So, here I am, back from going dark yet again. I can't really explain the hermit life I've been living lately, except by saying the passage of time has me depressed yet again. I've realized that certain people just don't believe I'm living my life the "right" way unless I'm living it their way. I've realized that no one is going to do anything for me, look out for me, care about me, any more than I'll ever care about myself. That's not a "wah, wah no one gives a hoot" I'm expressing. It's just a realization that nothing will happen to change or improve my life unless I make it happen.
With that in mind... I dropped everything and hightailed it to Montreal. It's a city that I've always wanted to visit for its culture/poutine, and I was starting to get to a point in my life where I just couldn't justify not going. There will always be money issues, or time issues, or future issues, or "I bleeping hate driving on the thruway" issues. Might as well just try to have a little bit of fun in the midst of all of that garbage. Also, I'm, like, awesome and bought my boyfriend tickets to see one of his favorite hip-hop acts as a belated birthday present while we were up there. (But mostly... POUTINE!)
Now that I'm back from a rather relaxing, albeit far too short, vacay, I thought it was time to get back into the swing of things by sharing with you all a dessert I have always wanted to make: the checkerboard cake! I had an excuse in boyfriend's aforementioned recent birthday, so I completely ignored his request for a --*gasp* --Duncan Hines cake and got all selfish up in this popsicle stand.
Checkerboard Cake (makes one 3-layer, 8-inch round cake)
from Good Housekeeping: Great Baking
For the cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour (or 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of butter, softened
3 large eggs
3 ounces of semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
For the frosting
1/3 cup of butter, softened
3 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
3 cups of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons of milk (have more on hand, just in case)
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms of each with parchment paper. Grease and lightly dust the parchment with cocoa powder.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate cup, mix together 3/4 cup of milk and vanilla. In a separate large bowl, beat together butter and sugar on low speed using a hand or stand mixer, until mixture is blended together. Continue to beat, increasing speed to high, until mixture looks smooth and creamy. Reduce speed back down to medium, and add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Next, reduce the speed back down to the lowest setting, and alternate between adding in the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat together just until smooth.
Transfer half of the batter to a separate bowl. Stir melted chocolate into one half of the batter until completely distributed. And there you have it. TWO batters!
Now, at this point, some recipes will advise you to just bake a vanilla cake in one pan, and a chocolate cake in another. Then, you'd cut out blocks of each cake and basically Lego this thing together to give it the checkered effect. I personally think that's a wack way of doing things. That's like licking your building blocks and hoping they stick together. Not that I ever did this. (Probably I did this.)
Anyway, take a chance! Trust yourself! I say this mostly because the method I used worked, which shocked me, since almost nothing I touch ever works the first time (true story: I bought my first smartphone a few years ago, had it set up by people smarter than I am, and it immediately stopped working once I touched it. I returned it to the store, and the tech there said he'd never seen anything like it. There is a similar story involving an Easy Bake Oven and my childhood, but it's too painful to talk about that failure). So let's get to this!
This is what you should do:
And in word form: place vanilla batter in one pastry bag (or plastic Ziploc bag with a 1/2 inch corner snipped off), and chocolate batter in another. Alternate between rings of chocolate and vanilla batter, moving slowly and trying to keep the rings uniform (you can see how I did on that front). Try to make the bands of batter about 1 1/2 inches thick. Make sure to have one pan with an opposing pattern: so, if you started with chocolate on the outside of your rings in two pans, start with vanilla on the third.
Lightly tap the bottom of each pan against a counter to remove as many air bubbles as you can. Place pans in the oven, staggered on two racks, making sure one pan is not directly above another. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.
While the cakes are cooling, work on your frosting: using a hand or stand mixer on medium speed, mix together everything but your milk. Once smooth, slowly add in milk, a little at a time, until you reach the consistency you desire. You may need a little more than 4 tablespoons (I needed about five). Lay one of the two identical cakes on a flat surface and generously frost. Top this layer with an opposing layer, and frost again. Top with final layer and GO CRAZY.
So I was pretty disappointed with myself when I baked this, just because I was trying to get it to look perfect, since it was for my love's birthday and since I've been extra hard on myself and mean to myself lately. And once I saw how my rings of batter ("battered rings" sounds vaguely violent, no?) looked more like somewhat circular globs of batter in a sort-of discernible pattern, I kind of figured this was going to just be a disaster that I would have to season lightly with my salty tears and deem a "marble cake," as if that's what it was supposed to be all along.
It... it worked.
How in the hell did it work?! Beats me. But it did. I think I may have eaten more of this cake than the birthday boy did. No, wait. We probably had the same amount of cake, but I definitely sliced more pieces off (thus causing us both to have wayyyy too much cake), mostly in awe that IT WORKED!
And, not only did it look super cool, it tasted AMAZING. As you can probably tell from the ingredient list, it's an incredibly buttery creation, which pretty much means it's bound to be so freaking good.