The Peculiar Way This Cake Is Cut Has the Internet Divided

published Sep 11, 2018
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

A lot of folks have some questions for a photographer responsible for a very unusual food styling choice. First of which is the question, “why?”

On September 5, 2018, New Yorker writer Helen Rosner shared a photograph on Twitter of a delicious-looking cake she saw, cut seemingly with reckless abandon.

Rosner saw this unique take on plating via Pinterest. The creator remains semi-identified in the resulting thread as a French baker. (The dessert is a passion fruit upside-down cake. It’s likely also considered abstract sculpture.)

Commenters under Rosner’s tweet had a lot to say about the photograph, sharing their own run-ins with the hard-to-process slicing technique.

One baker shared his own, equally vexing version of the method.

And one user shared what they think the photographer/baker was trying to achieve, and it’s a beautifully complex and unique use of mathematical ratio.

There’s a Mathematical Reason the Cake Looks Frustrating

If you’re wondering why it frustrates our eyes to see a perfect circle cut into uneven ones, science can explain: It’s all because of the golden ratio. The golden ratio is a math term for a special instance when two shapes compare 1:1.61 in scale. To break that down a little more, imagine you made a batch of Rice Krispies treats in a rectangular pan. Now, imagine I came over and ate most of it, (not sorry), leaving a small buttery rectangle of marshmallow goodness left. If your little bit is the same ratio as the pan, you could multiply your portion and it would fit perfectly, even though I ate the big part. (For science.) That’s a golden ratio.

The special thing about the golden ratio is that it appears everywhere in nature and the world: It’s in the way a sunflower grows its seeds in a spiral, like cauliflower and cabbage, and it’s the way a wind and clouds rotate into storms — and in your apple slicer which makes perfect slices for pie. It’s in the beautiful peach tart decoration that took a little longer to assemble than you expected but was worth it, the beaut.

But it’s also why looking at a cake sliced like that makes your brain wonder why something so sweet feels just a little sour to you.

“I totally understand the photographic challenge of making a cake look interesting/not like Pac Man,” Rosner tells Kitchn of the photo. “And from a formal perspective this is a really lovely solution!”

Yes, and I think most of us feel the same way Twitter user @kimgiacalone does, when she says the following: