To many people, all across the country, there are very few desserts that are as synonymous with the holiday seasons than fruit cake is. Fruit cake is a wonderfully unique way to prepare a dessert and it can be fun to share with friends and family who come over.
However, fruit cake isn’t always the easiest food to work with. It can be somewhat difficult to try and make, and on top of that, it isn’t exactly the easiest food to cut. It can actually be quite troublesome to cut because of the way that it is typically made. It can often crumble into a less-than-appetizing mess when you set the knife into it.
If you are planning on serving fruit cake at your next family gathering, and you are planning on making it yourself, you might be worried about having it break apart the moment someone chooses to cut into it.
To prevent this from happening, there are a couple things that you can do. First things first, you will want to get a good sense of what is going on in your cake that is causing it to act like this, as this will help you know how to work around the problem at hand.
Why Are Fruit Cakes So Prone to Crumbling?
Just about anyone who has tried to cut into a fruit cake knows that they are incredibly prone to crumbling and breaking down into tiny chunks that no longer resemble a nicely baked cake, but the question remains “why” as you try to find different ways to cut the cake.
The answer to this is in the way that fruit cakes are made, and because of this, it is not a problem that you can avoid easily unless you change how the fruit cake is made.
The bulk of a fruit cake’s structure comes from all the additions made to the cake, such as the fruit, nuts, and anything else. In reality, there really isn’t that much cake in fruit cakes, as much of the structure of it remains the additions, which means that the fruit cake itself doesn’t have a lot of “glue” holding it together.
In most cakes, even ones with small additions, the cake batter is what holds everything together. When the cake batter is made properly and has the right mixture of ingredients in it, the cake should easily hold its shape when you cut into it.
Fruit cakes don’t have nearly as much of that cake batter keeping it together, so it doesn’t have a lot of structural integrity. In a sense, you can think of the cake batter as being the mortar in brick and mortar buildings.
When there isn’t nearly enough mortar to keep the bricks together, all you really have is a pile of bricks that can fall down if someone tries hard enough, and when correlating this back to the cake, the knife is often what breaks the bond the fruit cake has, causing it to lose much of its shape.
What this means for you is that you have to be careful when working with the fruit cake, as it doesn’t have that much cake batter holding it together.
These factors leave you with a fruit cake that needs to be treated delicately, as it can easily crumble if you are too heavy-handed with the knife. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to keep your fruit cake from falling apart the moment you push the knife into it.
Cutting Your Fruit Cake
Unless you are planning to serve your fruit cake the moment it comes out of the oven, you should try and refrigerate your fruit cake for a little bit before you plan to cut into it. This will help solidify the cake batter in it and give it more of a shape that can withstand being cut into, although it is not always completely necessary if you are serving the cake fresh out of the oven.
When you are ready to cut into the fruit cake, you will want to find the optimal knife to get the job done. Typically, a long, thin, and serrated blade is going to be the best for cutting into fruit cakes, as your main goal should be to slice into the cake rather than cutting it.
Gentle, back-and-forth motions are most suitable for cutting into a fruit cake, as pushing down the blade is only going to crush the fruit in it and lead to a relatively smushed cake. This is also where the serrated edge comes in handy, as this will help you dig in and slice the cake quickly and easily, leaving you with your cake’s shape still intact.
You will also need to make sure that the blade you are using is as clean as possible. Any food remains on the blade will cause it to catch onto the fruit or nuts in the cake, which can lead to crumbling if you are too forceful with it, and because of this, you are going to want to wipe the blade off every time you cut through it and into the cake.
When you are wiping the knife off, you should use a damp cloth, as this is going to be the best way to get into the knife and its serrated edges and get all of the remains of food off it, without leaving too much moisture on the knife to affect the cake.
By being meticulous with your cutting technique and by making sure that you are careful when you are cutting, you can feel confident knowing that your cake is going to come out perfectly and you will have wonderfully even slices that you can serve to family and friends during the holiday seasons.
Above all, you will want to take things smoothly and carefully. Being too forceful and too harsh with the knife will cause it to catch on to all the different additions to the cake, which can lead to it tearing and crumbling, which is the opposite of what you want to have happen.
When you move slowly with the knife, you can be certain that the blade is slicing through the nuts and fruit, without hitching on them, which is one of the biggest reasons why fruit cakes tear and crumble apart.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.