Checkerboard Cake using a cake mix

You may remember my pastel Checkerboard Cake I made at Easter. That particular cake was made from scratch, not a box mix. Shortly after posting that recipe, I received an email from a reader, Lorri Allen. Lorri had made the checkerboard cake, but she used boxed cake mix and experienced a minor issue with the finished pattern being a bit wonky. The picture above and directly below is my cake, and you can see the top layer baked a bit weird.

After reading Lorri’s email, I decided to go ahead and bake right along with her and see if we could figure out what was going on. You see, in Lorri’s cake (pictured below) the checkerboard pattern, instead of being straight, ran down in a diagonal fashion. My picture above shows this as well, though not quite as drastic.

I discovered just after mixing the cake mix batter that it’s considerably thinner than a “from scratch” cake batter. I wanted to do the same thing Lorri did so I didn’t change anything, just mixed up the cake mix, separated into three batches and tinted two of them with paste food coloring.

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In the picture below, you can see how the batter stuck to the mold, and as I lifted the mold out, the excess flopped off the mold and back down onto the batter. That didn’t happen when I made the cake from scratch. I did lift the mold fairly quickly, where Lorri said she lifted hers rather slowly.

Below you can see that the batter actually “shifted” during baking. Again, this didn’t happen with my Easter cake.

I suggested that Lorri try cutting back the water in the cake mix recipe a bit to see if the thicker batter would work.

Lorri said “I made another cake and had better results this time. I used the Pillsbury Moist Supreme cake mix. I changed the amount of water, reducing the 1 cup by 2 tablespoons. I made two mixes. The batter was very thick. Then I used a liquid tint that was thinner then the gel. I pressed down on the separator, while I filled it…its hard to do by yourself!  I  also raised the divider more quickly. This cake was a hit with my friend’s grand kids. They told me that I’m the ‘Cool’ grandma of the neighborhood.”

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So there you have it :) If you plan to make a checkerboard cake with a cake mix, try reducing the water a little and be sure to raise the molds quickly.

I believe that cake mixes rise differently than a cake from scratch. Cakes from scratch, at least in my experience, tend to rise more evenly and don’t end up with a big dome top like cake mixes often do.

Thanks for baking along with my Lorri!

Here’s the Checkerboard Cake from scratch if you are interested :) 

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  1. Marie says

    Oh yumm. I have never made a checkerboard cake but when I do, I will be sure to keep your handy hints in mind!

  2. Von says

    The diagonal layers actually look intentional! I think it looks really cool!!

    The cake with the white on the outside looks like an egg =] tehehe….

  3. Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" says

    I think they both look great! I saw on Cake Boss once, Buddy made his wife a checkerboard cake, but he used different sized round cutters in each layer, then reassembled them so they made a checkerboard layer.

  4. Bonnie says

    Yes, thicker batter is pretty crucial. I find it works well to coat the insert with cooking spray each time before putting it in the pan. I love the 3-color effect that you use, Amanda! So cool.

  5. Amanda says

    Rachelle – Yes, seen that! In fact there is a link to Megan's cake made that way from the Easter Checkerboard cake recipe :)

    Bonnie – Thanks! Actually I had read that about the cooking spray, totally makes sense. I didn't use it because I didn't have a problem with the from scratch cake. If I make another with cake mix I will definitely try that :)

  6. Me, Myself and Pie says

    Even though it might have shifted, the cake is still beautiful! I've never heard of checkerboard cakes before. This would be great for a shower done in the bride's colors!

  7. Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says

    Great little experiment you carried out here!! I am yet to try making this, need to go and get myself one of those molds!

  8. Culinary Cory says

    What an interesting post. I always noticed my checkerboard cakes looked different with cake mixes, but never made the connection as to why. Thanks for sharing your experiment.

  9. Megan says

    Wow, I'm really behind in my blog reading. I almost missed this one. Good info here and I SU'ed it. The cakes turned out but it's interesting how the batter shifted. Now I want to make another checkerboard cake! ;)

  10. Lindsay says

    I would absolutely love to know what kind of icing Lorri used on her cake!! It looks so light and fluffy and delicious! Any ideas of what kind of icing it is?

  11. Amanda says

    Hi Lindsay :) I asked Lorri and she said it's called Frostin' Pride non-dairy ready to whip icing & filling. she buys it at her local Smart & Final. There's also a chocolate version, that one is called Rich's Bettercremenon-dairy icing and filling. They both come in quart size cardboard cartons, like a milk or heavy cream carton.

    I found a link for Frostin' Pride on Costco's website so you can see what it looks like here and here's a picture of the chocolate one

    Hope that helps!

  12. Casey Jo says

    I have a checkerboard mold..was just wondering if there is a way to use 2 differnt “flavored cake mixes or batters than just white cake & coco powder? The recipie I have calls for 2 white cake mixes & add coco to one..just wondering if I could use others without them b eeding together as it says would happen if I were to not use the 2 white cake mixes &coco method? Thanks!! :)

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