How to Cut Your Cake Like a Professional
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
If, like me, your early experience of cutting cakes is limited to the cake your Granny made for Sunday afternoon tea, and was served by the wedge, cut from the middle of the cake outwards like going round a large, delicious circle, and hoisting out the crumbled messy bits from the middle when you think no-one is looking. Then serving a large cake, or one in tiers, or an extra tall one may seem a touch daunting. You’d end up cutting a slice in the normal way you used to in your youth, and ending up with a chunk so massive there is no way any one person could possibly eat it all. Then, upon deciding this, you think you’d better cut it a bit smaller and chop the slice in half, resulting in 2 weird wedge shapes, one significantly bigger than the other. Decide, nope that’s not fair, and as the cake serving goes on you end up serving increasingly strange shaped bits of cake as you attempt to serve it in fair, reasonable size portions. Can you tell, I have been there, done this, and got the relevant clothing to prove it...
Slicing the cake starting from the middle usually has one, occasionally 2 effects. Either you end up with the crumbling mess in the middle, not much good for anyone, and lots of irregular size wedges, usually too big. Or, as is most often the case, you stop aiming for the middle of the cake, and instead cut from where the last piece came out. This in turn results in the slices from one side of the cake being significantly bigger than the other.
Allow me to offer an alternative. Instead of wedges, blocks. Cut your cake as if an invisible grid of squares or rectangles is hovering over the cake. Straight lines from one side of the cake to the other.
Cake makers base the number of servings a cake provides on the size of the cake, as you might imagine. Assuming all the slices are the same size, and where possible, shape. A desert size slice is usually 2” by either 1” or 2”, depending on the height of the cake. A finger size portion which is the taster size portions usually serves at weddings and large parties, is usually 1” by 1”, again depending on the height of the cake. By cutting your cake to the same dimensions you know how many servings you’ll get out of the cake, they will look good once cut, and you’ll make life a whole lot easier.
If the cake is a tall one, then you treat each slice exactly the same. Using a large knife, cut straight across the cake, then supporting the chunk with a light chopping board or similar as you lower it to the table top, cut first the relevant number of portions from top to bottom so you end up with very long strips, then each strip can easily be cut in half and served.
If your cake is too wide to be able to cut it in one go from side to side with your knife, cut the cake into quarters from the middle, and treat each quarter separately.
What if it’s in tiers?
Don’t panic. A tiered cake is just one cake, resting on supports on another cake. They are normally separated by a hidden board. The easiest way of serving a tiered cake is to just start at the top. Serve out the top tier in the way described above. When all that has been served out, you will be left with an empty board. Sometimes there will be a central dowel which goes through all the tiers from the very bottom to about halfway through the top tier. This is just to add extra stability. If there is a central dowel you would have found it as you are cutting the top tier. If it’s easy enough to do so, simply giving it a gentle upwards tug will normally release it, straight up and out. The cake board you are now looking at might come away easily, or it may have been stuck with icing to the top of the next tier down. If so, running your sharp knife around under the board will free it. At this point you will be able to see the support dowels. These are sticks made of either plastic (usually white) or wood and will be evenly spaced around where the cake above was to stop it crushing this lower tier. If you can, take them out. It will make serving easier, and reduces the chances of one of your guests finding a big bit of stick in their portion of cake. Then you can proceed to serve this tier in the same manner.
Square vs Round Cakes?
Cutting cake portions into little neat squares is all well and good, but what if the cake is round? That doesn’t work does it?
It’s true, by serving a round cake into little squares, you will end up with funny little corner pieces. This is where you might need to be a bit creative with the cutting. If you can, serve the outer pieces of cake as centrally as possible, resulting in the funny corner bits being mainly icing, and not cake, to minimise wastage.
Square cakes don’t have this problem. Just slice into even bits and Bobs’ your muvver’s bruvver!