Lemony Rainbow Checkerboard Cake

Yield: One six-inch layer cake, about 8-10 servings

Source: Sprinkle Bakes original recipe

Prep: 3 hours, total time about 5 hours

Using 6-inch cake pans (as I have) will require making the batter recipe twice. Use 2-inch and 4-inch circle templates for the 6-inch layers. This cake can be made into a standard 9-inch cake by making the batter recipe three times and dividing each batter between two pans. Use a 3-inch circle template and a 6-inch circle template for the 9-inch layers. 

A quick note about the cream cheese frosting. Use Philadelphia brand cream cheese if you can find it. I'm not much of a loyalist when it comes to brands and I rarely endorse products, but it is simply the best product on the market flavor-wise for this frosting. 

First three 6-inch cake layers

2 1/2 cups/ 320g all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup/ 8.2 oz. whole milk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons lemon extract

12 tablespoons/169g unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups/ 300g granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon red gel food color

1/2 teaspoon yellow gel food color

1/2 teaspoon orange gel food color

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 six-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a 4-cup measure, stir together milk, vinegar, eggs and lemon extract; set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add 1/3 of the flour to the butter mixture and mix on low speed. Add 1/2 the liquid mixture, mix well on low speed. Alternate the remaining flour and liquid, ending with the flour mixture. 
  4. Divide the batter evenly into thirds and place in separate bowls (a generous 1 1/2 cups batter per bowl). Color each batter with the red, yellow and orange food color. Pour into pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow cakes to cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Level cakes with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm, about 1 hour.

Next three 6-inch cake layers

1 cake batter recipe (above), without added food color 

1/2 teaspoon blue gel food color

1/2 teaspoon green gel food color

1/2 teaspoon violet gel food color

  1. Divide the batter evenly into thirds as before and tint each batter with the blue, green and violet gel food color. Bake as previously directed. Cool, level and refrigerate as previously directed. 

Cream cheese frosting

1 cup/ 226g unsalted butter, softened

4 cups/440g confectioners sugar

16 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar on low speed until just incorporated. Switch to medium-high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese 1 piece at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and salt; mix again. 


Mixed rainbow nonpareils

Cotton candy, if desired

  1. Use a 4-inch circle template to make the first cut (you could use a small bowl or cup with a 4-inch rim). Place the template onto the center of the cake and cut around it with a knife held vertically; avoid cutting the circles at an angle or your checkerboard will be uneven. Use up-and-down cutting motions so the cake doesn't tear as you cut it. Remove the center of the cake and use the 2-inch template to cut a small round from the center of the smaller cake. Repeat process with all cakes. 
  2. Lay all the cake pieces out on a large piece of parchment paper. Lightly frost the outer edge of a medium circle and place it inside a different color large circle. Frost a small circle that is a different color than the first two circles and place inside the medium circle. Repeat process with all cakes, so that there are six tricolor cake layers. Frost the tops of two cake layers and stack them. Place the third unfrosted layer on top. Frost entire cake with the cream cheese frosting, creating swirls with an off-set spatula. Top with rainbow sprinkles and cotton candy. 
  3. Due to the cream cheese frosting, cake will need to be stored in the refrigerator.