The Amazing Checkerboard Cake


Unknown(This is how it would look if you had amazingly steady hands. Which I do not.)

Last week, one of my best friends turned 85. That seems like a long time to live, but when you have filled those years with joy and world travel and a great love story, as my friend has, you probably want it to go on for lots longer. She is an inspiration to me, and an 85th birthday calls for something special, so I dug out my checkerboard cake pans.

While checkerboard cake is only two cake mixes all prettied up, it does have that “wow” factor, and I only make it for special occasions or when I need a really great desert to follow a mediocre dinner.

To get started, you need this set of 3 cake pans and a plastic or metal batter divider. I honestly can’t remember where I bought this set, but I do have a funny story about them.


Many years ago, in the early 1970s,  I was living down south, and one summer I came back to Duluth for a family visit. I brought my sisters each a set of the checkerboard cake pans, and I brought my dad a couple of spatterware enamel coffee mugs. Not very practical, but you know — pretty. My sister Be stared at the puzzling cake pans for a while, and then turned to my dad and said “Trade you for the coffee mugs.”

So first you mix up two cake mixes, like a chocolate and yellow, or you can use two white cake mixes and add food coloring to one of them. Follow the directions with the pans, and you should end up with three cakes that look like this:


Then, create a gooey chocolate or vanilla filling to cement the layers together, since a 3-layer cake is kinda tall. I use the standard cocoa powder, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla recipe with a bit of hot coffee in it. Spread this between the layers and even them out as best you can. I do love my offset spatula, which makes frosting things so much easier. Go buy one.



Then you need a lot of fluffy frosting to cover up any rough spots on the cake, so here’s a simple recipe that makes enough frosting for this cake, until you take a picture of it and then think uh oh, I’d better make more.


Quick Fluffy Frosting

1 small package Jello instant chocolate pudding
1 cup milk
1 8-oz carton of Cool Whip, thawed
Combine the pudding and cup of milk in a large bowl and whisk for about a minute, until well mixed and thick. Fold in the Cool Whip. Spread on cake. Hopefully, it will look better than this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou could sprinkle some cocoa powder on top, too.

Here’s the finished and cut cake. This is why you need a steady hand to pull the divider out of the batter, but even with wavy lines, it looks impressive. (At least to the worn out baker.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here it is, on a plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some strong coffee. A good time was had by all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy birthday, dear friend. And many, many more!





4 Responses to “The Amazing Checkerboard Cake”

  1. Rick says:

    I think one person in a family should be designated as the checkerboard cake baker and the others should feel good about spatterware enamel mugs. Be might be onto something.
    Can I expect one of these on MY 85th birthday? I mean – I’m no Marianne, but I’m pretty nice. And . . . 85 IS 85!
    Congrats to Marianne on her birthday and to you for the gift of love.

  2. Marilyn says:

    You have 21 years to practice pulling those dividers out before my 85th birthday :-)
    Happy Birthday to your friend and may she enjoy many more years of your special cake.

  3. Patt says:

    Marilyn, it will probably take me that long to get past the shaky part. “Steady, steady, steady… oh, fooey!”
    PS: The birthday party was held at Lakeshore! Always makes me think of you and Nona.

  4. Dave Kirwan says:

    Wow! How’d I miss this? Only one word to describe… snazzy!

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