How to Cut Cake, According to Science

Cristen Conger

tarale/Flickr Creative Commons

Not long ago, we found out we've been eating cupcakes all wrong, and now it turns out we've been cutting cake incorrectly as well. See, the typical cake cutting protocol of removing triangular slices drains the leftover mass (see also: leftovers we daydream about eating) of moisture, which means subsequent cake eating won't be as delicious as it possibly could be if we simply tweaked our cutting style.

Over at Numberphile, Alex Bellos demonstrates how to maximize cake's "gastronomic pleasure":

Bellos isn't dispensing newfangled dessert tricks, either. He discovered the method in a 1906 letter to the journal Nature titled, "Cutting a Round Cake on Scientific Principles":

The problem to be solved was, "given a round tea-cake of some 5 inches across, and two persons of moderate appetite to eat it, in what way should it be cut so as to leave a minimum of exposed surface to become dry?" The ordinary method of cutting out a wedge is very fault in this respect. The results to be aimed at are so to cut the cake that the remaining portions shall fit together. Consequently the chords (or arcs) of the circumference of these portions must be equal..A common rubber band embraces the whole and keeps its segments together.

In other words, the best way to cut a cake in order to keep it as moist as possible over three discrete cake-eating events (see also: how to enjoy a proper long weekend) is to cut along its entire midsection, leaving two halves that can be pushed back together, thus sealing in the moisture. The next time, you cut along the entire midsection again, only this time perpendicular to the original incision, leaving four quarters that can be pushed together yet again.

The only part of this cake science I'm not buying is the rubberband suggestion. While it might preserve moisture, it might also preserve rubber-flavored icing. Perhaps a large cotton scrunchie would mitigate that rubber risk -- an understandable oversight in the cake scientist's Nature letter as Romie Revson wouldn't patent the controversial hair tie until 1986.

Or, y'know, you could always opt for cupcakes.

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