Chequerboard Cake

cake-037This recipes comes from a box of recipe cards I got from a charity shop in Camden for £3 called Alison Burt’s Super Saving Cookery Cards, published by Hamlyn in 1975. I was in two minds about buying them as I’d been at the car boot previously and had a lot to carry home already. But, heck, I’m glad I made the effort, as they’re kind of amazing. It’s a collection of around 200 cards, divided into categories like Budget Entertaining, Oriental Cookery, Scones and Teabreads, Ice Cream Desserts. The recipes are mainly quite sensible but some of them are wonderfully tacky in a vaguely Abigail’s Party way (Kipper Pizza, anyone?), and all of them are depicted on the front of the recipe card with a picture, occasionally featuring some odd set dressing (Dutch macaroons are displayed in tiny ceramic clogs and arranged around a windmill). I haven’t found much online about Alison Burt – Alibris have a few cookery titles by someone of the same name, looks like she did a few cookery titles. There’s enough intriguing recipes in this box to keep anyone going for a lifetime, but I decided to make something from the Special Cakes section:


Chequerboard Cake

100g margarine

100g castor sugar

2 eggs, beaten

100g self-raising flour

1 level tablespoon cocoa, sifted

1 tablespoon milk

3 tablespoons raspberry jam, sieved


50g plain chocolate

75g margarine

150g icing sugar

angelica for decoration

Grease 2 7inch round shallow cake tins and line the bases with greased greaseproof paper. Cream the margarine and castor sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour and fold in with a tablespoon. Divide the mixture in half. Add cocoa and milk to one half. Put one mixture in each tin. Bake in a moderate oven (350F, 180C, Mark 4) for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut a 5 inch round from the centre of each cake. Cut a 3 inch round from the centre of the small rounds. Transfer the 5 inch chocolate ring to the plain cake and the plain one to the chocolate cake. Reassemble both cakes, sticking them together with raspberry jam. Sandwich the cakes with more raspberry jam. Make the icing. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Cool. Beat the margarine and sifted icing sugar. Add the chocolate. Decorate as illustrated.




  • OK, so the amounts specified in no way yield the size of cake this is supposed to make. I got two sponge disks which were about half an inch thick. Working on the assumption that the cake shown in the picture is 7″ in diameter I estimate its depth at around 2.5-3″. Mine was around 1″ tall, and as you can see, hardly looks like the picture. Good thing I have no pretence of professionalism, or I’d have to contact Cake Wrecks and confess.
  • I used water instead of milk.
  • I used a martini glass, and a small wine glass to cut the circles from the cakes. This worked ok as the sponge was thin but I’m not sure how I would have done it neatly with a thicker cake to cut.
  • I stupidly forgot to jam the pieces together. I’m a seasoned warmer of jam, and was quite looking forward to heating up some jam for gluing, but totally forgot this step. I’m not sure it would have worked that well anyway, as the sponge was very crumbly.
  • I substituted cocoa for the plain chocolate in the icing as I had accidentally eaten the chocolate I bought for this purpose, only minutes before. Oops.
  • I always get icing wrong, so I went a bit ‘off-recipe’ with the quantities here. I am not convinced by margarine in icing though.
  • I tried to ‘decorate as illustrated’ but 1) I do not have a piping bag, and 2) it’s rather hard to do anything with a cake that’s just an inch high.
  • I am not sure where the angelica was supposed to go. Whatever, I had none anyway.


This cake could be really excellent with a few tweaks – an easy way to make something that looks kind of impressive. HOWEVER this recipe is screwed – double the quantities (at least) for the sponge and then maybe you’ll be onto something. Some flavouring could be good too – chocolate cake is lovely, but this is a marg heavy cake and some mint or citrus tones could help even things out. It tasted very average, and I am not exactly excited about eating the rest.

Iced by Alix

26 responses to “Chequerboard Cake

  1. it always amazes me how much marg they thought was appropriate to put in food in the seventies.

    also, chocolate plus angelica = urghhhhhhhh.

  2. vintagecooking

    I know! It really shows most in the icing – quite different taste and consistency from butter icing. Still, it helped me use up some marg that’s been hanging around in the fridge..

  3. I am fairly sure that growing up when baking we used margarine, so last time I tried baking with margarine (in a vegan recipe where it was intended to be the ‘butter’ bit) I was all – yerg! No! This is not my delicious childhood memory!

    When did ‘spreadable’ butter come out, mind?

