My entry into the food photography world has been fast and furious. I've always loved cooking and baking, but I've never had to really focus on how my food looks after it's made. I rarely had to present my food to anyone other than my husband or close family. My grandmother always says, "The worst looking food tastes the best!" (Not always, but she was trying to be sweet.)
Something I had to learn early on is how to cut a "clean" slice of cake or pie. A clean cut means that the slice looks perfect or as close as you can get to perfect; on a layer cake, the layers are clearly defined and even, and the frosting in the middle is a straight line; for a pie, especially a no-bake or cream pie, the filling is fluffy and set and the crust is intact. These things are easier said than done, and I'm always nervous making those first two crucial cuts.
Here are five tips that help ensure that I get a clean slice every time:
1. When making cake, make sure the layers and frosting are even.
One of the best ways to get even layers is to use a digital scale when you are dividing the batter. Put the cake tin on the scale, zero it out, then pour the batter into each tin in with an even weight distributed. For the frosting, I like to pipe it into the middle layers using a piping bag with a large round tip then spread it out evenly with a spatula.
2. Use a non-serrated chef's knife to cut the slice.
The serrated edge of a knife or pie server can make the sides of a slice of pie or cake look rough, so it's best to go with a straight, non-serrated blade.
3. Wipe the knife off after every cut.
The build up from the previous cut will cause a slice to look messy, so I always use a rag or paper towel to wipe down my knife after each and every slice I make.
4. Make sure the pie is set.
This is especially important for "no bake", cream pies, and cheesecakes. Sometimes I'll even put the cake in the freezer for about half an hour just to make sure the slices are clean (very helpful for whipped cream toppings and on a hot day).
5. As a last resort, don't be afraid to edit the photos slightly.
It's very hard to get a perfectly clean slice every single time, but if you are comfortable enough with Lightroom or Photoshop, editing software can help with any imperfections. You can use the spot remover to get rid of unwanted cake or crust crumbs or the clone stamp to fix broken crusts. Just be careful not to over edit an image to the point that the food no longer looks like itself and is misrepresented. And remember, a few crumbs don't make a slice look messy, so try not to get rid of all of them.
Cooking and baking good looking food takes practice, but I hope these tips will make your food photography life a little bit easier.