A Scientifically Smarter Way to Cut Cake

To preserve cake freshness, try this brilliant slicing technique.

June 18, 2014, 12:25 PM

— -- Wedges are officially for amateurs. For next-level cake cutting, a British math author unearthed a long-lost brilliant slicing technique that preserves a pastry’s freshness far longer than normal.

The method, which seems obvious once you hear it, was developed over 100 years ago by Victorian scientist Francis Galton, famous for discovering fingerprints, drawing the first weather map and coining the term “nature versus nurture."

But it’s his discovery of this revolutionary food tactic that has people in wider circles talking today.

Rediscovered by Alex Bellos, author of The Grapes of Math, and demonstrated in a video on Numberphile's YouTube channel, the trick is to cut the cake all the way across the middle, removing a strip, pushing the remaining cake together and sealing with a rubber band. Unlike with the wedge, none of the interior is exposed to air, which keeps the entire cake moist and delicious for days to the last slice.

“[Galton] was the king of measurement, and he was very English. He loved tea and cake,” Bellos said. “He’s not a household name, but so many of the things he invented are things we take for granted in the modern world. In his old age he sent [scientific journal] ‘Nature’ this letter about the best way to cut a cake, and when I saw that, I thought, ‘That is absolutely wonderful.’”

Galton was able to look at a round cake in a new way, leading to this discovery.

“We instinctively see the circle as a wheel, which is a point going around another fixed point, but if we stop and try to see it in a completely different way, then that’s when you come up with this other solution,” Bellos said. “It’s also charming that it’s something so simple invented by someone who was so important scientifically.”

Bellos has tried the idea several times himself to much success.

“It really works. It turns out that the strength of elastic bands is strong enough to keep it together, but not too strong that it makess too much of a mark or cuts through the icing,” he said. “Just be careful to make sure that you don’t get a bit of rubber band in your mouth.”

Bellos said the principle would apply to other pastries and even bread.

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