Checkerboard Cake for Easter

Checkerboard cake is often made with yellow cake and chocolate cake, which makes for a striking contrast. From the moment that I saw my friend Sue’s Green Velvet Checkerboard Cake, I knew I wanted to make one. With Easter right around the corner, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make a pastel checkerboard cake!

I actually adapted Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Perfect Party Cake to make this colorful treat. I also used (gasp) a white frosting that uses shortening instead of butter. It’s actually a delicious frosting, but if you can’t get past the shortening, you can alway use your favorite white icing or buttercream frosting. I used paste food coloring to tint the batters and frosting, and a checkerboard baking set to create the cake. However, if you don’t want to buy a pan, Megan shows you how to make a checkerboard cake without it.

Amanda’s Notes:

1) I made one batch of cake batter and came up a little short. So I made another batch and poured the leftover batter into a 9″ square pan and made a square cake. I even swirled the different colors to make a marble cake! You could make cupcakes out of the rest if you like. The instructions below WILL leave you with leftover batter.

2) You can use any white cake recipe that you want, particularly if you have a favorite.

3) Important – Because this is a double batch, you might want to split the cake recipe in half and do it in two batches, as it might be too much for the mixer. Because of that, I am including the ingredient list for ONE batch at the end so you do not have to do the calculations.

4) I used measuring cups to distribute the colored batter because the pour spouts made it a bit easier. I have also seen people use decorator bags.

5) Save the egg yolks for making ice cream!

Checkerboard Cake for Easter
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

printable version

4 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 large egg whites
3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

White Frosting

1 cup vegetable shortening (not butter flavored)
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Place the checkerboard cake insert into one of the pans and set aside.

For the Cake: 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter, and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and will aerated.

Separate the batter evenly into three separate bowls. To add paste food coloring, take a small amount (smaller than a pea, it doesn’t take much!) and whisk it into the white batter. Repeat for the other two batches. I used pink, purple, and green.

Starting with the pan that has the checkerboard insert, fill the center hole halfway with pink batter. Fill the center ring halfway with green and the outer ring halfway with purple. Carefully loosen the insert’s “legs” from the side of the pan and lift the insert straight up into the air. Rinse and dry the insert and place it into the next pan.

In keeping with your pattern flow (pink, green, purple, etc) fill the center hole halfway with green, the second ring with purple, and the outer ring with pink. For the last pan, continuing the pattern, purple in the center, then pink, then green.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, checking after 25, or until the cakes are springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To Make the Frosting:

Beat shortening and extracts until creamy, about 1-2 minutes on medium speed. Slowly add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, then 2 tablespoons of milk, 2 more cups of powdered sugar, then the remaining milk and any additional powdered sugar that may be needed.

Put 1/3 of the frosting into a separate bowl and tint it with a small amount of yellow paste food coloring. Frost in between the layers yellow and the sides and top of cake white. Decorate with green tinted coconut and jelly beans on top.

(if you would like to make it in two separate batches)

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

check out Tidy Mom for more great ideas!

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  1. Susan says

    Cutest cake ever!! I actually have a checkerboard cake pan and would love to use it to make this cake!

    Hey, is that offer to join your discussion group still available? I can't find the email you sent me?

  2. Marie says

    Amanda, I am seriously impressed!!! That looks so very pretty. I have always wanted to make a checkerboard cake, but have never gotten around to it. Perhaps after I have moved and settled in. YOu have inspired me!

  3. Kelly says

    LOVE IT! It's sooooo cute. My nieces would go nuts over this cake. Maybe it's time I finally buy one of those separator dealies. :) Beautiful job, Amanda!

  4. Katrina says

    That looks really cool, Amanda! Love it. Kids would certainly love it. It looks so springy and Easter-y

  5. Megan says

    Bee-U-tiful!!! Amanda, I LOVE it. I saw a green velvet checkered cake and I thought how smart but an Easter one is brilliant. I bet it was delicious. It makes me want to make another one! I'll put a link up on my post too. Thank you!

  6. noble pig says

    So cute. I just saw a cake like this where they used the handle from an Easter basket and stuck it in the top of the cake with a bow around it and placed some dyed eggs on the top, it looked like an Easter basket.

  7. Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says

    This cake looks fabulous!! So adorable too! I've been meaning to make this recipe since forever!

  8. Tiffiny Felix says

    That is the cutest cake!! I had to laugh about your shortening. My buttercream has both butter and shortening. We've cut nearly all other trans fats out of our diet, so I'll keep my buttercream the way it is. It's the best frosting for decorating, and is delicious, too :)

  9. lisaiscooking says

    This looks great for Easter! I didn't even know there was a pan to make this easier. Great to know!

  10. Joanna says

    I love to see what you are baking, but this is the best. I want to make this cake and watch the reactions. Thanks.