  4. my aunt uses marg for plain cupcakes and it works okay, i guess because there are also eggs to round out the taste. The problem with vegan recipes is you have to up the raising agent which are generally a bit harsh and alkali-tasting? so if you’re doing a conventional cake recip that’s been like-for-like veganised, you’ve got marg’s strange kinda chemical taste, plus the strange chemical taste of raising agent, plus the dull taste of flour: you need to add a lot of heavy flavour to hide those.

    spreadable butter = late nineties, i think?

  5. carsmilesteve

    as I was saying the other day modern day marg might have caused the lack of raising. Stork (if such a thing is still available) might give bigger, fluffier results…

  6. Such as thing is indeed available, I saw some in the shop yesterday. Why is Stork different though?

  7. I tht Stork was SHORTENING (but don’t ask me, I have got completely confused over these vegan-friendly alternatives to bu’r).

  8. My Nanny Dobson had these cards. She would let my brother and I choose a card that we would like her to make and the next time we came round to visit, there it was for tea. The woman is a baking legend. This cake was a highlight of that process. Keep up the good work

  9. could you send me scan of dutch meat balls from
    alison burts cards

  10. please,

  11. I will try to do this soonish – I don’t have easy access to a scanner at the moment…

  12. thanks very much. ive got the some cooking cards. but gave some one the meat ball one never got it back .they moved house now

  13. Isn’t spreadable butter just butter mixed with copious amounts of water? I assume Sainsbury´s haven´t just moved half of their butter supplies from the fridge to quite near a radiator, so they can sell it as “spreadable”?

    (Living in Germany since the late ´90s, I can only remain “I can´t believe it´s not butter” (which was obviously marge) – and the “usual” supermarkets here are generally ideal for all those 1970s recipes.)

  14. “Remain”? I meant “remember”. Either I´m tired (which I am), or…no, it´s the tiredness.

  15. My mother in law has given me a set of these recipe cards but there’s quite a few missing… any ideas where one could get the missing cards?

  16. Margarine was originally intended as a butter substitute with just over 80% fat content. Few products, if any, are actually called margarine these days as fat content is (I think) part of the official definition. Stork in a block – or the supermarkets’ equivalents – is closest to the real thing and easy to get. ‘Shortening’ is American for cooking fats, often referring to white fats e.g. Trex. Spreadable butter has some of the hard fats removed. Like marg it can only be called butter with approx. 82% fat. All the spreads – Flora etc – are emulsions of oils, water and additives. Read the labels for fat percentage.
    The pale part of chequerboard cake could have vanilla flavouring.
    To get rid of the weird baking powder taste in vegan cakes, add a little lemon/orange juice to neutralise the slightly alkaline b.powder.

  17. I have been trying to find a recipe that I think I found originally in my set of Alison Burt Cookery Cards which I have lost at some stage moving house. The recipe was for Rolled Icing (or maybe Fondant Icing) and I think it was possibly in the Special Cakes section. Do you by any chance have that recipe?

    I can remember most of it, it was icing sugar, liquid glucose, glycerin but no gelatine (which is what I am finding with all the online recipes I’ve found so far).

    It would be fantastic if you could help me with this hunt.

  18. I’ve got one for Fondant Icing which sounds like what you’ve described – I’ll scan it in tomorrow…

  19. Hi Alix did you manage to find the card for Fondant Icing?

  20. I did – here’s a link to the scans…unfortunately the photo is now in black and white, but hopefully this is what you’re after!

  21. Alix you are a total star, that is exactly the one I was seeking! I’ve hunted high and low on the internet and every other recipe for fondant has gelatine in it, this one doesn’t so is suitable for vegetarians. Thank you SO much.

    All I can say to anybody else reading this thread is that if you like baking but aren’t so keen on icing, try this, it’s really easy and gives a fantastic result.

    I am delighted! 😀

  22. Hooray! Glad to be of use – happy icing!

  23. Hi I had a full set of these cards but they accidentally got dumped. Only one I have left is for plum jam which I can highly recommend. I am looking for a recipe called coffee jumblies and one called chocolate macaroon cake

  24. hazel dalwood

    Macaroon cake, yum. email me at Imade it for my birthday recently, as good as I remember! I dont suppose anyone has the smoked haddock cobbler one, I seem to have lost mine.

  25. Sue Hayes
    Any chance of obtaining recipe for ‘Quick Pizza’, I had these cards years ago too, not clear about what happened to them. This recipe was under the section on Party Foods or Childrens favourites I think. I still have recipe for the boiled fruit cake and chocolate banana bars. Is it possible to get these recipe cards again?

  26. Hi I have been looking for these cards for years, two specific recipes in fact, can you help?? I need the Christmas wreath cake recipe, it’s the one with a candle in the middle and I think there was a chocolate fudge cake one also. It would be amazing if you could pass them on!! X