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Check Mate

May 24, 2012

Have you ever set out to do a project and it ends up being something totally different from what you expected?  That happens to me all the time.  Most recently, it was Christopher’s birthday cake.

Two weeks ago, Christopher celebrated his 11th birthday.  He’s really been into learning how to play chess lately and asked for a chess birthday cake.  I figured that would be easy enough.  When we first started talking about it, Andrew tossed out the idea of getting some chocolate molds and making the chess pieces out of chocolate.  He even liked the idea of figuring out a way to make 11 of them the candles on the cake.  The man is ambitious, I’ll give him that.  I love the idea, but I was starting to feel like we didn’t have enough time.  I countered his idea with “Why don’t we buy him a chess set?  That way he can stop playing on the computer and our phones and actually have a game of his own.”  Well, yeah, we could do that.  I left it  up to the birthday boy, and he opted for my idea.  I had no idea how grateful I would be for that later.

So, it came time to make the cake.  My idea was to get some fondant and make a checkerboard design on top of the cake, ice the rest and voila, chess board!  I always do a search when I know what theme I’m going for and see if I get any inspiration to help me out.  I really was hoping to find that it is relatively easy to make a checker board cake that alternates between the chocolate and yellow cake…like this:

Image from

From everything I gather, with the right pan inserts, this can be made super easily with a round cake.  My problem was I wanted to do a square cake for the board.  In my searching, I did find a couple of sites that said it could be done by putting the cake mix into Ziploc bags, cutting the end off and going in squares around the pan until you reach the center.  Should be easy enough, right?

So, here is where I tell you that I have no pictures of that part of the process like I had planned.  I got everything set up, started to do the first round of batter into the first pan and promptly yelled for Andrew to come help.  We managed to get it in both pans without wearing too much of it, but we both had a fair amount up to our elbows.  Every time we tried to maneuver the bag in a way that helped, more would ooze out onto our hands.  There is a part of me that wishes I had told my mom to video tape it.  If I had though, I know I’d be posting it here with all of this and well…I’m glad I didn’t.   It was a good bonding process though.  If your church is planning a marriage workshop soon, attempting to have couples make this kind of cake together should be a huge success.   😉

So, after the cakes were finished and I had completed the crumb coat (we now call this “dirty icing” in our house thanks to Cake Boss), it was time to start the fondant.  I didn’t get fancy.  I just bought a block of Wilton white fondant and cut it in half.  I mixed brown icing coloring into that block and just kept working it in until we had a nice brown color.  For the other half of the block, I mixed in the brown and only kneaded it in until it was marble-looking.  I was very happy with how that turned out.   From there, Andrew jumped in and cut the squares for me.  I’m glad he did, because I’m not very patient with things like that.  I can imagine what it would have looked like and it wouldn’t have been pretty.

After another coating of icing, I started in the center and ’tiled’ my what out on each side.  I’m pretty happy with the final result.

I took this next picture without the flash and the color isn’t as true to the final result, but I still like the picture.

Now, here comes the part where I “keep it real”.  Something happened to this cake that those pictures do not show.  When I dirty iced the cake and put it in the fridge, it was fine.  When I took it out of the fridge, it was fine.   However, as I started to put the next layer of icing on it, I noticed something was wrong.

Do you see it?  The corner of the cake just started to slowly fall.  I’m still not sure what happened.  I even scraped the icing of at one point and looked to see if the cake had just turned to mush or what, but the only thing I could tell from the outside was it had fallen.   It was too late to try to make another layer, so I did what any rational person would do.  I ignored it.  I decorated as if it was level and hoped no one would notice.  After all, enough icing covers anything, right?  *sigh*  Yeah, right.

This is where I have to just learn to let go and not let things bother me.  My amazing son was not at all bothered by the sloping corner and responded with “I like it!  It makes it look more realistic!”

Say what? 

“You know, like a battlefield with rolling hills.”


It wasn’t until it was almost time to eat the cake that I started hearing cries of “what about the candles!?” Mommy has it covered, guys.  I just lifted up a few of those fondant tiles on top and put the candles in.  Viola!  I loved these tall candles that kept the flame up over the chess pieces.  I was glad to see none of them were burnt in the battle.  😉

It was a lot of fun making this cake, but apparently I didn’t serve it fast enough…Sean decided it was time to eat and if the cake wasn’t ready, well, he could just take a bite out of Mamaw!!  So much for table manners!  Yeah…boys…

Oh…I almost forgot.  The checkerboard design inside the cake.  It SORT of turned out.  Considering the craziness getting it in the pan, I was happy with the final result.  I do have ideas though if I chose to try this again that I think will make it work.

There you have it.  If anyone decides to try to make something similar, I’d love to know about it.  As the saying goes…Let them eat cake!!!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2012 10:08 am

    I got hungry just by looking at your post! =)

    • June 8, 2012 10:38 am

      Thank you…it was yummy!!

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