Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake

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Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake,
Okay, here it is guys, that cake that I feel I’ve been talking about posting since forever ago. And guess what?…….

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (6) It’s a checkerboard cake! I mean, you probably already deduced as much but I thought I’d add some extra emphasis for good measure, you know?

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (4) Surprisingly the checkered design isn’t as difficult to create as you might be thinking. It’s actually fairly easy but that won’t change the fact that it will be something that’s sure to impress the guests. The day I made the first one of these cakes (I actually made it a few times for testing so let’s just call it “take #1”), no one could figure out how I  did it.

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (5) Hehe, this was so funny; Liv just stood and stared at the thing for the longest time before turning to me and saying “Okay, I give up. I know you didn’t just sit and cut out tiny cubes of cake to paste together, but really, how did you do it?” The kiddos thought it was pretty awesome too and I’ll admit I had way too much fun myself in making it. I’ll definitely be doing the checkered thing again.

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (2) As for the cake itself, I’m talking about the flavor here, well it’s kind of EVERYTHING! If you haven’t jumped on the tahini bandwagon yet then I suggest you hitch a ride right now, starting with this recipe. I usually try to steer clear of majority fads for the most part, but if there was ever a trend worth following then tahini is it! It’s like peanut butter’s cousin that has been seriously under-appreciated all its life. Maybe it only seems that way to me because I’ve been one of the oblivious peanut butter loyalists not appreciating it. As you can tell from how much I’ve already used it recently, I’m planning to make up for a lifetime worth of ignorance and I’m just getting started.

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (7) Good news though, for any of you who aren’t so into tahini or maybe just can’t get it, you can replace it with peanut butter. Yeah, that’s what I just said. For all of you reese’s lovers reading this, just imagine the glorious delight of a 4-layered cake that tastes like your favorite chocolate and peanut butter candy. I know, say WHAT!

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (3) I had to do multiple tests to get this recipe down so I’ve already tried it both ways. I even tried a combo of peanut butter and tahini, and I’ve gotta admit that it would be a pretty close race if the two options were side by side. I pretty much want to live on a planet made of peanut butter, but then I’ve also got that major thing going on with tahini right now. Don’t you just hate those pesky love triangles?

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (8) Anywho, you’ve really got try making a checkered cake. It’s the bomb and so much fun! If you actually are going to try it then let me mention a few tiny tid-bits before you start. Firstly, the best way to get a perfectly fitting and squared design is to use cookie cutters. That’ll give you the least amount of headache, so me being me I obviously skipped this and just eyed the cuts on my first try. The downside to that is was that I ended up having to use extra frosting in between to get it to stay together.

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (11) Oh yeah that’s the second thing, unless you’ve got one of those nifty checkered cake pans you’ll be using frosting as a glue of sorts to hold the alternating colors together but this also helps keep the cake extra moist so it’s a win win.

How to Make a Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake Thirdly, the decorating part is completely up to you. The recipe make enough frosting for you to have plenty of creative space to mess around and do want you want. I tried to keep it simple with the frosting job and then added a tempting rim of chocolate drip because that’s a big thing right now. (Oh man! *hand to forehead moment* I guess I’m not doing as well at that avoiding-the-fads thing as I thought, am I?)

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (9) Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (13)

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake

Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: 16 - 18


  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour
  • Tahini Cake:
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Chocolate Cake:
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Frosting:
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 60g (about 1/2 cup) semi-sweet dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup additional powdered sugar
  • Optional Chocolate Drip:
  • 100g (about 2/3 cup) semi-sweet dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180 C). Grease and lightly flour bottoms and sides of three 9-inch round pans.
  2. Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed until they form stiff peaks, it can take up to 7 ot 8 minutes.
  3. While the whites are beating, whisk together the butter, oil, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl until mixed. Add the vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk and mix to combine. Stir in flour until you have a smooth batter, it should be a little over 6 cups total, then measure out about 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons into a seperate bowl.
  4. Add the cocoa powder to one bowl and the tahini and additional flour to the other and whisk each well. Once the whites are stiff and ready, divide them between the two flavors (it should be about 7 cups total egg whites, so 3 1/2 cups for each but gauge by eye as well) and fold in gently with a large rubber spatula. You want to simply get them evenly mixed while keeping as much of your egg white volume as possible.
  5. Divide each batter between two pans so that you have four evenly filled layers and place them in the oven to bake for 18 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (If you don't have space in your oven you can bake them two pans at a time.)
  6. Remove them from oven and cool for 5 - 10 minutes, then loosen edges from the pan and invert them onto large plates. Cover them with plastic to retain the moisture and set aside to cool completely. I like to put them in the fridge to speed up the cooling and make them easier to work with. (At this point you can refrigerate them overnight or even freeze for a longer period if needed.)
  7. Frosting:
  8. Beat together the butter and tahini in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing after each, until fully combined, then pour in the milk, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  9. Measure out about 2 2/3 cups of the frosting and place in a seperate bowl. Melt the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler until smooth, then add to the remaining frosting in mixing bowl along with the cocoa and powdered sugar then mix in until combined.
  10. Checkerboard Time!:
  11. Once they are cooled, remove from fridge and place on a clean work surface. Use a serrated edge knife to level the cakes so that they are all the same height. To make the checkered design use a 6-inch and a 3-inch round cookie cutter to make your rings (If you don't have the right cookie cutters you can measure the diameter across one of the cakes and divide into 5, 3-inch sections to make 3 rings and then use that as a template for the rest.)
  12. Now carefully separate the rings and place them with alternating colors (see pictures for reference). Before adding each of the two smaller rings to the largest ones, spread a small amount of the tahini frosting on the outside of each to act as your glue. Once you've got each layer assembled, place one of them on your chosen serving plate or tray and spread with a thin layer of tahini frosting. Add the next layer and repeat alternating like this for each layer, then add another thin layer on top of cake and sides. Place the cake in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes to an hour for best results.
  13. To finish off, spoon a generous amount of the chocolate frosting over the cake and spread with an offset spatula on top and sides to get a smooth coating. Now you can use your own creativity to decorate as you want with the remaining frosting. I used some more of the tahini frosting to kind of do an ombre thing around the bottom half. Then I piped some of each frosting in little stars on top to make a half-border. (Or, of you're not a big decorator, you could just cover the whole thing in sprinkles and call it a day.)
  14. Optional Chocolate Drip:
  15. If you want to add the chocolate on top, melt the chocolate and oil together in a small double boiler (or microwave safe bowl), over low heat until smooth. Pour as desired over cake and allow it to set.

Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake. Checkered Chocolate & Tahini Layer Cake (12)


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  1. Cecilia Gast says

    This cake looks maliciously delicious. Even have jar of tahini in my pantry. Had to laugh though. When I came home after a year’s stretch in the Mid East, my mom and I were talking about food. I was telling her about tahini. She wanted to know what it tasted like. I told her the first thing that popped in my head, Arab peanut butter.

  2. Megan says

    This looks amazing! I’m thinking of making it for my PB-obsessed friend’s birthday. When you substituted peanut butter, did you to a 1-to-1 sub? Did you still use the additional 3T of flour? Thanks!

    • Tori says

      Hi Megan, I’m so glad that you want to try this cake! Yes, you can just replace all the tahini with the same amount of peanut butter without changing anything else. I hope your friend loves it!

    • Tori says

      Hey Lisi, thanks for reading. The buttermilk can be replaced with quite a few things actually. You can either add something acidic to sour regular milk, such as a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar, or you can use plain yogurt or sour cream for a richer cake. All three of those should work well for this recipe. I hope that helps!

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