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When it comes to cutting a round birthday cake, have you ever seen one cut any other way but into wedges? Probably not. Well it turns out there’s a much better way to cut round cakes that, although not common practice, makes mathematical sense.
This method has actually been around since 1906, but has been brought to the surface again thanks to Alex Bellos of the YouTube channel by mathematics group Numberphile, who found the method in an old Nature magazine. Thankfully, his video went viral, so now we can all enjoy our cake in the most efficient manner possible.
The problem with cutting cakes into wedges is that it leaves part of the cake exposed to air, which can dry it out, and no one likes a slice of dry, chalky cake. The solution? Cutting the cake so that the remaining portions fit together. You can do this by cutting a round cake lengthwise down the middle and removing a rectangular-shaped slice — Bellos calls this the “prime steak” part of the cake. You then push the remaining semi-circles of the cake together, which doesn’t allow any part of the cake to become exposed and dried out.
To continue to cut slices, you make more cuts in the middle of the cake, but this time perpendicular to your original slice. Keep alternating cuts and pushing them together to preserve the cake’s moisture. It might sound a little more complicated than your run-of-the-mill wedge cut, but you’ll be pleased when they bite into a moist slice of cake — even two days later.
You can watch Bellos’ video below to see for yourself. The cake slices still look pretty good, and with some practice, you’ll become accustomed to this new cake-slicing method in no time.
If you think Bellos’ use of math to make an everyday task more efficient is pretty cool, check out his bestselling book “Here’s Looking at Euclid.”