Laser Cut Cake!!!

Picture of Laser Cut Cake!!!
In this instructable I'm going to show you how to make a multi-layer cake using CAD and rapid manufacturing.

(I personally get a huge kick out of mixing heavy machinery with cake baking.)

One of the coolest tools on the planet is a laser cutter. It is normally used in industry to cut plastics, wood, glass, or thin sheets of metal. But, the tool is so versatile that you can also use it to pattern things like chocolate, pumpkins, Silicon wafers, paper, rubber, cork, or in this case... CAKE!

By using the laser to cut the cake we can do arbitrary design on the computer and then transfer that virtual design into an actual physical cake. It's really cool. And tasty!

I was inspired to make this particular cake for the Engadget Birthday Contest.
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Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

Picture of Tools and Ingredients
For this project you will need:

  • Cake Mix (Preferably White or Yellow Cake). I used Duncan Hines
  • Some sort of frosting. I used fresh whipped cream.
  • Food coloring for the frosting.
  • And a Laser Cutter!!!

Admittedly, these same process steps can also be applied to cutting cake using a CNC Mill, a waterjet, a scroll saw, a band saw, or even by hand. The laser just makes it much easier.

Step 2: Bake a cake

Picture of Bake a cake
You can get fancy when making your cake, but I was looking for simplicity (since I was planning on making a lot of cake to test on.)

I used an off-the-shelf cake mix, and made several chocolate, white, and yellow cakes.

But, I didn't follow the recipes exactly.

You see, in order to laser cut and then assemble our cakes there are several things that we need to do.

First, we need to make the cakes thin. If the cakes are too thick then the laser will heat up the edges too much while cutting and we'll end up with burnt cake, (yuck.) In order to reduce the thickness of the cakes you can simply use larger cake pans then the recipe calls for. In my case I used two 13" x 9" cake pans rather than two 9" x 9" cake pans.

Secondly, we need to make the cakes robust. Normally cakes are delicate and fluffy which is all well and good, but we're going to be manipulating our cakes so we want them to stand up well. In my case I increased the cake strength by reducing the amount of water in the recipe from 1 1/3 cup down to 3/4 cup. This also had the added benefit of reducing the moisture in the cake which led to better cutting by the laser.

After much testing I came to the conclusion that the white cakes are best suited for laser cutting. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I would guess that it has to do with the fact that there is significantly less fat in the white cake recipe (less oil and no egg yolks.)

Step 3: Transfer to Cutting Sheet

Picture of Transfer to Cutting Sheet
It's easier to deal with the cake later on if you remove it from the baking pan and place it on a nice thick piece of card stock. The cake shouldn't stick to the paper very much.

Step 4: Do Test Cuts

Picture of Do Test Cuts
Whenever cutting a new material on the laser cutter you need to do some test cuts. And that's quintuply true when dealing with something as variable as cake. I found that each cake cut slightly differently, and different types of cake cut drastically differently.

There are two main conflicting things that you want to achieve when cutting through the cake. You want to make sure that you cut all the way through, and you want to avoid burning the edges of the cake as much as possible. Cutting all the way through means lots of power, avoiding burning means less power.

The solution is to use numerous passes at high speed and low power. By cutting repeatedly you can slice off a little bit of cake with each cut and avoid burning the edges. You can't scale up this approach infintiely, but for these thin cakes it works reasonably well.

For my particular laser cutter and cake I found that these settings worked quite well:

12 passes
600 dots per inch
100% Speed
60% Power

Step 5: Create Pattern

Picture of Create Pattern
I used Corel Draw to create the pattern that I wanted for my cake. This is one of the most powerful aspects of rapid automated manufacturing. You draw your ideas on the computer screen and then through the magic of technology those ideas get fabricated in real physical objects. In this case... cake.

After determining your final design, split the layers apart and arrange them in such a way that you can cut the maximum number of pieces out of a single cake.

Step 6: Cut Cake

Picture of Cut Cake
Okay, here's where the fun really begins. Load your cake into the laser cutter, get everything positioned correctly, load in the parameters that you determined earlier by doing test cuts, make sure your compressed air is on and you've got a fire extinguisher handy, and then... Hit Go!

Take pictures while the laser is doing its thing.

Step 7: Remove Escess Cake

Picture of Remove Escess Cake
Once you've lasercut your cake you have to remove the excess cake that is surrounding your beautiful pattern. I recommend using a knife to cut perpendicular cuts in towards your pattern from the edge of the cake and then removing the pieces one at a time. Be gentle and careful, this is where you're most likely to break something.

This is also a good time to put all of your layers together briefly and make sure that everything fits together correctly.

Step 8: Make Frosting

Picture of Make Frosting
All cakes need frosting, even if they're cut with a laser. For my cake I used fresh whipped cream colored using standard food coloring.

