Before fondant was a staple ingredient of hobbyist cake decorating, cut-up cakes came to the rescue for birthdays, holidays, and theme parties galore. The concept is simple: bake a box of cake mix in a common pan (such as a 9” x 13” or two 8” round pans), cut it according to a diagram, and assemble the pieces to create shapes of animals, vehicles, and holiday symbols. No special pans or advanced decorating skills needed!
We all know no one actually likes to eat fondant, plus cut-up cakes are adorable and fun to make, so it’s high time for them to return to the party scene. We plundered the vaults to find some of our favorite examples from back in the day. These images range from 1960 to 1984.
Baker’s, the Kraft subsidiary that makes Baker’s Coconut, issued several cut-up cake books. You can find a link to a PDF of a 1959 edition, complete with diagrams and frosting recipes, right here . Or, if you really need help, watch this bunny cake how-to video from Kraft.
My cut-up cake tips? Bake the cake a day ahead and chill it in the refrigerator overnight before you cut it—you’ll get cleaner cuts and fewer crumbs. Also, make tons of frosting, because the spots where the cake pieces join together need a little cement. And the last tip is to make this a tradition. My mother used to make cut-up cakes for my birthday ever year, and I cherish those memories.
Sara Bir is Paste’s contributing food editor and the author of The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook. Follow her on Instagram @sausagetarian.
1 of 19
Perfect Doll, Baker's Cut-Up Cake Party Book, 1973.
2 of 19
Perfect Doll cake diagram.
3 of 19
Butterfly, Baker's Cut-Up Cake Party Book, 1973.
4 of 19
Butterfly cake diagram.
5 of 19
Airplane, Baker's Cut-Up Cake Party Book, 1973.
6 of 19
Airplane cake diagram.
7 of 19
Christmas tree cake, The Well-Dressed Dessert (Cool Whip promotional book), circa 1970s.
8 of 19
Christmas tree cake diagram.
9 of 19
Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes, Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, 1984. This is a 9" x 13" cake. After cutting out the ghost shape, lay the cake trimmings on either side of the body to make the arms. The flaming eyes are eggshell halves filled with lemon extract-doused sugar cubes that were set aflame.
10 of 19
Heart Cake instructions, Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, 1984.