The Internet explainer culture is up in arms today, trying to tell us that we've "been cutting cake all wrong," because some math guy has discovered "the best way to cut cake." How dare you, sir.
According to author Alex Bellos, there's a scientifically optimal way to cut cake, and it's not the way we've all been doing it. The "triangular wedge" method leaves precious cake bits exposed to the elements, drying it out and making it less tasty, he says. A better way to cut cake was proposed more than 100 years ago by scientist Francis Galton whose findings were published (as a letter to the editor) in the journal Nature.
Galton suggests first cutting the cake (slightly unevenly) in half, and then cutting a slice out from the slightly larger half, to make a diameter-length slice that leaves two equal cake crescents. It looks like this, per Bellos's modern-day demonstration:
Once you've done so and removed the slice, you push the cake back together and bind it with a rubber band. That locks in the cake's freshness, until you repeat the cut (horizontally across the first one) when you're ready for another two slices of cake:
Nice try, Bellos. We see your books hiding behind that cake, we know what this video is about. Plus, this is actually a really terrible way to cut cake, for several reasons. Which are as follows:
This method requires way too many supplies. You need several clean rubber bands (who has that lying around?) that you then destroy by cutting through them before the second round of eating. Also, they must presumably come in a range of sizes to accommodate a shrinking cake, and be strong enough to hold a cake together but not strong enough to break through its outer layer. Plus, we think you'd need a ruler to make sure you're cutting the cake down the center. Relying on the naked eye will likely yield uneven cake halves, which would leave the rims of the larger half exposed, thus defeating the purpose of this whole new cake cutting thing.
It looks like Bellos is working with some nice fondant over there, but most of us enjoy frosted cakes. This method requires a lot of shoving pieces of cake together with your bare hands, which is sort of acceptable when there's a sugary shell on the cake, but disgusting once you introduce frosting into the mix. Plus, there's no way you could rubberband frosted slices of cake together.
3. Slice Removal
It's harder than it looks to cleanly slice a piece of cake. Trying to slice one straight down the middle of a cake, and then lifting it straight up to remove it, without leaving bits of cake slice attached to the main cake, seems basically impossible. Especially if the cake is frosted, or filled with some sort of jammy thing.
4. Ice Cream Cakes
This would never work with an ice cream cake, see above.
5. The Plate
What if your cake is on a cardboard platter? Wouldn't it be hard to not cut through that if you're aiming blindly at the center? Even if you're using a real cake dish, it needs to be large enough to give you some wiggle room around the edges to push apart the center as needed, but not too big to take up space in your fridge once the cake shrinks down.
6. Portion Control
This method assumes that one cake is supposed to last through several days, which is a bold premise.
So don't worry friends. Just keeping cutting your cake Pac-Man-style, one deliciously triangular piece at time. You're all doing just fine, cake-wise.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.