  11. Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

    That's so pretty, I was wondering how you got the neat circles but I see you have a contraption to do it. Reminds me a bit of battenberg but way more interesting.

  12. Leslie says

    So cute and SOOOO SPring! My butter cream I use actually uses 1/2 butter and half shortening and everyone raves about it. I dont dare tell them what is in it!!!

  13. Heather says

    What a beautiful cake for Easter! It has all the colors of Spring. Thank you for the instructions on using the checkerboard gadget – I have a checkerboard pan and haven't used it yet. This will be very helpful.

  14. Lanie Ree says

    Whoa, this is amazing! I am filing this away.

    Thank you for linking this to A Little Craft Therapy, with Life in the Pitts.

  15. Lori says

    This looks so yummy! I love the colors. My daughter's 13th b-day is coming soon, so I might have to try this. I'm bookmarking this.

    Thanks for joining Get Your Craft on Thursday. Please join me next week for another great party. Don’t forget to stop by and enter my giveaway. I’ll announce the winner at next weeks party!

  16. Anonymous says

    how did you make your circles so perfect after taking out the dividers? Everytime i do it the circles are pretty messy =(

  17. Amanda says

    First of al, thank you to everyone who left a comment, you are too kind! I was really happy with how this came out considering I've never made a checkerboard cake before. So fun!

    Susan – I've sent you an email about the group :)

    Megan – Thanks for the link my friend!

    Cathy – Oh the handle idea sounds so cute! My cake decorating abilities are limited LOL

    Tiffiny & Leslie – I actually thought about subbing half butter in the frosting, I will try it next time :)

    Amanda – I love how my blog thinks you're me and puts your comments in pink. LMAO

    Anonymous – The divider is all one piece and fits quite snugly in the pan, therefore when you lift it out (go straight up) all the circles stay nice and neat. Is your mold too loose for your Pan perhaps?

    Thanks again for all your wonderful comments! :)

  18. Ingrid says

    Okay, that's actually easier than I thought it was going to be. I guess I didn't know how the pan worked. :)

    Happy Friday!

  19. Barbara @ moderncomfortfood says

    What a very pretty cake, and I love the colors you chose too. It has Spring, love, and happiness written all over it and would bring smiles to all who see it. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

  20. Carolyn @ My Backyard Eden says

    That is so pretty and festive! Perfect for Easter!

    Thanks for linking up to Make it Yours Day at My Backyard Eden!

  21. Cris Goode says

    This cake reminds me of something my aunt would make for easter. She would LOVE this idea.

    Thanks for the great McLinky list! I love checking out all the cool projects and this is a great list of places to check out!

  22. Anonymous says

    I made this for our Easter get-together today– sheer amazement from all the family when it was cut! Quite a hit!!! Had to explain the process in detail since no one had never seen a checkerboard cake before– weird! Thanks for sharing something SO fun…

  23. Beverly @ says

    This is gorgeous Amanda!! I'm so glad I spotted this over at Be Different Act Normal – it's beautiful!

  24. Tina @ MOMS CRAZY COOKING says

    One of these days… I need to get that checkboard cake pan! It looks like it would be so fun!

    Myself and 2 other great bloggers are hosting THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS and the theme this week is "EASTER COOKIES & TREATS" and I think this is a great recipe for that! We would love for you to stop on by and link up your recipe if you wish! Hope to see you there!!! :-)

  25. Stephanie Lynn @Under the Table and Dreaming says

    Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for linking to the sunday showcase – I greatly appreciate it. I have featured this today. Hope you have a fabulous holiday! Thanks again ~ Stephanie Lynn

  26. Sweet Peas and Bumblebees says

    So Cute & Yummy!!

    I would love it if you would link this up at our What I Made Wednesday Linky Party!!

    Sweet Peas and Bumblebees

  27. Miz Helen says

    Hi Amanda,
    This is a beautiful Easter Cake. You presented it very nicely with a great tutorial. You made it look easy. It really looks delicious. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week! Have a wonderful week end!

  28. Miz Helen says

    Congratulations Amanda,
    You have been featured on Full Plate Thursday and The Menu this week, enjoy!
    Miz Helen

    • says

      Hi Colleen :) There are two problems with using regular food coloring instead of the paste/gel. 1) it’s liquid so it will thin the batter, changing the consistency and the batter, hence the chemistry when your cake is baking, and 2) you would have to use quite a bit of the liquid to achieve the same vibrant color results.

      The gel/paste food colorings are available at WalMart near the Wilton stuff, which is usually by the crafts and party items. They are a little over a dollar a piece and you will find yourself using them all the time. :)

  29. Priscilla Halcomb says

    Amanda, this is an awesome idea! I’m am printing this off right now. I have an original ring of my grandmother’s from the 30′s. I’ve had these cakes since childhood and never thought about a pastel one. Thanks, Priscilla


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