Checkerboard Cake


This checkerboard cake consists of tender vanilla and chocolate cakes with a rich, creamy chocolate frosting.


  • 1 (15.25 ounce) cake mix
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • ⅔ cup salted butter, melted, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • Baking spray with flour
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 3 large egg whites


  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (32 ounce) package powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Prepare cakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) with racks in middle and lower third positions.
  2. Place the cake mix, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at low speed, using the paddle attachment, for 1 minute until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
  3. Spoon batter evenly into 2 (9-inch) round nonstick cake pans, greased with baking spray; set aside.
  4. Repeat procedure with the white cake mix, substituting 3 egg whites for 3 large eggs.
  5. Bake 4 cakes in the preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating cake pans from front to back and between top and bottom racks halfway through baking time.
  6. Remove pans to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on wire racks, about 1 hour.
  7. Trim the top of the cakes as needed to make sure the top is level.
  8. Prepare frosting: Beat softened butter with a stand mixer at medium speed, using the paddle attachment, until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Add softened cream cheese and mix for 1 minute until combined, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  10. Whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa in a large bowl; gradually add to butter mixture alternately with 4 tablespoons milk, along with the vanilla. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape down bowl in between additions. (If needed, add up to 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency.) Increase speed to medium, and beat 1 to 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  11. Assemble cake: Place 1 chocolate cake layer on a cutting board. Using a 6-inch round cutter, cut out center of cake to create a 6-inch cake round; leave 9-inch cake ring intact, and remove center 6-inch cake. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out center of the 6-inch cake to create a 3-inch cake round; leave 6-inch ring intact, and remove center 3-inch cake round. Place the 9-inch cake ring on a serving platter or cake stand. Set aside 6-inch ring and 3-inch cake round.
  12. Repeat process with 1 vanilla cake layer to create 1 (9-inch) vanilla cake ring, 1 (6-inch) vanilla cake ring, and 1 (3-inch) vanilla cake round.
  13. Place the 6-inch vanilla ring in the center of the 9-inch chocolate ring. Place the 3-inch chocolate cake round in the center of the 6-inch vanilla ring.
  14. Spread a thin layer of frosting over layer on platter. Place 9-inch vanilla cake ring on frosted layer and place the 6-inch chocolate ring in center of thee 9-inch vanilla ring. Place the 3-inch vanilla cake round in the center of the 6-inch chocolate ring. Spread a thin layer of frosting over layer. Repeat process with remaining chocolate cake layer and vanilla cake layer.
  15. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill for 15 minutes before serving.