The Antique Cake Tool To Avoid Smushing Delicate Slices

Flip through a vintage magazine or peruse the shelves of an antique store, and you'll doubtlessly find a host of unique kitchen implements. Some, like cast iron skillets, are still popular today. Others, like rotary beaters, which were revolutionary when they were first introduced in the mid-19th century, have since been replaced with electric hand and stand mixers. Suddenly, recipes that required meringue became more accessible to home cooks. Light, fluffy cakes like angel food cake and chiffon cake thus exploded in popularity.

With the newfound popularity of angel food cake came another kitchen tool, the cake breaker. Cake breakers fall into a third category of vintage kitchen implements: tools that aren't as popular as they once were but are still useful today. Sometimes called "angel food rakes" or "angel food cutters," cake breakers resemble oversized combs. They're used to cut through delicate cakes without crushing the cake or leaving crumbs.

Cake breakers were originally patented as "food breakers" in 1932 by Cale Schneider. Twenty years later, Schneider patented an updated version of his design to include a moveable blade that ran parallel to the tines. It seems that his new and improved cake breaker didn't catch on, though — most of the cake breakers currently available online feature his original design.

How to use a cake breaker

Cutting an angel food cake — or any light, delicate cake — presents a unique challenge. If you use a regular chef's knife or cake cutter, you'll compress the cake. Serrated knives fare a little better but tend to produce a lot of crumbs. Of course, a compressed cake still tastes great — but part of the appeal of delicate cakes like angel food is their light, airy texture. Cake breakers "break" the cake into slices, leaving the texture intact.

To use a cake breaker, simply slide the long tines into the cake while gently wiggling the tool back and forth. The cake breaker will perforate the cake rather than cutting through with brute force, leaving slices that can be easily separated. Admittedly, a cake breaker is a pretty specialized kitchen tool. However, if you're an avid baker — or simply a fan of antique baking tools — a cake breaker could be a fun addition to your kitchen. 

While brand-new cake breakers can be hard to find, vintage options are readily available online. You can pick a simple cake breaker up on eBay or Etsy for just a few bucks, but you'll find plenty of fancy options, as well. Ornate, sterling silver cake breakers can fetch upwards of $100.