The Notch in Cake Forks Serves a Purpose—Here’s What It’s For

Updated: Aug. 09, 2021

There's a right way to use those forks with the chipped tine—it's not just for decoration.

Everyday objects like kitchen utensils are often used without a second thought. Even though you probably use some kind of utensil every day, chances are you don’t know the ins and outs of flatware, unless you’re a thrifty collector.

We have salad forks, snail forks and soup spoons, but more types of silverware exist, and each serves a specific purpose. If you notice a fork with a notch in the far left prong, don’t throw it out—it’s not damaged. It’s most likely a pastry fork—and it’s supposed to have that little notch.

Why Is There a Notch in My Fork?

Next time you’re out for dinner and you order a piece of decadent chocolate cake for dessert, your plate might arrive with a fork with what looks like a chipped prong.

The chip is not a manufacturing mistake. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that the notch is usually located on the far left tine or prong, which will be a little wider than the others on your fork. When used properly, pastry forks are meant to help cut into cake with the wider tine, eliminating the need for a knife. (It’s also particularly helpful with fish, where the notch can be used to help remove pieces of skin and delicate bones from your meal.)

The “chipped” forks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are exclusively for pastry or desserts, while others might be geared more toward fish or meaty meals, but they’re all designed to give you a smooth dining experience. It helps to know how to set a table with more than one fork!

What Do the Numbers on My Fork Mean?

A curious notch might not be the only thing you notice on your fork. Depending on the make of your silverware, you might notice some mysterious numbers imprinted on the metal.

Generally, the numbers you see on your silverware refer to the amount of silver used to plate the piece. When cutlery production was industrialized in Germany in the 19th century, manufacturers often produced it in 12-by-12 sets that included 12 forks and 12 spoons. For these sets, the standard amount of silver used for plating the pieces was 90 grams, which was often stamped into the metal somewhere on the flatware. Sometimes, more or less silver was used for thicker or thinner platings, so numbers from 20 to 150 may be on your heirloom pieces.

If your silver kitchen utensils are tarnished, here’s how to polish silverware.

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