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You Don’t Need a Knife to Cut a Cake at a Picnic

No blade? No problem

Hands holding a fork, a spoon, dental floss, and a wine glass reach for a bright pink raspberry-topped cake that sits on the grass. Illustration. Janna Morton

You’ve probably seen them: twee little videos of people cutting cakes at picnics by plunging wineglasses straight into them. The method guarantees a neat individual cup of cake (great for COVID-conscious picnics, and no doubt partly why the trend picked up in 2020); plus, it’s cute and looks good on camera. But let’s say you’re envisioning a summer’s worth of picnics and cakes to go with them: Is cutting your cake with a wineglass actually a good idea?

Though she hasn’t tried it personally, cake maker Clio Goodman of New York’s ByClio bakery loves the idea (and the videos). “For people who don’t like sharing or are germophobic or just want their own slice, it’s really cute and easy,” she says. “You could drink your wine and when it’s done, just turn your glass upside down and cut the cake.”

Nicola Collie, who runs the aptly named California microbakery Picnic Baked Goods, is less of a fan. The method not only compresses the cake and frosting, she explains, but it also changes the order in which you eat it; plus, knowing the work that goes into cake making, she appreciates seeing a precise slice with defined layers of cake and frosting. Texas-based baker Pamela Thibodeaux points out a practical consideration: While the method might be fun to watch, “it doesn’t yield many slices efficiently,” she says. That being said, “a cake specific for this planned effect, like a snack cake or two-layered cake, would be ideal if you’re going for a no-rules vibe at your picnic.”

If you either forget a knife or simply prefer not to bring one to your picnic, you might use a spoon, the side of a fork, or a plate to cut the cake, Thibodeaux suggests. If you’re still concerned with aesthetics, however, Collie prefers the cake-cutting hack of using dental floss (which she considers a key item to keep in the car anyway). “That’s brilliant,” Collie says. To cut a cake with dental floss, you’ll want to take a long piece of unscented floss, hold it taut with both hands, and then wiggle it through the cake until you hit the bottom. Functioning like a cheese wire, the floss cuts clean and even slices, whether in wedge form or square. And remember: Cutting a round cake into a grid maximizes the number of pieces you can get out of it.

Whichever method you choose, they all share the same upside: No cake ends up smashed against the outside of your cup, just in case you forgot the napkins, too.

Janna Morton is a Baltimore-based illustrator and lifestyle blogger whose colorful work focuses on themes of nature, inclusivity, overlooked beauty, grief, and joy.