Let’s begin by saying that a cake knife, while not strictly a necessity, certainly makes the entire process of cutting, extracting, and serving a piece of cake much easier than it may otherwise have been. How many festive occasions or secretive, late-night bouts of gluttony have ended in tears and the dog licking crumbs from the floor? Too many, in my experience. To serve a slice of cake is a delicate operation, and it requires the right tool. Indeed, it requires a specific tool: the cake knife.
The cake, in slice form, is a clever beast. Its high center of gravity and attractive wedge geometry make it, in my opinion, one of the hardest shapes of food to handle. This difficulty is compounded by the aesthetic demand to avoid fingerprints in the icing. This distinguishes cake from, say, pizza, which even a child can manage. Other things distinguish cake from pizza, of course, but nobody cares if you grip a crust and yank it free from its rest like you are hauling a muskellunge from Lake Minnetonka. Try that with cake and see what it gets you.
Many of us muddle along with a jack-of-all-trades dinner knife. Or a spatula, which is actually a pretty good solution for sheet cake, but I’m talking about the classic, single or multi-tiered cylindrical cake. As a foundational assumption of this piece, “cake” refers to a kind of platonic ideal. Let’s not even worry about the irregular ones, like on Cake Boss or something. That’s for pros.
Anyway, the manipulation of cake requires a precise combination of features, and that’s really the beauty of a cake knife. Cutting edge and stable platform all in a single, elegant package. Specialization and versatility. Futuristic and traditional. I know that there’s a global pandemic raging out there, but trust me: cake knife.
Not that I have cake that often. Especially at home. Cake tends to be a workplace experience: retirements, forced retirements, International Cake Day, the boss’s baby showers. It’s a lot of baby showers for one person, not that I’m judging. It’s her reproductive system and disposable income, for sure. But every year? I just don’t know if that’s a great idea from a lot of perspectives. Or maybe its for the same baby that she really likes.
I know this is straying from the discussion of the cake experience, but I love holidays that were made up by business interests. It’s gratifying to know, in a moral way, that our most sacred celebrations have identifiable and socially important brands attached to them.
Like International Cake Day (whoosh—back into focus), which is November 26 of every year. I bet Betty Crocker and Pillsbury are in a bidding war over that one. Or maybe it’s more of a cabal. And November 26 is a devious date, right? What other holidays hit around November 26? Veteran’s Day? Is that a cake day? Not sure, which means no.
But then there’s a little holiday called THANKSGIVING. I’ll give you one guess when Thanksgiving 2020 falls?
That’s right: NOVEMBER 26! BANG!
Devious. You don’t usually associate Thanksgiving with cake. Thanksgiving is a holiday that revolves more around meat and meat juices. It’s about a tart little berry that a surprising fraction of our economy is dependent on. It’s about family and shared historical delusion and hypocrisy.
But most of all, Thanksgiving is about pie. Pie is the sweet, sweet mascot of hypocrisy: all promises of fruit, but it’s actually Satan’s sandwich of butter and shortening.
Cake, though, is completely transparent (which I mean in a communicative way, not optically, although that would be cool). It’s a moist barrel of sugar and fat and carbohydrates with a stuccoed coating of more sugar and fat. And if you’re lucky, it’s also got some of those nice chocolate shavings.
In other words, cake is here to kill you, and it makes no apologies. And neither does Pillsbury, who now has you planning some kind of pumpkin sponge with spiced buttercream icing instead of strawberry-rhubarb pie. They’ve got you, and there’s nothing you can do but be properly equipped, ideally with a cake knife.
I’m not saying that I’m going to purchase a cake knife during a worldwide outbreak of pestilence. Such a use of resources could be viewed as tone deaf. Others may accuse me of overlooking a powered rotisserie for my grill, which would probably get a lot more use. And it does produce a nice, golden finish on a free-range roaster, I admit.
But there are some birthdays coming up, which now that I think about it, not so sure that those were baby showers. Anyway: cake knife.