As this new year gets rolling, so will the birthday parties and special events. A typical staple at every party, at least for my family, is the cake. I took the beginning of the year as an opportunity to try out four different local grocery store cakes to see which of them “takes the cake.”
I ordered custom cakes online from Walmart, Publix, Kroger, and Food City. Trying to keep things the most similar for comparison purposes, I ordered the smallest size of vanilla sheet cake I could. Here is how my ordering process went:
I was pleased to see that Walmart offered 1/8 sheet cake as the smallest size option. They also had 1/4, 1/2, and a whole sheet cake. There were basic customizations that could be made for the cake flavor, filling, icing type and color, border type and color, decoration type, and toppings. There were only two options for the design of the border, but the color options were divided into top and bottom borders. The 1/8 sheet cake came in at a cost of $9.98. For general comparison purposes the 1/4 sheet cake was $18.98.
Publix gave me fewer sizing options with the smallest option being 1/4 of a sheet cake. There were more options when it came to detailing the cake, however. There were additional options for decorative trim styles and you were able to choose the placement of the decorations you chose. The border color did have to be one color and did not give an option for the top and bottom borders to be separate colors. The 1/4 sheet cake at Publix rang in at $24.99.
This was by far my least favorite website to use. I don’t know if it was operator error or the site itself, but I seemed to have issues. Food City also had the fewest number of options out of the four stores when it came to customization. I originally wanted a multi-color balloon decoration. Food City only offers decoration options that are flowers, so I switched to red roses. They also did not give an option for border color. They did, however, offer the 1/8 sheet cake option pricing at $11.99. Again, for comparison purposes the 1/4 sheet cake was $19.99.
I have ordered a cake from Kroger before so I had a familiarity with the website. They did not have a 1/8 option available so I opted for the 1/4 size. Their border colors were divided into top and bottom allowing more color options. When I initially planned on the balloon decorations, there was not an option for multicolor; only one color balloon could be selected. This was not a problem when I switched my decorations to roses. The 1/4 sheet cake was priced at $19.99.
The Taste Test
I recruited my family to help me with a taste test and asked them to give their honest opinions of these cakes. Not only did I get their opinion, but it was a really fun activity we did on New Year’s Eve. We judged on cake appearance, taste and texture, frosting to cake ratio, and taste.
Overall, Walmart was very much a surprise to all of us. The decorations were done very well; in fact, they were one of my favorites. The cake was not as moist as some of the others. The icing was on the sweeter side; my sister even thought it almost tasted like cotton candy. I don’t like things as sweet, but my dad, who is a fan of the sweeter things in life, thought this was the best icing. This was my dad’s favorite cake.
As to be expected, Publix had the most intricately designed cake. All of us agreed it was the most professional looking cake. The cake itself was a little denser than the others. I almost thought it tasted more like a pound cake which I very much enjoyed. This was the only cake on our list that was double layers. It also had a layer of frosting in the middle. The frosting was the thickest and most buttery tasting frosting. The texture of the frosting was a bit grainy. This cake was my favorite, as well as my mom’s and sister’s.
Because of a mix up with my order, they had to make my cake on the spot when I went to pick it up. Because of this, it was done in more of a hurry and the icing was cracked on top. In spite of the top cracking, this cake had my mom’s favorite decorations. My sister thought the roses looked great for being done quickly. The cake was a dense, almost angel food cake type cake. We all agreed the cake tasted great. The frosting was too sweet for us all, however.
Kroger’s cake was full of icing and we all agreed it was too much. Decorations were not topping the list and the cake was harder to cut because of all the icing. The base frosting tasted great, but the blue border had a bit of an artificial color flavor. The cake taste was great overall. It was a very light and fluffy cake. This was my four-year-old niece’s favorite and the only one she would eat because it was blue and had the most icing she licked off.
When it comes to ranking store-bought cakes, I have realized that one’s ranking depends on individual cake preferences. It was not easy, borderline not possible to pick an overall winner. My dad, who is a fan of sweeter cakes, liked the ones I didn’t like because I thought they were too sweet. I also think cake preference will depend on the event for which the cake is for. For a child’s birthday party, a very professional intricate cake may not be needed, but it is perfect for a wedding cake.