The Scientific Way To Have Your Cake And Cut It Correctly, Too

06/20/2014 05:51 pm ET
  • Avery Stone Digital Innovation Fellow, The Huffington Post

You've had your share of birthdays so you know perfectly well how to cut a cake, right?

Don't count on it.

As British mathematician Alex Bellos explains in a fun new video from his Numberphile series, the traditional approach to divvying up a cake -- cutting a series of wedges -- just doesn't cut it from a scientific standpoint. Or from the standpoint of flavor.

"You're not maximizing the amount of gastronomic pleasure that you can make from this cake," he says in the video, adding that once you cut out a wedge, you expose the inside of the cake to the air -- and it dries out.

A better way, Bellos says, has existed for more than a century. In 1906 the journal Nature ran a letter from Francis Galton in which the celebrated British polymath offered -- "for his own amusement and satisfaction" -- what he considered a superior method of cutting a cake. The goal, he wrote, was to cut it "so as to leave a minimum surface to become dry."

Scroll down for photos showing the technique -- and never eat dry cake again.

cake 1

cake science

cake 2

cake science

cake 3

cake 4

cake 5

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1 #10) Cupcake Magician, Red Bank, N.J.
  • Cupcakes are magical by nature, a confectionary gift created from the depths of a need for something sweet. As a result of one of these sweet ventures, the Cupcake Magician was born. Promising to make any event magical, this cupcakery offers customers a ton of regularly flavored cupcakes like the “black and white milkshake” or one of the popular “filled” cupcakes like raspberry cream. Photo Credit: Cupcake Magician
  • 2 #9) The Cup, St. Louis
  • Breaking into the top 10 is tough with this much competition, but The Cup thrived, particularly in the area of design and presentation when it came to these cupcakes. With the just right amount of frosting to be delicious and decadent without overstepping, these cupcakes come in a variety of styles ranging from sweet to savory. For example, the “caramel turtle cupcake” is something everyone can love while the “peach cobbler cupcake” will appeal to someone completely different in a different way. Photo Credit: The Cup Click Here to see the more of The Best Cupcakes in America
  • 3 #8) Sweet Indulgence, Providence, R.I.
  • Go ahead, treat yourself. And if you do, try to do so at the Sweet Indulgence cake shop. The cupcakes hardly need an introduction. Literally one look and suddenly you’ll feel your will crumbling. The best advice we have is try not to eat your computer screen if you’re looking from home. Our favorite has to be the “death by chocolate,” a chocolate cake heavily infused with chocolate fudge and chips to make it even more desirable. Photo Credit: Heidi Hope Photography
  • 4 #7) Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe, St. Louis
  • These gourmet cupcakes weigh nearly half a pound each, hefty enough to stand on their own against the likes of brunch. The devil is in the details, and Jilly's got plenty of them, from a real miniature slice of pecan pie garnishing their “so fly pecan pie cupcake,” to filling “apple pie à la mode cupcakes” with baked cinnamon apples. Need another reason to walk in? The “French silk cupcake” — a chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse, topped with chocolate buttercream, large chocolate curls, and dusted with powdered sugar — is just calling your name. Photo Credit: © Flickr /Paul Sableman Click Here to see the more of The Best Cupcakes in America
  • 5 #6) Atlanta Cupcake Factory, Atlanta
  • A small artisan bakery dedicated to small batch baking, their philosophy is centered on interesting and unique flavor profiles, evident in offerings like “sweet potato cake” with Kentucky Bourbon cream cheese frosting. Their must-try cupcake is a sugar cookie cake with browned butter, rosemary, and pine nut frosting. Bottom line: when someone goes to enough effort to create a frosting with browned butter, and serves it to you with a fresh rosemary garnish, you take it. Photo Credit: Glenn Grimwood
  • 6 #5) Fate Cakes, Columbus, Ohio
  • Drool session: commence. Built on the belief that old world baking charm is something worth implementing daily, Fate Cakes has high standards regarding what makes a good cupcake. These cupcakes are in our top-five because not only do they have an extensive collection of flavors, they are drop dead gorgeous as well. Just look at the way the chocolate sauce rolls down the mountain of frosting on the “mocha latte cupcake.” Photo Credit: Fate Cakes Click Here to see the more of The Best Cupcakes in America
  • 7 #4) CamiCakes Cupcakes, Atlanta
  • A true family affair, this award-winning cupcakery turned their hobby into a full-time passion. One Sweet Slice can artfully serve your corporate affair as elegantly as they could your wedding. In the true spirit of DIY, you can personalize your cupcake experience to match your mood. As for flavors, chocolate chunk and raspberry lemonade would be an excellent way to start working through this delicious bakery menu. Photo Credit: Cliff Robinson Photography
  • 8 #3) One Sweet Slice, Sandy, Utah
  • A true family affair, this award-winning cupcakery turned their hobby into a full-time passion. One Sweet Slice can artfully serve your corporate affair as elegantly as they could your wedding. In the true spirit of DIY, you can personalize your cupcake experience to match your mood. As for flavors, chocolate chunk and raspberry lemonade would be an excellent way to start working through this delicious bakery menu. Photo Credit: One Sweet Slice Click Here to see the more of The Best Cupcakes in America
  • 9 #2) Pinkitzel Cupcakes & Candy, Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • An intricate swirling structure of frosting sits atop a moist, freshly baked cupcake in such a way it feels like you’re staring at the sun when you gaze upon it. Ok, maybe we are romanticizing it just a tad, but these cupcakes are out of this world. The Pinkitzel Cupcakes & Candy has not only some of the most gourmet cupcakes around, they have over 100 loose candy options making it the ultimate sweet house in Oklahoma City. As for the cupcakes, indulge in the “Napoleon,” “a chocolate cake topped with a swirl of strawberry buttercream then a swirl of vanilla buttercream and a cherry sour.” Photo Credit: © Flickr /Travel Aficionado
  • 10 #1) Pink Cake Box, Denville, NJ
  • When it comes to making a gorgeous cake, you simply cannot beat Pink Cake Box. This critically acclaimed bakery was birthed from the brainchild of Anne Heap who is an accomplished baker. From the tiniest of cupcakes to a towering wedding cake structure, Pink Cake Box can consistently take your breath away with their sculpting ability. But underneath the layers of gorgeous fondant is a cake so moist and delicious, you don’t even care how beautiful it is. Flavors include “hazelnut frangelico,” “pink champagne cake,” “spiced pumpkin,” and dozens more. Try this amazing bakeshop for a specialty experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere across the nation. Photo Credit: Pink Cake Box Click Here to see the Rest of the 101 Best Cupcakes in America

CONVERSATIONS