This challenge couldn’t have come at a better time! July is my birthday month. Having to bake a special cake for the Daring Bakers was the perfect excuse to bake myself a birthday cake. For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! When I saw this challenge I immediately got on Amazon and bought the Surprise Inside Cakes cookbook, which is amazing. But after looking through it I decided I couldn’t commit to one of her cakes right now. I figured I’d fail at the first attempt and have to try again (or a dozen times) to get it right. And I just couldn’t justify taking the time and energy to make multiple cakes when most of my time and energy has to go toward my kids. So I opted to make something a little simpler, and something I’d seen before and been anxious to try. This checkerboard cake is impressive without being quite as involved as something like this. Amazing, right?! And something I’d like to try someday, just not today. A lot of these kinds of cakes involve baking cake, crumbling it up and mixing it with icing, carving into other baked cake layers and then filling to space with the cake-frosting mixture. I wasn’t even going to pretend I was brave enough to try that. This cake just involves some cutting and layering. I could handle that. I used cake mix for this challenge because if it didn’t turn out I did not want to throw a scratch cake away, and, let’s face it, scratch cake is easier and always reliable. Start by baking two boxes of cake mix into 8-inch rounds. I used a dark chocolate and funfetti cause it’s my birthday! Wrap them in plastic and chill them in the fridge for at least a couple hours or overnight. Now you want to level them to all the same height. I used one of these. It’s a favorite cake tool of mine. You can also use a serrated knife. Now cut each layer using a 5-inch circle and a 3-inch circle. I tried to center them perfectly but they weren’t quite perfect. It turned out fine. Also, as you can see below, I had my knife at a slight angle when I cut the first circle. Try to keep it straight, but know that if you have the same problem as I did, it will still work out. Then do the same with the chocolate layers. Be very careful when moving the rings! They become very fragile. Now would be a good time to chill or freeze the layers. I didn’t and wish I had. They would’ve been easier to move if they were cold. Whip up a batch of frosting, I used this one. Place one large vanilla ring on a cake plate. Spread some frosting around the inside of the ring. Place a chocolate ring inside of this one. Frost the inside of this ring and then place a small vanilla circle in the center. NOTE: Your icing is going to get full of chocolate crumbs. Try to keep the big bowl of frosting relatively crumb free. I scooped frosting into a smaller bowl as I needed it. Top this layer with frosting. Then repeat with the rest of the cake layers, alternating chocolate, vanilla, chocolate. Frost the entire cake with a crumb coat and put in the fridge to set, at least a couple hours. Now you may need to make another batch of frosting, depending on how much you made the first time around. Finish off the cake with the final coat of frosting. Place the cake in the fridge until you’re ready to cut in to it. These kinds of cakes cut more cleanly when cold. Stick some candles in and celebrate!