Cutting a cake like a pie may seem like the sensible thing to do, but you will probably end up ruining a tall cake if you use the same method!
How to cut a tall cake? The best way to cut a tall cake is to simply cut it sideways from the edge and then further divide the slice into manageable pieces. Think more in terms of cutting a tall round cake like a square to make things easier.
Read below to learn the right techniques to cut tall cakes, some great best practices, and serving ideas for tall cakes!
Cake Vs Slice Shape
Traditionally, most round cakes are cut in the same way as a pizza.
The triangular slice is the preferred way for most cakes because it produces equal size pieces without ruining the shape or texture of the cake.
But things aren’t as straightforward with tall cakes!
Most regular cakes are between 2-3 inches tall. This makes them easier to cut using the pie-cutting method where you would simply slice the cake on each side until you get equally-sized slices.
For cakes taller than 3 inches, you might end up ruining the shape and texture of the cake — the slice may even fall apart due to its awkward size and triangular cut!
Another problem with the pie-shape method is that it creates slices with pointy edges. This means that if you were to further cut the slice in the middle, the distribution of icing and cake wouldn’t be equal!
Essentially, anyone with the top end of the slice would end up with more icing while the bottom half would only get a marginally-iced slice.
This is where the square-slicing method comes in! This slicing method ditches the idea of triangular pieces and focuses more on equal proportions of cake and icing.
Here is how to do it.
The domino or square-slicing method requires you to think of a rounded cake like a square — which will allow you to divide the cake sideways into equal portions!
To begin, line the side of the cake with a non-stick cutting board or any other clean working surface.
Slice the cake from the edge and let the slice fall over the cutting board. A 2-inch slice should be appropriate, but you can adjust the thickness as per your preference.
As the slice lies flat, begin dividing it into equal pieces by cutting rectangular pieces. The best way to do this is to cut the cake from top to bottom to create 2-3 columns. Then begin slicing in the middle to create 1-2 rows.
You can adjust the size of the slices as per your preference. But for most cases, 3 columns and 1 row are usually sufficient for most people.
Please note that the edge slices will have more icing than the middle pieces. This is why we recommend that you keep these slices for people who enjoy extra icing or more sugar in their cake.
Once you have divided the slice, move all the pieces into a separate container and then continue cutting the cake sideways like a domino. Cut the cake in the same way as described above until you reach the other end!
Store all the pieces of cake in an airtight container or stack them up in a container and store them in the fridge.
This method is reserved for cakes taller than 4 inches — and for people who like regular pie-shaped slices with varying levels of icing on each slice.
Please be warned that this method can result in a mess, especially if you don’t slice the cake correctly. Please only go ahead if you have experience with cutting tall cakes and if you have a sharp, straight knife at hand.
We recommend going with a sharp, straight knife because most chef’s knives have a bit of a curve and the curve may force you to cut through the cake using a sawing motion, which can ruin the texture of the cake and create unequal slices.
Begin by placing the cake in the fridge overnight. You need the icing to be very cold so that you can lightly grip it without creating an indent and without leaving behind fingerprints.
Once the cake is cold, start by washing the straight knife with warm water. Make sure that the knife is big enough to slice through the entire cake without you having to adjust it.
First, figure out the halfway point on the cake and then mark the middle point by lightly slicing it with a knife.
Now place the edge of the blade over the middle mark and then double-check the angle of the knife. You need to make sure that the blade cuts straight and doesn’t deviate in its direction or you will end up with a ruined cake!
You can use a light sawing motion to cut through the cake, but please be gentle. In most cases, a warm knife will be enough to cut through easily!
Lightly grip the top of the cake and then begin slicing from the middle. If you feel a bit of resistance on the cake then we recommend that you carefully pull the knife out and then reheat it by running warm water over it.
Reinsert the knife and continue cutting the cake where you left off.
This method can take some time, especially if you are doing it for the first time. If the cake starts to come up to room temperature, then we recommend that you pause and let it chill for 10-15 minutes before continuing.
Remember: all of these redundant steps are to maximize safety and to keep the cake from getting ruined. So, we highly recommend that you be patient when working with tall cakes.
Once the cake has been cut in half, gently lift the top and lay it aside. Voila! You now have two half-cakes!
Cut the halved cake into equal slices as you normally would. This method will produce two types of slices: one with icing on the top and side, and the other without the top icing.
We recommend using this method for tall birthday cakes! You can serve the icing part to the kids while the less sweet slices can be distributed among the adults.
Tall-Pie Shape Cutting Method
This method is like the divided pie method described above — except, instead of cutting the cake halfway, you will only have to cut the slice like a regular cake, but with some basic care.
We recommend this method for anyone who doesn’t have a tall straight knife, or for beginners who don’t want to risk damaging the texture of the cake.
Begin by warming up a regular knife with warm water. Make sure that the cake is cold, too!
Cut the first slice in a triangular shape, then use a cake server to carefully and gently lift out the cut slice. Place the slice flat on the side and then cut it in the middle.
