I often see bakers slicing cake layers by sawing with the knife. However the back-and-forth motion is more likely to result in jagged, uneven layers. There are a countless number of awkward gadgets on the market designed to assist the sawing of cake. It’s a lousy money-making scam since the truth is, all that’s needed to achieve flat, even layers is a long serrated knife, a frosting turntable, and a different approach.
VIDEO: How to Slice Cake Layers
With this method, DON’T SAW but instead PUSH a serrated knife steadily sideways through a cake while turning the cake continuously on a wheel. This way, the friction of the turning cake against the teeth of the knife drives the cut. The cut radiates inward, first encircling the cake then spiraling toward center. As long as the knife is held steady, this method yields nice clean slices.
When you slice cake layers, it’s preferable to work with room temperature cake. I don’t recommend slicing a cake while it’s still hot from the oven. I also don’t recommend slicing a cake just after it has cooled. The surface tends to be a little crusty then, which makes it more challenging to cut.
I get the best results from sealing the cooled cake in plastic wrap then letting it sit at room temperature for three or more hours. During that time, the moisture inside the cake migrates to the surface, softening it. Once the moisture has balanced itself out, then the cake is easiest to slice.
Step #1 Trace the Cut
Place the cake on a turntable. With one hand, position the knife blade at the top edge of the cake (the base of the dome). With the other hand, grip the top of the cake and spin it on the wheel so that the teeth of the knife cut just through the surface of the cake (no deeper). The idea is to trace the intended cut by carving a groove all the way around the side of the cake. That groove will help guide the knife in the next step.
Step #2 Make the Cut
Continue turning the cake while gently pushing the knife towards center, following the line of the groove. Since cake is soft, the blade should move through it with ease for as long as the cake remains in motion. Once the blade reaches center, there is a feeling of release as the cut is complete. Use the knife like a spatula at this point to remove the cake top.
Now you have a cake top. Follow this link to read my tutorial on what to do with leftover cake tops.
Step #3 Repeat
Repeat these steps with all the remaining layers.
How to Handle Large Cake Layers
To maneuver large or thin cake layers without breaking them in your hands, slide them onto cardboard circles or any kind of flat base of equal or greater size. In the example below, I’m using cardboard to lift and place 12″ diameter chocolate cake slices into the pan. Follow this link to learn about my technique for how to fill layer cakes in the baking pan.
How to Store Cake Layers
To store or freeze pre-sliced cake layers, layer them between pieces of parchment paper and seal them well.
Later, when it comes time to assemble the cake, you can work with the frozen slices if that’s more convenient for you. Or you can let them come to room temperature. Frozen slices have the benefit of being easier to maneuver because they’re durable, less prone to cracking apart. However if they are bent, curved or warped, that shape will get incorporated into the cake, which may cause the neighboring layers of filling to be too thick or too thin in some areas. That sort of imbalance has the potential to compromise the structural integrity of the cake. For that reason, I only recommend working with frozen cake layers if they are perfectly flat. If not, do take the time to defrost them.
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