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.
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.”
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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