My Mom wasn't much of a cake baker, mainly because she was always watching her weight - she was incredibly slim. She did buy Angel Food Cakes, as apparently they were lower in calories because they were made with egg whites. As a child, I always remember her using this cake breaker when she served them. As I got a bit older I became the cake baker in the family, but I never made Angel Food Cake. On the contrary, my Devils Food Cakes were the stuff of legend, richly iced with creamy chocolate frosting. Mom used the cake breaker to serve those cakes as well, and it even cut the teeny tiny slices that were all she would allow herself to have.
Mom said that the cake breaker belonged to my Grandma first, and research suggests she must have purchased it in the 1930's or 40's. Its handle is make of Bakelite, the first plastic made from synthetic compounds, which was developed in the early part of the twentieth century. Mom passed the cake breaker on to me just over fifteen years ago, not long after my husband and I were married.
My cake breaker is still in its original box with the original instruction sheet enclosed. "Simple as 1-2-3 Cake Breakers by Schneider. A remarkable table accessory that breaks cake in even, beautiful portions, free from crumbs, leaving the most delicate frosting or filling intact." Amazingly, it does exactly what it promises. You just push the tongs gently into the cake where you would have sliced it, then lift it out and push them in again where you would have cut to take the slice out. By gently wiggling the cake breaker you can then lift the slice out perfectly intact every time - even the first slice - without leaving even a single crumb.
I used it the other day and it got me to thinking about the kitchen gadgets we have now. Some of them are amazing - like the heat proof spatulas and pastry brushes my Dad gave me a couple of years before he died. I use them literally every day. But other gadgets sit neglected in drawers, like the milk foamer I bought for making lattes that is so difficult to clean I just don't bother to use it and the salad spinner that makes a lot of noise but does not really dry the lettuce. I have to admit, the gadgets I use the most are ones that have been passed down to me from years gone by. Small metal spikes that my Dad made which, when pushed through the centre of baking potatoes, make them cook beautifully all the way through, my Grandma's scissors, that do everything from cutting paper to de-boning chicken, and her small silver hammer that is just the handiest thing are only the beginning. (If you are wondering what I use a hammer for in the kitchen, well of course it is great for repairs, but a light tap - and I do mean light - along the edges of stubborn jar lids makes them open easily.)
Using these old gadgets reminds me of happy times when my parents were still alive, both in Canada and over here in England. But also, these are things which actually work, and do what they are meant to do. I mean, the cake breaker has been in our family for about seventy years - and believe me it has been well used - but it still looks like new. So many of the gadgets we buy today seem to only last for a little while, and often they don't even really do what they say they will. We have become such a disposable society that we expect little else. That's why it gives me so much pleasure to continue using these wonderful things - like my cake breaker - today, knowing full well that I'll be able to pass them on to the next generation in full working order. There are not many things you can say that about today!