By definition, a torte is a type of cake made with many eggs and often nuts. Torte is also the German word for cake, but nowhere in the dictionary is the word or definition of “torting” available, as in “torting a cake.” So what is torting a cake, and can torte be used as a verb in cake decorating and design ?
Words can take on new meanings as they become important in certain societies or cultures. Over the years “torting a cake” has become synonymous with cutting a layer of cake horizontally to split it into two layers. This is done to thin the layers of cake so more layers of filling or buttercream can be added. It also gives height and a generally yumminess factor to the cake once it is cut.
How to torte a cake
To torte a cake we first need well-chilled layers. We also need to level our cakes by cutting off the dome or crown of the cake. If you do not level your cake, it can crack and cause the cake to fall apart. Your icing will not be strong enough to counteract gravity if you skip this step.
[box type="shadow"]For properly leveling a cake, see our post on how to level a cake .[/box]
Once your layers are level, use a serrated knife or cake leveler to slice the layers in half horizontally. The best way to accomplish this is to place your cake on a turntable, hold your long serrated knife in your hand, and keep your arm at a 90 degree angle tight to your body. Then, spin the cake slowly while gently pressing the knife into the cake. Your arm does NOT move in a sawing motion, just keep it still and let the cake move. This technique can also be used for leveling the top of your cake.
[box type="shadow"]Joshua John Russell demonstrates this technique in his free mini-class Modern Buttercream .[/box]
If you want or need a guide, simply measure the height of your cake layer after cutting off the crow, then insert toothpicks halfway up the cake every few inches. Use the toothpicks as a guide while cutting around the cake.
When trying to move thin slices of cake, insert a cake board between the layers and lift, add your filling, then reverse the movement by lining up the edges of your cake and slide the board out from underneath the next layer.
[box type="shadow"]Think outside the box when it comes to creatively filling your cake with help from Jenny McCoy in her Bluprint class Creative Flavors for Cakes, Fillings & Frostings .[/box]
The term “torting a cake” will stick around for many years to come and may become a permanent resident in cake vernacular, but is technically incorrect verbiage. The correct wording is “layering a cake,” "splitting a cake" or “cutting a layer of cake horizontally.”
Layering a cake is completely optional. Many decorators love the look of many thin layers of cake but find it hard to work with and time-consuming. Others find that it brings a "wow" factor to the cake once it is cut, making it well worth the extra effort.
Here are a few more tips if you plan to torte your cake:
Once you have stacked your cakes they can slide easily, causing problems with the crumb coat . To help, place your stacked cake in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes to firm up your icing between the layers.
If you are torting a cake that will be doweled and have another cake resting on top of it, be careful of the height of your cake. Dowels should be placed every 4-5 inches in height to make sure your cake is structurally sound. If your cake is 5 inches or taller, you could end up with dowels slipping inside the cake, causing leaning or even a collapse. See our post on how to stack a cake for a step-by-step look.
3. Other ways to cut
Wilton makes an adjustable leveler that can help produce a nice, even cut. There are decorators that recommend using fish line or dental floss to achieve a flat cut.
Photo via Bluprint Instructor Beth Somers
Whether you choose to torte, slice or layer your cakes is up to you, but the results are the same. Beautiful thin layers of cake sandwiched between luscious layers of filling and added together to become a mouthwatering delicious dessert.
[box type="shadow"]For more help on baking cakes that are perfect decorating surfaces with no crumbs, no cracking and no crowning, sign up for The Wilton Method: Baking Basics with Beth Somers.[/box]