The Nightmare Before Christmas Checkerboard Cake Recipe

Create this imperfect checkerboard cake from DisneyFamily inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and top it off with a drizzling ganache drip effect. Trust us, it’s not as tricky as it seems!

The Nightmare Before Christmas Checkerboard Cake

Prep 1 Hr. 30 Min / Cook 20 Min / Serves 20


  • 2 boxes vanilla cake mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Black frosting (vanilla frosting with black food coloring)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Black food coloring
  • Checkered cake pans
  • Serrated knife
  • 10″ cake board
  • Offset frosting spatula


1. Begin by preparing your favorite vanilla cake batter. Recipe should make a 3-4 layer 9″ cake. Split batter in half between two bowls.

2. Add unsweetened cocoa powder to one bowl and mix until well combined. You should now have one bowl of vanilla flavored cake batter and one bowl of chocolate flavored cake batter.

3. Using checkered cake pans, follow the instructions to prepare 3 cake pans with your chocolate cake batter and vanilla cake batter.

4. Bake your cake as usual according to the recipe instructions. Most cakes bake at 350ºF for approx 20-30 minutes.

5. Allow your cake layers to cool in their pans before removing them.

6. Once cake layers are completely cooled and popped from their pans, you need to level each cake layer before building your cake. Using a serrated or sharp knife carefully cut the top of the cake off to create a leveled cake layer. Repeat step for each cake layer. Set cake layers aside to prepare frosting.

7. Using a cake board one to two inches larger than your cake, spread a dollop of your frosting in the center of board then place the first cake layer on top.

8. Add a half cup of frosting on top of the cake layer and spread evenly over using an offset frosting spatula.

9. Add the second cake layer in the alternating flavors of the previous layer. Add a half cup of frosting on top of the cake layer and spread evenly.

10. Finish with placing the last cake layer in alternate colors to the second layer on top.

11. At this point move your cake to the refrigerator to chill just enough to carve, about 30 minutes.

12. Once cake is chilled, place on a flat surface and using a serrated knife, carve the top layer of the cake to a 45º angle.

13. Crumb coat the cake by frosting the entire cake with a thin rough coating of frosting. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or until frosting is firm enough to add your final coat of frosting.

14. While the cake is chilling, prepare the chocolate ganache drip coating. Warm heavy cream in a saucepan until steaming. Pour cream over chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Add black food coloring. Let stand for one minute to melt chocolate chips. Stir together using a spoon until smooth. Set aside to cool.

15. Once your cake’s crumb coat layer has chilled, begin frosting the top of your cake with a generous amount of frosting, then move on to the sides until your cake is fully covered in a smooth layer of frosting. You can chill your cake frosting once more for 15 minutes while the ganache cools.

16. Making sure your ganache is cooled but not firm, pour ganache over top of cake in a circular motion toward the edges. Continue adding ganache so it organically falls over the sides and down the cake until you achieve the desired “drip” effect.

Source: DisneyFamily

About Jamie Sylvester

I'm a Disney nerd! A kid at heart who loves the magic and memories of Walt Disney World. I follow all things Disney and enjoy the vacations, day trips, and weekend getaways, and geek out over the planning of such events. My goal is to experience as many Disney desserts and cocktails as possible! Married to another Disney nerd and blessed with a daughter and son, we thoroughly enjoy the magic at Disney and are here to help others experience the magic as well.