Friday, February 14, 2014

Strawberry and Chocolate Checkered Cake (with Bonus Cupcakes!)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Eric and I aren't big into Valentine's Day. Our plans this year include sushi and probably cuddling on the couch watching a Supernatural marathon. But I do use the commercial holiday as an excuse to test out some new bake goods. I've been wanting to do a checkered cake for ages. I first saw one on The Cake Boss years ago and I had to figure out how to do it for myself. Then I stumbled upon the directions on Pinterest and it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it'd be.

I used doctored cake mixes--strawberry and chocolate--for the cakes and cupcakes. I wanted to make the cakes from scratch (my chocolate on chocolate cake is one of my popular post on this blog) and even felt a little guilty for using boxed cake mix. But cake mixes were invented for a reason. Sometimes life is just too busy and you need something easy.

Since I used two cake mixes I could have made a four layer cake, two cakes, or a cake and cupcakes. Eric and I certainly didn't need that many sweets in the house (especially with his birthday on Sunday) so I made the cake for us and cupcakes for him to take to work. Eric said the cupcakes didn't even make it to noon. I guess they liked them.

Strawberry Cake
1 strawberry cake mix
1  3-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup water, milk, or buttermilk
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Chocolate Cake
1 chocolate cake mix
1  3-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup water, milk, or buttermilk
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Chocolate Filling
1 5.9-ounce instant chocolate pudding mix

1 1/2 cups cold milk

Buttercream Frosting
3 sticks butter, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-8 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour to 8-inch cake pans. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix all the chocolate cake ingredients together until well combined. Pour half the batter into one of the cake pans.

In a second large bowl, mix all the strawberry cake ingredients together until well combined. Pour half the batter into the second cake pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the center of the cakes are set.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pans, and then place cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Divide the remaining chocolate and strawberry batter between 24 cupcake tins. I layered chocolate on bottom, strawberry on top. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until the centers of the cupcakes have set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan. Cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Filling
In a medium bowl whisk together the pudding mix and the milk until completely combined. Mixture will be very thick.

Place the the butter into a large bowl and cream with a hand mixer or standing mixer. Add vanilla and mix. Add 1 cup of sugar and blend on low speed until well incorporated. Then add another cup of sugar and beat until well blended. By now your buttercream is getting thick. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk and mix. Blend in the rest of the sugar.. Add more tablespoons of milk, if desired. To get light, smooth buttercream you need to blend the buttercream for 15 to 20 minutes on low.

I'm not going to lie, I rather winged the assembling part. I didn't go out and buy any special cutters or templates. I basically eyeballed it using a small plate, a glass, and serrated knife to cut out the circles.

Basically what you want to do is cut a big circle out the center of each cake then a smaller circle out of the middle of the cake, so you have two large rings, two medium rings, and two small circles.

As you can see, I over filled my chocolate cake pan. With a serrated knife you can simply trim it down.
Start with a chocolate ring and place a smaller strawberry ring inside it then place the small chocolate cake in the center. Repeat with the other pieces yet inversed.

Chocolate, strawberry chocolate on bottom. Strawberry, chocolate, strawberry on top.

Here is an awesome video that does a better job at explaining how to assemble a checkered cake.

Place half of the chocolate filling between the two layers of the cake then frost with the buttercream frosting and decorate.

For the cupcakes: with a spoon scoop out the centers of the cupcakes, scoop in the chocolate filling, and frost with buttercream. Decorate, if desired.

Keep both the cake and cupcakes refrigerated. Before serving, remove from fridge and allow to sit out for about fifteen minutes, allowing the buttercream to soften.

I think I need a little practice at the checkered cake, but I can't wait to try again!



More Recipes for Valentine's Day:
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with a Strawberry Sauce
Baileys White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies  

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