The distinctive lightness and delicacy of angel food cake is the source of its charm, but it also presents a slight problem. When made correctly, the cake is so airy it can be difficult to cut effectively. It’s a good problem to have — it means you nailed the exacting angel-food technique — but it’s inconvenient, nonetheless. You have several ways to approach cutting the cake, and one of them is likely to work for you.
Most of the knives in your kitchen do a poor job of cutting angel food cake. The best option is usually a knife with a finely serrated blade, ideally a relatively thin and narrow one. Hold the knife point down, so you can cut at an angle, and slice with a light hand, letting the knife do the work rather than pressing down and compressing the sponge-like cake. After each cut, wipe the sticky crumbs from the knife blade with a warm, wet cloth.
Chilling the cake in your refrigerator for a few hours beforehand or in your freezer for at least 15 to 20 minutes, firms the cake’s texture slightly but noticeably. This helps make it easier to slice.
Good kitchenware outlets often carry a special tool designed specifically for cutting angel food cakes. It’s a large metal fork — very similar to the pick used for an Afro — mounted to a handle. The cutter’s prongs pierce the cake more easily than a knife blade, quickly yielding easy wedges. The slices will be slightly textured, rather than smooth like knife-cut slices, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you plan to serve the cake slices with a sauce or fruit topping, the topping will cling better to a rough surface.
You can duplicate the method without a cake slicer, by using two ordinary dinner forks from your silverware drawer. Insert the forks into the top of your cake at the same spot, and pull in opposite directions. Slide the forks further into the cake and repeat the pulling motion, until you’ve separated a wedge of the cake. The slices will be less evenly cut than those from an actual cake cutter but still perfectly usable.
One other common cutting method requires a sturdy piece of thread, thin monofilament fishing line or unflavored dental floss.
Measure a piece of line several inches wider than the cake, leaving plenty of room for your hands.
Wind the thread around the fingers of each hand and position it carefully over the middle of the cake.
Push down gently from top to bottom to make the first cut. Rotate the cake slightly and make a second cut. This creates your first two wedges, on opposite sides of the cake.
Rotate the cake again and repeat, until the entire cake is sliced.
The thread technique is also useful if you want to split a cake horizontally into layers. Wrap the thread around the cake to make a loop, positioning it carefully as you go. Pull the loop tight, and the thread will cut through the cake. Repeat the process again for each additional layer you need.