This method will retain the triangular shape of the cake, but just like the horizontal division method, you will end up with varying proportions of icing and cake!
We don’t recommend cutting the slice vertically because it will create unequal pieces and you will end up with half pieces — without icing!
Continue cutting the rest of the cake slice by slice. Do not cut all of the cake at once or it might destabilize and fall. The best way to go through this method is to process each slice as it comes off the cake!
The quadrant method is sometimes used by wedding planners to cut tall and large wedding cakes. It is thought to be the mathematically correct way of getting the most out of tall cakes!
Begin by slicing the cake from the middle to the edge, just like you would if you were cutting the cake in a pie shape.
We recommend using a large knife and cutting the cake from edge to edge in one swift swoop.
But if you don’t have a big enough knife then you can cut the cake in two successions — just be very careful and accurate when you cut it in two parts!
Once the cake has been sliced in half, turn it sideways so that you are facing a “-” (minus) sign. Now begin slicing the halved cake into equal slices starting from one edge to the other.
This method is excellent for people who don’t mind large cake slices and is perhaps the best way to get the most out of big cakes!
It is also a great way to equally divide the cake in a way that maintains the right icing-to-cake ratio for each slice.
If you don’t want to serve large slices, then we recommend further cutting the slices in the middle to divide them into two!
Depending on how much you divide the slices, you can get up to 8-16 slices using this method.
Rectangular cakes are the easiest to cut — and you can use many different approaches to cut equally-sized slices!
The best way to go about it would be to start with the edge of the cake. Use a large straight knife to cut slices roughly 2-3 inches thick. Divide the slices into equally-sized columns. Then cut in the middle and serve!
You can also divide the cake into 2 rows if you want bite-sized pieces of cake. Continue cutting the cake in the same way until you have equally sized cubes.
Pro Tip: You can adjust the size by limiting the thickness, columns, and rows while cutting. Just like the other methods above, keep the edge portions for people who love extra icing!
Stacked cakes are a popular type of tall cakes that are usually served at weddings or big events.
The best way to deal with this type of cake is to combine two cutting methods mentioned on our list: the first is the middle-split method and the second is the domino/square-slicing method.
Start by using a warm spatula. Insert the spatula at the base of the topmost section of the cake. Please make sure that you insert the spatula evenly without making an angle.
Carefully run the spatula around the base of the top layer. Once done, gently lift the top layer by placing your fingers on each side of the base.
Keep in mind: This method isn’t going to be the neatest, but it will get the job done!
Lift the top stack until it is completely off the cake and then set it aside. Now, cut the cake using the domino/square cutting method to create equal slices of the first stack.
Before continuing, make sure that you remove the plastic support tubes inside the cake. The tubes add stability to the cake and keep it from falling apart.
Use clean pliers to remove all the inserted cubes and then continue with the same strategy as above!
We advise switching to a longer spatula as you make your way down to the widest section. The last section of the cake will be the easiest to cut since all you will need is to cut the tall cake using the square-cutting method.
Irregularly Shaped Cakes
Need to cut a cake that isn’t rounded or rectangular?
Novelty cakes are all the rage these days and you can virtually have a cake in any shape and size. These types of cakes are popular with children and can be in the shape of their favorite fictional character.
If you are dealing with an unconventionally shaped tall cake, then there are several ways you can cut it!
Most of the time, these cakes aren’t that tall, but there are a few designs that call for an irregularly shaped tall cake.
As a general rule of thumb, when cutting irregular cakes, the best way to divide the cake is to try to shape it into rectangular or angled pieces.
If you are working with a character-based tall cake, then you can start with the head section, which is usually round.
Go with the domino-cutting strategy to create equally-sized slices. Do not attempt to cut angled slices unless you have a fairly rounded section of the cake.
When using the domino-cutting strategy, simply increase the number of columns and rows as the width of the cake increases.
For example, with “character cakes,” the head area might not need to be cut row-wise and will also usually be smaller than the torso section which will require more side-by-side slices.
Cutting tall cakes can be daunting, but if you apply the right strategy, you can easily cut any type of cake into equal slices!
Now that you know how to cut a tall cake, here are some related questions:
Is a heated knife necessary to cut tall cakes?
Heated knives are usually required to cut all types of cakes, especially cakes that require refrigeration.
A hot knife cuts through the cake easily, much like how a hot blade would go through a block of butter. It usually isn’t necessary but is an important step if you want beautifully sliced pieces.
Heat the knife by running hot water over it for a few minutes or by storing the knife in a cloth that is dampened with hot water.
Can you cut a tall cake with a spatula?
If you don’t have a serrated knife or a long-cutting accessory then you could use a spatula as a quick substitute.
For the best results, we recommend using a sturdy spatula that doesn’t bend, just like a knife. A bendy or “light” spatula won’t make for a great cutting tool and might even ruin the texture and shape of the slices!