  • Cyan == 4 drops of Blue
  • Pink == 14 drops of Red
  • Orange == 8 drops of Red and 8 drops of Yellow

Step 9: Frost Cake

Picture of Frost Cake
Carefully frost the cake. You can either frost the edges or leave them exposed depending on your tastes.

In my case I frosted the layers after removing the excess cake. Alternatively you could try frosting after lasercutting but before removing the excess. This would probably lead to nice crisp edges on your frosting. Or, the other thing that I played around with briefly is frosting the cake before laser cutting. It could work well, but if you have too much frosting it has a tendency to melt and flow under the laser.

Step 10: Combine Layers

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After frosting all of the layers it's time to put everything together. Because the cake was baked to be robust it should be pretty easy to move the pieces around. Clean up any smudges, and...



Step 11: Consume

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And of course, the final and best step.

Getting to eat it!

The laser leaves behind a very faint taste of burned sugar which seems to remind people of marshmallows cooked over a campfire, but it's still super tasty! Bon apetit!

I'm going to try baking a number of cakes using this method and I'll post additional instructables to document the process.
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ToolboxGuy3 years ago
...And now that I think about it, you could have manufactured your own custom cake baking tins.
ToolboxGuy3 years ago
I still can't believe you've pushed CAKE and FROSTING through a laser cutter!

All I can imagine is having to clean that puppy afterwards... Yuk.
Could it be that darker cake mixes contain more sugar, also? Sugar is highly flammable after all.
jid46114 years ago
where do you get a laser cutter? how much?
skelly74474 years ago
MY CAKE!!!.bmp
kcls5 years ago
Sure... "Experimenting"  with frosting. I guess for some people experimenting is just another word for TASTING!!!! Cool instructable anyway! I wish I had a laser cutter.
jwinskill096 years ago
The cake is a lie.
GLAdyS killed the companion cube! VENGEANCE! :) -PKT
 you spelled GlaDOS wrong... lol. =P
marienr7 years ago
This is really something unique and creative. I have a question though, is the cake edible? Is it clean/safe to eat?
Lasers are nothing more than focused light. Can't get much cleaner than that. Far cleaner than cutting with a knife covered in all kinds of invisible bacteria and germs.
Yeah but if it's too powerful and it gets burnt it might give you cancer. (Yuk!)
no it cant!
Actually, burnt food has been proven to be a cause for cancer.

Damn, I forgot the link.
So have vitamins, air, lint, and the economy.
And Christmas lights.
and duct tape! duct tape cures EVERYTHING!
And my table and solder
and soda cans
Yeah but it tastes like crap.
no. cake is not edible.
? Cake is edibal. Burnt cake is edibal al long as you don't eat too much.
im kidding....
sniffa5 years ago
when suger is burnt or melted it turns to caramel that is why it tasts like marshmellows
Briguy96 years ago
the best part is eating the cake trimmings when you cut out the actual cake!
whitish7 years ago
oh yeah this is great... for all of us who have 15 grand laser cutters lying around. cool idea anyway. maybe you could do this with a super high powered laser pointer...
awang8 whitish6 years ago
Lets see... His laser cutter is 45 watts and my laser pointer is power by 3v so is my laser pointer is that strong it's going to draw 15 amps. Eek!
kibbler awang86 years ago
I saw a 25 kilowatt laser at a laser convention... They had it cut through inch-thick sheet metal, no problem.
whitish awang86 years ago
awang8 whitish6 years ago
Those aren't powerful enough...
whitish awang86 years ago
what about really really thin ultra black heat absorbing cake?
awang8 whitish6 years ago
Still not powerful enough. There's no way you can get a handheld powerful laser unless you wait until the future.
Zach9 years ago
You can laser photos onto cheese. I call this one "Cheesy Relativity"
bon bini Zach8 years ago
Dear Colin, I'am a baker in Belgium. I was trilled to see that it is possible to lasercut cake. At the moment I am looking for a way to make animals in bread. Would it be possible tot lasercut 200 little dogs (5 x 5 cm) in dough which has not been baken yet? Is it expensive a lasercutter? Are these the same cutters they use to cut letters out of a metal plate? Could you help me further with mine questions? Thank you very much Bon bini
Nooo, don't laser cut any little dogs, thats just mean!
You can't cut out of unbaked dough because you still have to put it in the pan and bake it, so not really. Laser cutters can be bough for as low as $3,000-5,000. So yes, kinda expensive. And they are the same cutters used to cut metal. However because the power intensity/speed is adjustable to .1 increments, then you could cut butter if you tried hard enough.
awang8 Zach6 years ago
steven07 Zach8 years ago
ha ha ha
colin (author)  Zach9 years ago
Sweet! Have you had any luck cutting the cheese (hehe) or are you just engraving into the surface. When cutting chocolate we often find that the chocolate burns before we can cut all the way through.
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