Tried and true method for halving a layer cake

I made a layer cake and wanted to cut each layer in half. I really am pretty terrible at cutting the layer even. I was watching a cooking show and they said to put your wire cooling rack in a sheet pan and your layer will be perfectly positioned to slice it evenly, Well none of my racks fit in a sheet pan they are either too long or too wide. I tried toothpicks didn't help me. Anyone with a good method to do this. My cake became a trifle, was too uneven.



elaika February 13, 2013
(Apinion)1/ You can buy a new one, and if you ain't sure what size it is cuz its too far than bring it with you so dat you can make sure what size fits, and if you want to do it another way, just check the size by using a long ruler, or a meter long rolled wiggly item, and write down on sticky note of what size, so u can make sure you will have the right size for both. Or Just ask for it in your birthday, or say to someone can i borrow ur money i'll pay u back
ChefJune May 9, 2011
I've tried it with serrated knives, but I have better luck with the dental floss. Use a long enough piece and wrap the ends around the index fingers of each hand. position the flosson the side of the layer, in the place you want it divided, and let the floss unroll just a bit so you can pull it all the way across in one fell swoop. Take a deep breath and let 'er rip!
sdebrango May 9, 2011
Thank you Helens all night diner, do you use butchers twine?
Helen's A. May 8, 2011
Back on topic, LOL, I use string, rather than dental floss. Use a color that you can see, line it up evenly around the cake, cross one hand over the other and grab each end. Slowly pull your hands apart, thus cutting the cake. Magic!
boulangere May 7, 2011
You are very fortunate to have such a dependable and talented sharpener. I second the motion for a food52 topic.
sdebrango May 7, 2011
In Brooklyn there is a elderly man who has an old truck, he sharpens knives and scissors. I look for him regularly and he sharpens my knives. Its wonderful he has to be in his 80's and has been doing this for 50+ years. He has a bell that he rings on his truck so you know he is coming. Its charming and so old school. Yes this has been a wonderful night.
Knives and their care would be a great topic! Separate myths from reality!!
boulangere May 7, 2011
Oh no . . . not necessary at all for this knife or most others. I'm a great fan of the white handled Dexter knives. Use them at home and at work. I don't view knives as precious (and I suspect we are verging into a whole new foodpickle arena here). Good, yes, and I both hone and sharpen them dutifully.

The Ceasar Milan "cake whisperer" analogy is hysterical because I have border collies with whom I do obedience and agility! They are obedient and agile and I try to keep up. It's like having monkeys; together they are significantly smarter than I am.

I don't know when I've had a more enjoyable Saturday night. Thank you all!
sdebrango May 7, 2011
I was shocked at the price, I am so accustomed to pricey knives I expect to fork over hundreds. This is great. I take care of my knives like they are my children. This place is so great!
boulangere May 7, 2011
LOLOL! Is food52 a great place or what?
sarah K. May 7, 2011
You can't go wrong with any of those knives. I love the Forschner, it cuts crusty bread like, like... like butter! And my other three favorite knives are Mundial. I didn't realize they're so inexpensive, and now I'm coveting some more.
sarah K. May 7, 2011
Haaa! Ha ha ha! Cake whisperer!
sdebrango May 7, 2011
Thank you Sarah K and Boulangere those are great knives. I am so going to try this again with the proper tools.
sdebrango May 7, 2011
You are the cake whisperer! LOL! Thanks again
boulangere May 7, 2011
I've been called a lot of things, but Caesar Milan is not one of them. Cake on, friends!
sdebrango May 7, 2011
So dental floss works, interesting. I used it once to cut cinnamon rolls and it worked never thought of using for a cake. Thanks Sadassa!
sdebrango May 7, 2011
Oh yes the lobster scene was the best. And freezing the cake is an excellent idea. Will report back hopefully I will be able to take a decent picture I'm somewhat challenged when it comes to taking pictures. My mother still has pictures I took as a child, people without heads or totally fuzzy. I have picture envy when I see some of the beautiful shots you guys post,
lorigoldsby May 7, 2011
LMAO reading Boulangere's answer....she is so right, the most important tool is the knife. To respond to Sadassa's comment, as a kid we did use floss to cut the layers, it works but you need a super steady hand.
sdebrango May 7, 2011
Yes Sarah K the visual on that is actually pretty funny, I imagine myself with my revolving cake stand and a bottle of my favorite liquid courage, a shot glass and boulangere's words of widsdom running through my mind. I will conquer the cake. LOL! You guys are the best. Thank you
boulangere May 7, 2011
I don't think this much fun has EVER been had over a cake. Or a trifle. I LOVE the lobster scene analogy!! BTW, great idea to freeze the layers a bit before icing!
sarah K. May 7, 2011
That's right, tame that cake! Show it who's boss. I imagine boulangere's way (including the shots) to be the makings of a new style of cooking show voyeurism. It does bring to mind the lobster scene in Julie and Julia. Also, that cake top? So not gonna give it to the kids! That's my favorite part. My mom would always freeze the cake before frosting it (makes it so much easier, with less crumbling), and purloined frozen cake shards are the very definition of indulgence for me.
boulangere May 7, 2011
LOL!!! You rock!
sdebrango May 7, 2011
Wow, thank you Boulangere, I love it. I have the 10" cardboard rounds but the rest I will get. I will master the cake, you are like the Cesar Milan of cooks. I'll gladly take a few shots and conquer the cake with your expert advice, Thanks you again, Without that rotating cake stand it was so difficult and of course the proper knife,
I'll let you know how the next one turns out. My family won't know it was supposed to be a layer cake as far as they know I planned on trifle,

Voted the Best Reply!

boulangere May 7, 2011
Oh, this is so solvable. You need a few simple, inexpensive tools to arm you to be the master of your cake.

