Your days of smeared frosting are over.

I am not a big believer in wasted motion. And in the kitchen, I am even more doctrinaire about that. So it should come as no surprise to you that I am not a huge fan of chef-y tricks that essentially exist for show. But the chef moves that have an actual purpose? Those I will happily incorporate into my daily home cooking (and recipe development) routine.

For example, I season from a height. This is not JUST showy. It serves to evenly season whatever you are salting. This motion is not wasted.

Another non-wasted motion is preparing a mise en place. That’s the French term for having all of your ingredients pre-measured so that, when cooking begins, you don’t need to stop and run around your kitchen looking for soy sauce and a measuring spoon. Extra motion, yes. Wasted motion, no.

What in the world does all of this have to do with slicing a cake, you ask?

Whenever you see a chef slicing a frosted cake, they often prep their slicing knife by plunging it into a container of very hot water, drying it, and then slicing. The slice looks perfect; clean cut and no smear of frosting marring the beauty of the layers. Nifty, huh? But is it necessary to do the dipping and drying for every slice?

The short answer is yes. If you’re old enough, you’ll likely remember someone saying “ a hot knife through butter” when referring to something easily sliced. And this is the perfect illustration of that truism. The heated knife will go smoothly, and cleanly through the solid, buttery frosting, without dragging it into the cake itself. However, the act of slicing will cool the knife and get it covered in crumbs and frosting. Re-dipping the knife in hot water and wiping the knife dry gets you back to square one: hot, clean, dry knife in hand. And your second slice will be as perfect as your first.

Extra motion, yes. Wasted motion, absolutely not. And a perfect slice of cake to post on your Instagram feed, and then to devour. Or... to serve to someone else if you’re feeling generous.