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How To Cut a Wedding Cake (So You Don’t Make a Mess)

Updated November 9, 2022
How To Cut a Wedding Cake (So You Don’t Make a Mess)

Wedding cake cutting is the most thrilling moment of the reception. But how to cut a wedding cake without making a mess?

Cutting a wedding cake is undoubtedly more complex than a birthday cake, and the reason isn’t the number of tiers.

Many people get confused about where to stand and how to act, let alone how to measure wedding cake servings or slice them.

Being stressed when all eyes are drawn on you is normal. Remember that you aren’t a professional baker and don’t have to make everything perfect.

Gather your supplies, find a lovely backdrop for your cake-cutting pictures, and relax. A mess can happen even if you do everything right, but your cake won’t get any worse from a bit of cream smeared on a plate.

How To Size Cake Portions

Before you start cutting your wedding cake, you should define the necessary slice sizes. If you cut slices of the wrong size, you may not have enough cake to feed all guests.

As a rule of thumb, a standard wedding cake serving size is about four inches tall, two inches long, and one inch wide. This may seem like a small serving, but your guests likely won’t be hungry after appetizers and the main entrée.

If you also plan to have a dessert table, the wedding cake slice size can be even smaller. On the other hand, if you serve light foods as the main entrée and make a long pause between the dinner and dessert, cut twice larger slices.

You may wonder – how do I cut a wedding cake in inch-wide slices? Do I need a ruler or measuring tape? The solution is simple – use your thumb to measure an inch.

The slices should be wider if the cake is shorter than four inches. For instance, if each tier of your cake is two inches tall, cut the cake into two-inch wide slices.

How To Cut A Small Round Cake

Cutting a small, single-tier round wedding cake may seem like a no-brainer. However, the stress of guests queuing up and the photographer shooting the process doesn’t help to do it nicely.

Start by cutting the cake in half. You need excellent eyesight to mark the center correctly, but you may ask your baker to leave you a tiny clue like a chocolate dot.

Then, make another center-cut perpendicular to the first one. Afterward, use your thumb to measure the necessary slice sizes. Gently mark the cut lines with a knife on the frosting.

A significant benefit of scoring the cut lines is that you can adjust them later if the last piece is too small. When you’re satisfied with the result, start cutting the slices from one side, moving along the scoreline.

How To Cut A Heart-Shaped Cake

Cutting a round cake is stressful enough, but how do you cut a heart-shaped wedding cake? The geometry may seem confusing at first, but you’ll manage the cake-cutting with a bit of confidence.

Start by cutting the cake in the center – thankfully, finding a center of a heart-shaped cake is easier than a round cake. Then, measure two inches from both sides of the center and make two more cuts.

Repeat the vertical cuts every two inches. You may score the cut lines before cutting the cake. Afterward, cut the cake horizontally in the middle. You’ll need to use your judgment to find the center.

Score the cut lines at every inch from the horizontal centerline and slice the cake. You should end up with rectangular pieces in the center and a few oddly-shaped slices along the edges.

How To Cut A Tiered Cake

A three-tier round wedding cake is a long-standing tradition, but some cakes are taller. Regardless of the tier count, cutting such a cake may be intimidating, but it’s easier than you may think.

Start serving the cake with the bottom tier. Use your thumb to measure the necessary slice width and mark the cut lines with a knife. Adjust the slice width if necessary after marking the cut lines around the entire cake circumference.

Start cutting and serving slices around the circumference until the entire tier is served. Then, move on to the next level and repeat the steps until you’re left with the top tier.

You may cut the top tier off and preserve it or cut it as a regular small round cake. Then, serve the center parts of the bottom tiers like traditional round cakes.

Alternatively, you may start cutting your tiered wedding cake with the top tier. However, you will need to cut narrower slices as you move down because the cake diameter will get bigger, and the slices will be longer.

Tools For Cutting the Cake

One of the most valuable wedding cake cutting tips you may get is to pick the right tools. Don’t attempt to cut your cake with a butter knife. Instead, use a relatively short serrated knife like the one you use for slicing tomatoes.

Serrated knives easily slice through fondant frosting and sugarcraft without the need to apply excessive pressure, so you won’t smash the layers. Find one with a 5-8-inch blade.

A sharp chef’s knife will do the job with softer buttercream cakes. However, don’t use an overly long knife because it may smear the cream everywhere.

Overall, a serrated knife is preferable because you can make sawing motions, ensuring the blade doesn’t compress the cake. With a long chef’s knife, you’d have to push the knife right down and may end up with a smushed cake.

You’ll also need a cake server because balancing a piece of cake on a serrated knife isn’t simple. Apart from the essential wedding cake cutting tools, gather napkins, forks, a plate, and champagne if you plan to feed each other cake.

Chill Before Cutting

Most cakes taste the best at room temperature. However, refrigerating the cake before slicing it helps avoid smashing it and smearing the filling and frosting all around the place.

Don’t let the cake sit in the refrigerator for too long – 15 minutes is sufficient. The cake will get back to room temperature when it lands on a plate.

Note that the recommended wedding cake serving temperature may vary depending on the flavor.

Fresh fruit or yogurt cakes on a hot summer day taste great when they’re a bit colder, and pumpkin spice or caramel pecan cakes can be served slightly warm.

Use A Fishing Line

Finding the right knife for wedding cake cutting can be tricky. If your caterer doesn’t have a free knife and you can’t find any at home, use a fishing line to cut your cake.

One may argue that you can buy a knife, but a high-quality serrated knife isn’t cheap, and attempting to cut a cake with a blunt knife will only make a mess.

Cut a fishing line about four inches longer than the cake’s diameter. Then, lightly mark the cut lines on the frosting. Hold the fishing line firmly, stretch it, and push it downward with moderate pressure.

When you reach the cake’s bottom, pull the fishing line out from one side of the cake. Wipe the line from crumbs, frosting, and cream, and move on to cutting the next slice.

This method is best for round and heart-shaped cakes when you need to cut the cake in halves. It isn’t suitable for lower tiers of tall wedding cakes when you need to leave the center untouched.

Use Hot Water

Hot water is of great help in avoiding mess when cutting a wedding cake. You likely know the trick with ice cream – a hot spoon makes ice cream serving much easier. The same rule applies to wedding cakes.

Prepare a glass with hot water and dip the knife before cutting the cake. Dry the knife thoroughly before slicing; otherwise, icing and filling may stick to the wet surface.

Using a warm knife may be unnecessary if you have a soft buttercream cake. However, it’s a must-have for fondant cakes. You need to apply extra pressure with a cold knife, and the icing may crack.

Clean The Knife Between Slices

The first point to remember regarding how to cut cake neatly is to clean the knife between slices. Even if you dip the knife in hot water and dry it thoroughly, it will likely collect crumbs, frosting, and cream.

The knife will smear cream and frosting on the following slices and get sticky quickly. Wipe the knife with a kitchen towel, tissue, or sponge to reduce friction and ensure the blade slips through the cake.

Clean Up or Cover Up the Mess

You risk making a mess even if you follow all of the wedding cake serving tips mentioned above. If you’re worried that smeared cream will ruin your pictures, clean up the mess with a cake server and paper towels.

Collect all crumbs, frosting, and filling with a server and wipe the remaining mess with a paper towel. If you’ve made a mess on a guest’s plate, cover it up with fruit, ice cream, flower, or a cookie.

Image credit: Flickr