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Checkerboard Cake - How'd they do that?

Posted: June 1, 2011 - 9:09am
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Sue Ade
Sue Ade

Have you ever seen one of those striking checkerboard cakes and wondered ‘How’d they do that?’ As some of you already know, checkerboard cakes are created with the help of a ringed cake divider  — a special tool that keeps batters of contrasting color, such as vanilla and chocolate,  in place while they are being poured into a cake pan. Companies like Nordic Ware and Chicago Metallic sell cake dividers with their checkerboard cake sets, but you can make your own dividers from a bottomless six-inch springform pan and a three-inch can that has had its top and bottom removed. To ensure a good checkerboard design, it is important that cake batters be thick and of equal consistency. A thick batter will keep the batter from seeping under the divider, and batters of equal consistency will bake evenly. As long as batters are alternately placed in their respective pans from the outside in and then, from the inside out, a good-looking checkerboard pattern can be achieved with as few as two layers. When considering a frosting for checkerboard cake, you’ll want something fairly firm, such as ganache. If not spread too thickly, ganache is an effective “glue” that will keep cake layers in place even after they’ve been cut. This is a versatile family cake worthy of any number of celebrations be it a graduation, an anniversary, a birthday and more.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Vanilla Batter

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift flour, then measure into a measuring cup, leveling off with the flat end of a knife)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
½  teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Batter

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift flour, then measure into a measuring cup, leveling off with the flat end of a  knife
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
½  teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

1½ cups (12 ounces) heavy whipping cream
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat cream and butter in a medium-size saucepan just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and vanilla, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer mixture to a glass bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator, stirring every 10 minutes, or so, or until ganache reaches spreading consistency, about 45 minutes. Spread ganache on sides and top of cooled cake. Makes enough ganache to fill and frost 1 (9-inch) layer cake. Leftover ganache may be refrigerated up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to a month. (Allow ganache to come to room temperature, about 3 hours, before using.) Kitchen Ade Note: Ganache that has hardened into soft fudge can be scooped into small balls (use a melon baller), then rolled in unsweetened cocoa powder to make truffles. Refrigerate truffles, but serve at room temperature.

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