How to Cut a Cake Like a Pro

Here's how to cut a round cake properly, with even slices and no messy crumbs.

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You’ve done it: you’ve baked a gorgeous multi-tiered cake and applied a smooth, dreamy layer of frosting. (Or, maybe you’ve gone to the bakery and picked up a professional-grade cake.) Now you’re facing the ultimate party trick: cutting the cake! It’s difficult to slice a cake without smearing frosting or scattering crumbs, or serving up a mix of big and skinny slices. Here are some pro tips for cutting a round cake perfectly every single time.

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How to Cut a Round Cake Neatly

Several simple techniques will set you up for success:

Use a serrated knife

It seems like a straight blade would be cleaner, but actually a serrated blade cuts through cake more easily. A thin blade, like a tomato knife, is best, but a serrated bread knife also works. Use a gentle sawing motion to cut. (Here’s how to keep your knives sharp.)

Chill the cake for 10-15 minutes

Cooling the cake and frosting makes both sturdier and less likely to squish, tear or crumble. A quick stop in the fridge is enough, since you don’t want the cake to get too cold before serving.

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Use a hot, clean knife for every slice

Before your first cut, run the knife under hot water, and dry it thoroughly. After every slice, wipe the knife clean, and then run it under hot water and dry it again. It takes a little extra time, but a warm knife will cut through frosting more cleanly.

A Trick for Cutting Even Slices

When slicing a round cake, it’s really easy to end up with unevenly sized slices—not ideal!

Before you cut, take a piece of fishing line or dental floss and mark a line down the middle the cake. Rotate 90º and mark the midway line again. Now you’ve got an X marking the center of the cake—each slice should end at this spot. The lines also lay out a template of four quarters of the cake, which makes it easy to calculate how large to cut slices to serve your guests. For example, if you’re serving 16, divide each quarter of the cake into four slices. In general, slices should be about 1″ or 1.5″ wide.

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How to Remove The First Piece

Even if your slice is pristine, it’s tricky to remove the first slice from the plate. It’s all too easy to leave the tip of the slice behind—or to take the frosting off the neighboring slice! Quickly run your knife down both sides of the slice to make sure it’s cut completely through. Then, insert a spatula under the slice, pressing against the plate. Lift smoothly. An offset spatula, which has an angled handle, makes it easier to get totally under the cake slice.

If you don’t get it the first time around, don’t sweat it. The good news is, even if your cake is sliced unevenly or the frosting is smudged, it’s still cake—and cake is a good thing. Keep a can of whipped cream on hand for a quick cover-up of any flaw.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.