wenderly said...


I am at a loss for words which is highly unusual.

THIS is so magical in a million ways.

And I will now happily be singing Pure Imagination in my head (or out loud) for days.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

You're killing me with the best way. DEFINITELY the prettiest cake I've seen in the longest time. LOVE it

Andrea Karen said...

I do something similar with the rainbow checkerboard. But instead cutting up my cakes.
I have multi sized rings that I put inside the pan pour a different color in each ring. Then quick rinse and dry. Repeat with other pans with Different colours in each spot. Then when you stack them, just stick a bit of icing in between the cakes. No Cutting required.

Belinda Lo said...

You have one again raised the standard for cake! Simply too cute

Coco Cake Land said...

heather that is SOOOO COOL!!! such a strong visual graphic look - absolutely love it! xo

Alicia Storin said...

This recipe is the epitome of why I think you are amazing and I bought your book despite already owning 3984 baking books. It is gorgeous, it is innovative, and you make it EASY for any motivated baker (also I love your pugs). Thank you for being inspiring!!!

Jenn said...

Wow, looks like a lot of work, but it's gorgeous.

dreamingofcheeseblog said...

This cake is stunning! The amount of precision and detail you put into it is so impressive

vanillasugarblog said...

Heather you are amazing!
sharing with EVERYONE!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, it looks ever so beautiful and perfect!



Sarah said...

Heather, if making in 9" pans, I assume I'd need to increase the food coloring a bit. How much would you recommend?

Heather Baird said...

@sarah -maybe increase by 1/4 tsp? Just enough to get a good saturated color. Good question!

Creative Raisins said...

Love it, I have pinned so I can do this myself. Thanks for the tutorial.

Vicki Wilde said...

This cake is so beautiful! I want to make it, just so I can cut it open and see all the colors!

KayleneP said...

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with instructions. My niece wants me to make this type of cake for her next birthday so I will be pinning this for later!

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I'm in love with this cake. What a happy cake for a child's birthday.

Nisha said...

omg. you have tons, and tons, and tons,...and tons of patience. the cake looks amazing and vibrant indeed. very neat work and lined up squares is what i like the most.

Nazia @ This Baker Girl Blogs said...

Just wow! It looks so creative and like so much fun :)

fadila said...


Tracy | Pale Yellow said...

It's hard not to be joyful and delighted when viewing this gorgeous cake! Stunning!

Betsy Eves @JavaCupcake said...

I am in LOVE with this cake! Such a great idea! I've got my sons 2nd birthday coming up and I think I'm going to use this technique for his cake! xoxoo

RawInTheMiddle said...

Looks like a lot of work, but so pretty and neat! I linked to your post on my blog at

María [Pastélite] said...

I can't believe my eyes… This is absolutely amazing!!!!!!!
I love your blog, and you made my day today with this beautiful cake. Thank you!!
Kisses from Brussels!

Marjorie (Sugar for the Brain) said...

This is genius. No other words!!!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Beautiful, just stunningly beautiful! Love the burst of color during the gray winter months!!

Patricia @ ButterYum

Emily said...

This is sure to cheer anyone up on a winter day. So much fun!!

Emmy said...

This is bloody insane!!! Amazing work.

CupcakeKiller said...

I could ONLY imagine what my kitchen would look like after attempting to try and make a cake like this. I would have ingredients, and crumbs, and batter all over my floor, and frosting on the walls. It would look like Disney exploded inside. I am so not a neat baker. Very colorful.

Gypsy Heart said...

Absolutely stunning! I don't know how you have the patience but this cake is amazing. It makes me dizzy trying to figure out placing the layers. :) Wish you lived near me...I would beg you to make one. Of course, it might be out of my price range too. lol


Sue said...

My favorite cake in the universe!!!

Kelsey from {ps:heart } said...

so so so fun and vibrant! I love that you don't need a special pan...I definitely need to try this out :)

Anonymous said...

butter measurement . Is it 330 g or 12 tbsp

Heather Baird said...

12 tbsp/169 g butter - typo! Fixed now.

The Bearfoot Baker said...

The most colorful cake I have ever seen! It is a work of art. Pinning now!

Mari Corona said...

Absolutely wonderful! Looks like such hard work but it's amazing! Thanks for the share :)

Pretty Robotic said...

This post is beautiful! I had NO idea this is what you were talking about when you meant checkerboard cake. Also, now we know a beehive is appropriate for all occasions. Plus, the video at the end is an added bonus, this song always pulled at my heart strings! Love this cake!

Mel said...

It's so colourful and vibrant colours. Simply make my day with those photos. Taking for sharing ^o^.

Lauren at Keep It Sweet said...

Your talent is truly incredible. This cake... just so gorgeous!

Manderley de GuindillayCanela said...

Waaaooom it's amazing!!

Colette Joseph said...

I love your step-by-steps, the bright colours, the beautiful frosting, cotton-candy beehive!
Just so lovely.
And that crabby groom is so cute - I'm crazy about those li'l guys. They're so grumpy-looking, but adorable.
You did a beautiful job, Heather!

Nicole (Bellenza Party Suite) said...

Oh my gosh this is amazing! The checkerboard details inside are stunning! Awesome work :)

Carries Creations said...

amazing and absolutely gorgeous!

Ananda Rajashekar said...

What a array of colure. Your tall cakes are just out of world, they are eye candy and soothing when i'm at work!

Szkatułka Ami said...

So sweet !

Tamara Lewis said...

It's so pretty and bright!!! I love it!

Nancy Pants said...

amazing! said...

What a creative cake! This is beautiful!

whilehewasout said...

Marvelous cake!

Beth Eastwood said...

This looks AMAZING! I've made rainbow cakes in the past but this is a whole new level.
It also reminds me of a batch of cupcakes I baked with a hidden heart in the centre as you can see;

Piluchi recetaspasoapaso said...

Me gusta todo lo que veo por aqui. Me quedo como seguidora.
Un abrazo

Piluchi recetaspasoapaso said...

Me gusta todo lo que veo por aqui. Me quedo como seguidora.
Un abrazo

Mishty said...

Do you need to add supports? Or is the cake and icing enough?

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