I used to be a cake decorator at a popular supermarket. Here are my 9 secrets to ordering the best cake.
I worked as a supermarket cake decorator for two years before opening my own bakery.
Ask the cake decorator about free smash cakes or using your own toys for kids' birthday cakes.
Check with the bakery if you want a frosting option that's less sweet.
Buying a supermarket cake can be an easy, affordable way to celebrate any occasion. But how can you ensure you're getting the very best dessert to serve your guests?
I worked in a supermarket bakery for two years, prepping treats and decorating cakes before opening my own bakery. Here are my tips for ordering the best cake from your local supermarket.
Place your order way before your party
Some supermarkets have cakes baked on-site, but most grocery stores have cakes delivered prebaked and frozen. In these cases, the bakery keeps a stock of common cake flavors (vanilla, chocolate) on hand, plus some additional flavor choices (carrot, red velvet, marble).
To make sure you're getting the flavor you want, order your custom cake with two to three weeks' notice. This will give the cake decorator and bakery time to make sure your desired flavor is in stock.
Ask for whipped cream if you think grocery store cakes are too sweet
If you've stayed away from grocery-store cakes because the typical buttercream frosting is a bit too sweet for you, check if the bakery has other options.
Vanilla buttercream is often a default choice, but it's usually not the only one. Some supermarket bakeries can use fresh whipped cream for topping a cake.
Other choices might include cream-cheese frosting, chocolate frosting, coconut-pecan frosting typically used for German chocolate cakes, and even chocolate ganache.
Order with the cake decorator if you want something very specific
You can generally speak with any bakery employee to order a cake, but if you have a specific or out-of-the-box request for decorations, ask when you can speak to the cake decorator over the phone or in person.
Decorating is their specialty, and they tend to work earlier in the day to prep the bakery case and get cake orders done. They can tell you if tackling the specific design you're hoping for is achievable for them.
Bring in your own toys for kids' cakes
Supermarket bakeries have a look book of designs that cake decorators are trained to make, and children's cakes often include character toys from popular movies and shows.
If they don't have your child's favorite character, don't be afraid to ask what's possible.
Depending on the store and decorator, you may be able to bring in small, washed figurines for the decorator to incorporate into the design to produce the ultimate birthday cake.
Ask about a free smash cake for kids
A smash cake is a tiny cake, typically 4 inches in diameter, meant just for a child to dig into on their birthday.
I've found that some supermarket bakeries will give you a free smash cake when you order a larger decorated one. That way, you'll have one cake for smashing and one for serving.
Check if they can do half-and-half flavors
You may not have to choose between chocolate or vanilla cake. Ask about doing half vanilla and half chocolate so everyone at your party can enjoy a slice of their favorite flavor.
This is often possible with half-sheet cakes and two-layer round cakes.
Ask for a plain cake if you want to dress it up yourself
Cake decorators don't have to dress up your cake with a border, sprinkles, and writing if you don't want them to.
If you want a semi-customized dessert, just order a plain, frosted cake. That way, you can take it home and turn it into anything you want.
Add edible flowers to dress it up for a more formal occasion, or top it with candy and your own toys and knickknacks.
Request a plastic cake container instead of a bakery box
Cake orders are typically packaged in pink or white cardboard boxes for pick up. If you anticipate you'll have leftover cake, ask for a plastic cake container instead. This will offer an airtight solution for easily storing leftovers.
Keep in mind this tip may not work for every bakery, and it will depend on the supplies they have on hand.
Check last-minute options if you forgot to order ahead
Even if you forgot to order ahead, there are likely options the store cake decorator can pull together for you. If it's just a few days before your event, or even the morning of, it doesn't hurt to ask.
The decorator may be able to put together a simple cake for you while you shop for other items in the store, or you can grab a premade option from the bakery case. Ask for writing on top or extra sprinkles around the borders to spruce it up.
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