How To Use Toothpicks To Easily Level A Cake

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A third of Americans developed new baking skills during the pandemic to cope with stress and pass the time with their families. As a result of the increased sales and a desire to retain their new customers, companies adapted baking recipes with easy-to-follow instructions, created online lessons, and assembled more kits to appeal to novice bakers year-round instead of just during the "baking season," which traditionally begins in November (via The Wall Street Journal).

Although life has returned to 'normal,' Jack Bishop, America's Test Kitchen's chief creative officer, anticipates that bakers who have invested money in baking tools and time learning new skills will continue to bake as a creative outlet saying, "We're desperate for these sensory, tactile experiences. People want to do something with their hands." According to The Journal of Positive Psychology, scientific evidence supports the claim that baking improves your emotional well-being even after eating the last cookie. Studies have shown people who frequently do creative projects like baking are happier and less anxious, and those positive feelings have a lasting effect well into the next day. 

If cake decorating has become your creative outlet, you know how important it is to level the cake layers. While there are fancy devices that aid with that step, we've got an inexpensive hack using a few toothpicks that works just as well with tools you probably already own.

Use toothpicks as a guide

According to King Arthur Baking, when baking a cake, the batter rises, cooking from the outside in. When the edge of the cake cooks faster than the center, the top of the cake domes leaving the center higher than the sides. If you are writing on top of the cake or layering multiple cakes, each cake needs to be flat to avoid layers from sliding off or the cake looking like the leaning Tower of Pisa.

Baking supply stores sell cake levelers to correct this common baking mistake, which are U-shaped tools that allow you to saw the cake at different heights giving you consistently perfectly level cakes. The hack-saw-looking device sells for under $10 but takes up valuable real estate in your kitchen drawer. Rather than finding a home for another gadget, grab four toothpicks, a ruler, and a serrated knife to level your next cake easily.

According to Baking Kneads, place your cake on the counter and decide how much cake you need to cut off. Using the ruler, place a toothpick halfway through the cake where you want to cut, noting the measurement. Imagining a clock, the first toothpick represents 12 o'clock, then place the remaining toothpicks at the same height at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, minimally. Using a long serrated knife, use the toothpicks as a guide and gently saw back and forth until you cut through the entire cake. Use the scraps for cake pops or as a snack.