Amanda & Merrill

The Best Cake Slicer Ever

May 18, 2010

Angel Food Cake Slicer

- Merrill

My friend Naomi always serves excellent desserts. One night after dinner, much to the delight of her guests -- myself included -- she produced a gorgeous chocolate layer cake. But it was the unusual-looking instrument she subsequently wielded that really caught my attention. It looked like a large steel comb with about twenty long, sharp tines and a silver handle. When I asked about it, she said it was a "cake breaker," designed specifically for angel food cake; the comb doesn't compromise the delicate, airy texture of angel food the way a regular knife can, although it does leave even vertical streaks running throughout each slice of cake, kind of like a rake in sand. Naomi explained that although the slicer is meant for angel food, she finds that it works well for any sort of cake.

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Then, this past weekend, at my bridal shower, Naomi gave me a cake breaker of my very own! Not only that, but mine has a fabulous kelly green Bakelite handle. (She found it on eBay, clever girl.) Above are some photos of the slicer in action, and below is one of my favorite recipes for angel food, from The Joy of Cooking, with a simple toffee-laced whipped cream icing my mother used to make. If you're interested in buying a cake breaker for yourself, you can check out eBay for a vintage version, or go here for a new one, sans Bakelite handle.

Angel Food Cake with Heath Bar Whipped Cream Icing

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking and Veronica Stubbs

Serves 12

For the cake:

  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about a dozen large eggs)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the icing:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Heath bars, finely chopped
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the cake flour, 2/3 cup sugar and the salt. Repeat.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with 1 tablespoon cold water, the lemon juice, cream of tartar and vanilla on low speed for one minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the whites just hold very soft peaks, one to three minutes. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, on medium speed. At this point, you should have soft, glossy peaks -- do not beat until completely stiff.
3. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the whites in small increments (about an eighth at a time), making sure there are no streaks of flour at the end, but being careful not to over-mix. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and gently spread to level the batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool upside down in the pan (set on a bottle or suspended over 4 glasses) for an hour and half or so. Slide a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and unmold onto a rack. Invert the cake and cool completely.
4. To make the icing, whip the cream with the sugar until it forms soft peaks and fold in the chopped toffee. Ice the cake and refrigerate until read to serve.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Soozll April 25, 2013
I have one of these also. I was taught to use it to brace the cake so you could slice it. Just stick the tines into the cake and run your knife along the tines. It braces the cake so it won't crush as you cut. It's handy for a soft crumbed frosted cake and even for a soft crumbed bread.
Merrill S. May 30, 2010
Hilarious. It's a cake breaker revolution!!
dymnyno May 29, 2010
ebay must be wondering why everyone wants a cake breaker!! Me too! ( I bought one too on ebay)
drbabs May 29, 2010
SCORE!! Got one on ebay--sterling silver! Thanks, Merrill!
Adele May 23, 2010
And thank you Merrill for sharing. I can't believe that this is the first I've heard of this tool. I'm totally buying one asap.
mrslarkin May 19, 2010
I want one too! More importantly, Merrill, how was your bridal shower, and what fabulous food was on the menu??
Merrill S. May 30, 2010
Whoops, just saw this. See my Watermelonade post for menu items!
cheese1227 May 18, 2010
Mrs. Wheelbarrow had one of these (a family heirloom, I think) that she used at the DC potluck. We all marveled at it then. NOW I remember what I was going to ask for for Mother's Day. Too bad it's too late as I would have certainly preferred this to the green Wellies I did remember to ask for!
MrsWheelbarrow May 18, 2010
That's right, we used it to cut Kelsey's Chocolate Bundt Cake. Actually, I have TWO cake breakers. One in sterling that was my paternal grandmother's and a Delft china and sterling silver breaker with matching pie server that's late 19th c. Dutch. I love angel food cake, but use the breaker for nearly any cake, just as an excuse to bring it out.
Teri May 18, 2010
Speaking of equipment, can you make an angel food cake with a regular bundt pan, or do you have to have one of those nifty tube pans specially made for angel food? A small flat cake slicer is one thing, but my pantry can't take many more bakery tins! (p.s. Don't you love that we're still learning new things no matter how much time we've spent in the kitchen?!)
Teri May 18, 2010
Maybe it's a southern thing, but, as a child, I remember seeing this cake slicer in the tool drawer of every woman in my family, even my grandmother who never made a cake in her life. If one was on the table at a family gathering, we knew cakes would shortly follow.
drbabs May 18, 2010
You could be right, Teri, I'm from the South, too.
Jestei May 18, 2010
I have now spent 30 min on Ebay looking at these. Was momentarily seduced by a sterling silver number, then got outbid and became hysterical, now hope for a brown Bakelight mama.
drbabs May 18, 2010
good luck!
Khanh May 18, 2010
I had been searching for a cake cutter for a while and never found one that I liked enough to add to my wedding registry last year. But I just bought a cool breaker on eBay. Thanks for the tip!
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
You're welcome!
EpicureanTuckie May 18, 2010
Cake breakers are now the new champagne sabers. Excellent find!
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
Glad you like it!
FortWorthGuy May 18, 2010 what do you do with 12 egg yolks left over from the cake recipe? 2 or 3 yolks I can deal with, but a dozen egg yolks all at once?
Veronica May 18, 2010
A sublime Creme Brulee?
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
I was going to suggest the same thing!
Adele May 23, 2010
What about a large batch of spaghetti carbonara before the angel food cake ?
slooneylali October 13, 2021
For me, I always have leftover egg whites after making egg nog! Which I realized I can use for angel food cake :)
dymnyno May 18, 2010
I remember that the guys who had the biggest afros used to stick the "cake cutter" in their hair and walk around that way...I didn't know if really had a use other that for fluffing an afro!
jafi May 18, 2010
When I a kid my grandmother would get very upset with me when I would pretend to comb my hair with her cake breaker. My mom has one as well that she received as a wedding gift in the 60's.

The other thing was the glass coke or pepsi bottle to invert the angel food pan over while it was cooling. I would always offer to empty a bottle to use:-)
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
drbabs May 18, 2010
Merrill, my grandmother had one of those--in sterling silver! Right after Hurricane Katrina we were cleaning out her apartment--my sisters, my cousins and I--all looking for the coveted cake cutter (as we called it). My sister Linda found it and claimed dibs. Thanks for the ebay hint--going there next!!
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
Wow! That must have beautiful. Hope you find a good one on eBay -- the Bakelite comes in a few different colors.
AnneF May 18, 2010
Cool. When I was a girl, Afros were really in style & the cool boys used to carry "cake cutters" in their back pockets: big, long-toothed combs, with wide-set tines just like this one. I have never seen a cake cutter that was for cutting cake!
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
How funny!