It had been a long quarantine for Megan Engles and her family, and they desperately needed a reason to celebrate. So when the birthday of her dog Linus arrived, Mrs. Engles, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, did what she would do for any other special occasion: she went to her local Costco to pick up a cake. But there was none to find.
Costco half-sheet cakes, rectangular creations loved by shoppers for their affordability and freshness, have been a staple at birthday parties, graduations, and other important events. But like handshakes and crowded bars, cakes may have become another victim of the coronavirus.
Half-sheet cakes are not currently being sold at any location in the U.S., and the company has no immediate plans to bring them back, Costco said in a statement Thursday. Instead, bakeries will focus on 10-inch round cakes that “seem to resonate with our members,” the statement said.
While Costco did not elaborate on the specific reason for suspending sales of the half-leaf cake, the company indicated in a response to several customer comments on Facebook that it was related to the coronavirus pandemic. “To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments,” the company wrote. “Right now, we are not making cakes for special requests.”
Costco leaf cakes have played a role in most of Mrs. Engles’ family events, from her grandmother’s 100th birthday party to anniversary celebrations.
“They are delicious,” said Engles. “I don’t know if they are fresh or if Costco uses superior ingredients, but they are delicious.”
The icing on the grocery store cake that Linus’s birthday was made from tasted like wax, and the cake was more expensive, he said.
While Ms. Engles realizes that, according to the coronavirus protocol, there are few, if any, large-scale meetings that require a large cake, Ms. Engles said she thought customers should have the option to buy one, even if it means having leftovers freeze. The Costco half-sheet cakes, which were advertised to serve 48 people, cost less than $ 20, customers said. Two cake flavors were offered: white, filled with two pounds of vanilla cheesecake mousse and topped with white buttercream frosting; and chocolate, filled with two pounds of chocolate mousse and ice cream with chocolate cream. Customers can choose from a variety of designs, including flowers, trellis hearts, or a dinosaur.
The company first announced in a video on Facebook last month that it was discontinuing its half-leaf cake, sparking an online protest from customers. Several commenters said the leaf pie was the only reason they had splurged on a Costco membership. A customer said that she had served the cake at her wedding and bought it every year for her anniversary.
When Shala Reed from Yorkville, Illinois became a Costco member, her first purchase was a chocolate cake saying “Congratulations on your new Costco card.” She said she had bought a sheet cake every month since then.
Ms. Reed promised to flood Costco’s suggestion box until the company brings them back.
Jessica Luke of Jeffersonton, Virginia said she had bought sheet cakes at least three times a year. The last ones she bought were for her son’s fifth birthday last year. One was a vanilla cake decorated with an American flag, the other a chocolate cake decorated with a red, white, and blue unicorn.
“We have been a Costco member for over a decade and we buy those cakes for every excuse we can,” said Luke. “The cakes have a filling that is rich and sweet and keeps the cake moist.”
This is not the first time that Costco shoppers are fighting for a food item. Customers expressed similar dissatisfaction when the company announced that it would no longer sell Polish hot dogs in the food court. (The hot dogs have not returned).
As for the future of the half-sheet, some customers hope that the company will restore it when large meetings are allowed.
“Cakes are at the center of the celebrations,” said Engles. “Entire events even focus on cutting the cake. Being able to have them right now helps create joy and still allows the celebration at a time when some people may feel like there isn’t much to celebrate.