First, go to your local cookware store or a good crafts store and invest in an inexpensive cake wheel - a platform that sits above a base and rotates. The ones with the cast iron base are great, but unless you're a professional decorator, unnecessary; the plastic ones are just fine, and should cost no more than about $15. A student of mine once tried balancing a dinner plate holding her cake on a coffee cup. Chaos ensued.

Next, get a package of 10" cake cardboards. I believe they're packed by the dozen. They're very inexpensive and benefit from being perfectly flat.

Last, I agree with all of the above collected wisdom and suggest investing in an inexpensive serrated knife with a flat serrated blade. Indispensable!

Here are some good on-line sources for all of the above:

Okay, once you've got some good, basic, inexpensive equipment your chances of success are greatly improved. Depan your cake by inverting it right onto one hand, then pull the parchment off the bottom (you are lining the bottom of your cake pan with parchment, right?). Press a cake cardboard against the bottom of the cake, then turn everything right side up. Set the cake on its perfectly flat cardboard onto your cake turntable.

Grasp your serrated knife firmly. Be assertive. Find the point where the top edge of your cake departs from the side to rise. You're going to "mark" all the way around the side of your cake at a depth of 1/4". Press the knife against that point, work it forward and back to the 1/4" depth, then simply but assertively plant your other hand on the top center of your cake, and turn the cake against the knife, pretty much holding the knife stationary, until you rejoin your starting point. Be sure to hold the knife parallel to the turntable. Okay, deep breaths puffing your cheeks. Maybe throw down a shot of something. Square your shoulders and return to your cake. Plant your knife in the groove you've created. Remember: assertive. Knife parallel to the turntable. Other hand firmly planted on top of the cake. Begin turning the cake against the knife again, but now you're going to be gently but firmly working the knife more deliberately forward and back as you work your way to the center of the cake. This is several motor activities to coordinate, but persevere. The most common mistake people make at this point is that they forget to continue rotating the cake and try to press the knife straight through the cake. Do not put yourself in that group. Once you master this, you'll keep rotating the cake with your top hand while you keep your knife parallel to the turntable, and gently but firmly work the knife forward and back until you feel that wonderful little release as your knife rotates through the exact center of your cake.

Use the knife and your free hand to lift the cake top off and set it aside. Let children have at it.

Perhaps toss down another shot (wssmom and hardlikearmor might be with us here). Return to your cake with your shoulders squared because you are no longer afraid of it. Find the middle of the layer along the side. Use a ruler if you must. Repeat the marking and cutting steps above. Lift the top, perfectly level layer off and set it aside. Let no one touch it. Proceed with filling and icing and decorating your cake.

On the way to mastering this, you'll screw up and make some more lovely trifles which the people you are feeding will love because they love you. Again, persevere. Practice, practice, practice. You can do this!
Sadassa_Ulna May 7, 2011
I think I've heard that the way to slice thin layers is to use dental floss (no mint); I've never tried it (I have a long serrated knife for the few times I've done it) but always thought it sounded kind of interesting. Anyone else heard of this?
sdebrango May 7, 2011
Thanks everyone. All very good suggestions. Appreciate the help. I think I need a longer knife or electric knife (hope I can use one never have) so maybe I'lll get one of those revolving cake stands or maybe I"ll stick to two layer cakes and not get fancy. Thanks again the food52 family is the best.
Thaicook with the method you learned at King Arthur were you able to do even layers? The first layer I did today actually turned out ok but the 2nd layer was the disaster it was so uneven when I separated them one was so thin it broke in my hands. Oh well, Thanks again everyone,
ThaiCook May 7, 2011
I took a baking class at King Arthur Flour and the instructor told us to hold a serrated knife steady parallel to the table and rotate the cake (sitting on a plate), in order to get even layers. Good luck next time!
marynn May 7, 2011
I remember reading a suggestion that advocated an electric knife wielded sloooooowly. It would depend on the cake, of course, but might eliminate the "sawing" that might be at the base of your problem.
sdebrango May 7, 2011
You are right about the knife being the problem most likely. I have a sharp serrated knife but its not 12". Going to get one. Honestly, I don't do the halving of the cake that often but everytime I have it is never even. It made a nice trifle which is very forgiving. I really need the proper tools if I'm going to take that on, Thank you.
sarah K. May 7, 2011
Did you have a super sharp, serrated knife? My mom has made a billion cakes, and she always used a 12 inch knife that could cross the whole cake, while sawing quickly. This knife: is what she has. She always used the toothpick method, but that only works if you can see both ends of the knife, so you know where you're going. It helps if you don't do too many small saws, but try to glide smoothly and quickly across.

Personally, I've only ever made cakes for kids, and I know how much they care, so I don't really try very hard to make it even, I just slice away. Good luck next time!
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