How to Cut the Perfect Slice of Cake Every Time

updated Apr 10, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

A few weeks ago I had a whole bunch of cakes I needed to style. Cakes can be especially tricky to style — especially slices — so I thought I would share three clever tricks I use on set for making picture-perfect slices of cake that you can use at home. Because there’s nothing worse than baking a beautiful cake only to end up with sloppy slices!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Quickly Chill Your Cake Before Slicing

As soon as your cake is frosted and assembled, you might be tempted to cut into it right away — but cutting room-temperature cake is a recipe for messy slices. When the frosting is at room temperature it will smear into the layers and stick to the knife. To prevent this, throw your frosted cake into the refrigerator, uncovered, for 30 minutes. This will firm up the the butter in the frosting, preventing it from smearing. And if you’re worried about serving cold slices of cake, you can slice the cake while chilled, then let the slices sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to warm up a bit.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. Use a Hot, Wet Knife to Slice Cake

I like to use a standard eight-inch chef knife to slice cakes, but just about any long, sharp knife will work well. To prep it, I take a kitchen torch and heat up my knife for just a few seconds until it’s warm to the touch but not hot. (This takes about ten seconds of torching.) After that I wipe the warm blade with a damp paper towel and immediately slice the cake. The warmth helps the knife slide through the frosting without smearing it while the moisture prevents the knife from getting dirty. It takes a few seconds of extra effort, but if you’re trying to get picture-perfect slices of cake it’s well worth it.

P.S. If you don’t have a kitchen torch handy you can also turn on a stovetop burner and carefully hold your knife about 12 inches away from the flame to gently warm it up. (Although I highly suggest investing in a torch.)

3. Use Floss for Bigger Cakes

For large sheet cakes, dental floss is key. Unlike a knife, floss is able to make clean slices with a single cut extending from edge to edge. Simply place the floss on top of the cake and press down on both edges to cut through the layers. You’ll be surprised at how easily the floss is able to cut through the cake. If your baking pan has a large lip, it might be best to remove the cake and cut it on a cutting board to be able to slice all the way through. (Just make sure you’re using unflavored floss to prevent any minty flavoring from rubbing onto the cake.)

Welcome to Pretty Delicious, a series where our in-house food stylist shares his favorite tips, tricks, and hacks that you can use in your own kitchen. With just a little bit of food-styling know-how, you can make food that’s as pretty as it is delicious.