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Checkerboard Cake
Checkerboard Cake Recipe Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

We may not be master cake decorators, but we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to make our confections look good. Like a simple technique for frosting like a pro and now this method for creating a pattern on the inside of the cake. In this checkerboard cake recipe, we turn chocolate and vanilla cakes made from box mixes (or feel free to use your favorite from-scratch recipes) into a, dare we say, wow-worthy pattern. Finish it up with a decadent chocolate cream-cheese frosting, and you're ready to party.

Related: Watch How to Build Your Own Checkerboard Cake

One 9-inch layer cake

Cake Batter

1 box chocolate cake mix, batter mixed according to package instructions

1 box vanilla cake mix, batter mixed according to package instructions

Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

One 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar, sifted

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (with 2-inch-high sides).

2. Bake the Cakes: Pour the chocolate batter into one cake pan, and pour the vanilla batter into the other cake pan. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

3. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes, then invert them onto a cooling rack and cool completely (40 minutes to one hour).

4. While the Cakes Cool, Make the Frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, and cream until light and fluffy.

5. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Cover the surface of the frosting with plastic wrap, then set aside.

6. Cut the Layers: To make the checkerboard pattern, you’ll need 4 cake layers: 2 chocolate and 2 vanilla. (If the cakes didn’t bake flat and are rounded on top, use a serrated knife to trim off the risen part.) Use a serrated knife to cut each cake horizontally into 2 even layers.

7. Place a 6-inch round plate in the center of a chocolate cake layer and use a small knife to trace around it, cutting through the cake. Place a drinking glass (about 3 inches in diameter) in the center of the 6-inch round and trace around it with the knife, cutting through the cake. Separate the pieces so you have a 9-inch ring, a 6-inch ring and a 3-inch circle. Repeat this process with the other chocolate layer and both vanilla layers.

8. Build the Cake: Reassemble the 4 layers by nesting contrasting pieces. For example, start with a 9-inch chocolate ring, insert a 6-inch vanilla ring in the center and finish with a 3-inch chocolate circle. (We'll call the chocolate-vanilla-chocolate ensembles your "mostly chocolate" layers, and the vanilla-chocolate-vanilla ensembles your "mostly vanilla" layers.)

9. Place a mostly chocolate layer on a cake stand or platter. Scoop ⅓ cup frosting into the center and spread it evenly on the surface of the cake. Place a mostly vanilla layer on top and spread with another ⅓ cup frosting. Place another mostly chocolate layer on top, spread with another ⅓ cup frosting and then finish with the last mostly vanilla layer. (Alternating layers is what makes the checkerboard pattern when you slice the cake.)

10. Use a spatula or butter knife to frost the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting, then slice and serve.

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