Though I did not get to participate in the “Young Talents” culinary contest hosted by Cuisine Essentielle Magazine, I did bake and assemble my own Gateau Damier Chocolat-Vanille without any special pans or complicated baking techniques in my kitchen. The competition takes place on Saturday 27 June at the Long Beach Mauritius and challenges amateur cooks to prepare Gratin de Thon au Riz and bakers to come up with an original presentation for Gateau Damier/ Checkerboard Cake. Winners will be rewarded by a half day course in the kitchens of the Long Beach by professional chefs along with several gifts by the event sponsors.

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This was my first attempt at making a checkerboard cake so I was naturally apprehensive about the outcome and embarked upon this project with a basic butter cake recipe adapted from Brit+Co [who has a beautifully illustrated step-by-step tutorial of a Raspberry & Lemon Checkerboard] and a yummy chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe scaled down from PureWow. The secret to this multi-layered cake assembled out of geometrically aligned circles is to have neat cuts and flat layers that fit perfectly like a big puzzle. There is no need to go fancy with the frosting and the decoration as the real surprise comes from the inside as you cut into the cake.

CHECKERBOARD CAKE

Ingredients:

For the Cake Layers

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk

3 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kitchen salt

1 ¼ cup full cream milk

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons hot water

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

100 g cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

250 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted

170 g semisweet chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour four 6-inch round cake pans, then set them aside.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the butter until smooth with an electric mixer.
  • Add in sugar and mix until fluffy for about 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Turn mixer down to low.

  • Add the vanilla, eggs and yolk, one at a time. Stop mixer and scrape down bottom and sides of bowl.
  • Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Slowly pour in full cream milk.
  • Add in the second half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix the batter.

  • Separate the batter into 2 mixing bowls. Gradually add the cocoa powder and hot water to one bowl.
  • Fold the batter till combined and even colored. Leave the other bowl plain and fold in vanilla seeds.
  • Evenly distribute batter into the cake pans so that you have two pans of vanilla and chocolate batter.

  • Bake for about 22-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10- 15 minutes before removing the cakes from pans.
  • While the cakes cool to room temperature on the racks, prepare the chocolate cream cheese frosting.

  • Beat cream cheese and butter until combined. Add sugar 1 cup at a time and cream till light and fluffy.
  • Add melted chocolate and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Cover the surface with plastic wrap.
  • Once the cakes have completely cooled, use a serrated knife to carefully level each cake to 1 inch tall.

  • Use the 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut the centers of each cake, carefully remove the outer circles.
  • Carefully cut out the centers of each of the 4-inch cake pieces, using the 2-inch round cookie cutter.
  • Carefully smear the insides of each piece of cake ring with very thin layer of the vanilla buttercream.

  • Place the alternate rings back inside each other. There will be 2 layers with vanilla outside and inside.
  • Similarly there should be 2 layers with chocolate outside and inside. Place one layer on a cake board.
  • Spread a thin, smooth layer of buttercream on top. Alternating colors, place the second layer on top.

  • Continue with all 4 layers of cake and crumb coat the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream.
  • Let frosted cake chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Frost the outside with more buttercream.
  • Finish off the cake with a ruffled buttercream border and sprinkles, if desired. Makes 12-15 servings.

Vanilla & Chocolate Checkers