You really don’t need a knife to cut cakes

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When you have a beautiful cake in front of you, no one wants to cut the first slice and then smear the delicate piping with a knife. But there’s a surprisingly effective way to cut the cake while maintaining its beauty. Just put down that mess-making knife and reach for dental floss instead.

A roll of dental floss can be easily tucked away in a kitchen or desk drawer or work bag and is always close at hand. I recently tested five types of floss to cut three types of cake. The result: some of the cleanest slices that any professional bakery would be proud of. I’m not joking. This method works fantastically well and is surprisingly easy to perform.

Only caveat: flossing might not be the most elegant way to cut slices of cake, and you can get frosting on your fingers. But the results are worth it. Here’s how to floss your cake, what type of floss works best, and some pitfalls to avoid at all costs. You can find more cool tricks here how to make distilled water for free and how to stop junk mail forever.

@cnetdotcom Your #cake may taste a little #minty depending on the floss you choose. #lifehack#dental floss#trythis#did you know#cookinghacks#baking#howtotok♬ son original – SHIMMYA

Why floss to cut a cake?

There can be a number of reasons why you choose dental floss instead of a knife when cutting cakes. Maybe you’re in the office or at a birthday party in the park and the only cutting utensil available is a 6-inch compostable knife. Maybe you’re tired of buttercream build-up and want to try something new. A colleague saved the day at a celebration when a giant cube cake turned up at a bar that had no paraphernalia for patrons. Luckily, the container of dental floss she had on hand got the job done.

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Here’s why it works: A dental floss is generally thinner than the average kitchen knife blade, and it’s designed to slide easily through tight spaces (i.e. between your teeth). If you’ve ever flossed too aggressively, infected gums are the only proof you need that the “edge” of the floss may be sharp.

Put them together and you have a pretty ideal tool for getting neat, clean slices after cutting. While cutting through a cake, I could barely see where the floss cut through the frosting because the cuts were so clean.

In my experience, using dental floss to cut cakes also preserved the delicate decorations better. For example, the carrot cake I used for this test had a carrot pattern on the top of the cake. Cutting through with the dental floss kept this design intact. In my experience, using a butcher knife to cut through decorations often spoils the look and leaves a smeared design – but it depends on the sharpness, width, and length of the knife blade.

And the problem of accumulated glaze on the edge of the knife? Mostly gone – except for debris on your fingers.

Cake cut with dental floss

Pro tip: Push the floss through the bottom of the cake for a cleaner cut.

Katie Teague/CNET

How to cut any cake with dental floss

First, make sure your cake is on a flat surface so you have room to pull the floss all the way to the bottom of the cake. You could put it on a cake stand so you have more room while slicing. Next, coil up a piece of dental floss larger than the widest part of the cake. I left a few inches at each end to comfortably wrap the floss around my fingers. When you wrap the floss around your fingers, don’t make it too tight: you’re trying to cut cake, not your fingers.

If you’re trying to make each slice the same size, you can use the dental floss to lightly mark guides before slicing through the cake.

Ready? Here’s what to do.

Square or Rectangular Cake: If the cake is square or rectangular in shape, it may be easier to cut as these cakes are generally shorter than round cakes. Use your dental floss to cut lengthways across the cake and press firmly into the cake to cut all the way through. Now make your cuts across the width, cutting down to the bottom of the cake.

Round cake: If your cake is shaped like a circle, it may be a layered cake so you may need to apply a little extra pressure to get all the way to the bottom of the cake. Using your dental floss, cut firmly through the center of the cake to form two halves – you may need to move the dental floss in a sawing motion to cut completely.

Then make a perpendicular cut to the one you just made – you should now have four triangles. Make more slices, moving around the cake, until you have the number of slices you need. Note that the thinner you want your slices to be, the more difficult it will be to cut them as the slices will start to fall apart.

Cake cut with dental floss

Dental floss is better for cutting thinner slices of cake.

Katie Teague/CNET

Can you use dental floss to serve slices of cake?

To see if it was possible, I tried to pick up a piece of cake with dental floss. It was fiddly and sort of worked, but the floss slowly cut through the spongy texture as I tried to remove the disc. I suggest using a fork or serving knife to transfer slices to a plate instead.

My pro tip for cutting cakes with dental floss

When making cuts, do not pull the floss back up after you cut to the bottom. First, it makes your floss messier, which means you have to pick a new strand with every snip. But more importantly, pulling back the disc will put crumbs on the top of your cake and also pull up a bit of the frosting, so you won’t get the clean, uncluttered look you’re looking for.

Once you’ve cut the cake all the way through, release one end instead and pull out the floss. Most of the glaze and crumbs on the floss will be swept away when you pull the floss out, leaving a clean thread that you can reuse to cut off the next slice.

The dental floss did not do its job here

When cutting the larger cakes, I noticed that the floss sometimes didn’t cut all the way to the bottom easily, perhaps because of the increased drag. If this happens to you, I suggest slicing the cake in half first, then working with each half so there’s less cake – and resistance – to cut through. It may also help to place the cake on a stand so you can cut all the way through.

One more note: If you’re baking a cake at home, this method won’t work unless you first remove the cake from the baking or cake pan.

Nice even slices of carrot cake

Nice even slices of cake.

Katie Teague/CNET

What type of floss worked best

For my testing, I used Kroger waxed floss, two styles of Oral-B Glide (one mint-flavored, the other unflavored), and two CVS store-brand styles: a heavier, waxed floss and a regular, unwaxed floss. I’ve tried flossing on three cakes: a layered carrot cake with shredded carrots, a larger and lighter sheet cake, and a shorter and denser sheet cake (almost like brownies).

All the floss worked great and made clean cuts even with the carrot bits from the more textured pattern cake. The original Glide floss cut through the cakes a little easier than the waxed Kroger floss. I think that’s because the Glide floss felt smoother, and it actually did slide through the cake.

Although I was concerned it would snag, the unwaxed floss worked surprisingly well and made clean slices.

The only thing that smudged a little during the cut was the dental tape – which looks more like a ribbon than a thread of nylon floss. However, it made a clean slice, and I would use it in a pinch.

Flavored vs. Unflavored Floss: Will It Change the Taste of Your Cake?

I was concerned whether using flavored dental floss would also transfer flavor to the cake slices, but we sliced ​​slices of a chocolate sheet cake with mint-flavored dental floss and none of the four taste testers could detect a minty flavor. To be safe, I’d stick with plain, unflavored floss if possible and stay away from cinnamon, coconut, or bubble gum flavors.

So the next time you cut a cake, grab dental floss or something similar—like fishing line, sewing thread, or thin wire. You really don’t need a knife to cut cakes

Chris Barrese

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