Looking back over the years, a good old-fashioned grocery store sheet cake has been alongside me at some of life’s biggest moments. High school graduation, there I was post-ceremony smiling for pictures over a blue & gold sheet cake from Kroger (Go Lions!). For my 30th birthday bash on Bobo’s rooftop in NYC, I ordered a sheet cake decently inscribed with “Happy Birthday, Jes” from the local Food Emporium. I happily blew out 30 candles atop my cake of preference in front of all of my gussied up friends. The baby shower I hosted for my sister-in-law in Columbus? The brunch said sister-in-law hosted for my nephew’s Baptism? My Fourth of July cookout on the patio? Our engagement party in Chicago last Fall? We served Costco sheet cake at every event, my friends. These store-bought cakes for a crowd are a true specialty that you can count on nationwide from many grocery stores for any celebratory occasion.
So when I said yes to my fiancé last September and we embarked upon planning the big day, it’s fair to say I assumed our favorites (pasta, pizza, and my sheet cake) would somehow make an appearance. Being a decisive person, wedding planning was sailing right along…. Venue? Check. Date? Check. Flowers? Check. However, when it got to the dessert table I kept getting stuck. Did I really want to serve a regular ol’ grocery store sheet cake (even though it’s my general favorite!) amongst all of the other pretty details I was working so hard to incorporate into our day? More importantly cake cutting is a tradition I want to preserve, and as a wedding guest, I always look forward to seeing what the happy couple’s tiered cake will look like. Was I ready to swap a traditional cake for what I would really prefer to eat?
As for the traditional wedding cake, I found myself totally disinterested in the fondant, candy flowers and piping. Not to mention with an average national cost of $582, it was hard to wrap my head around spending that much dough on one confectioned aspect of the day. “What about a more modern dessert table… maybe mix in some sliced sheet cake?” you might suggest. Admittedly, I think a doughnut wall or ice cream cart or candy bar is just as cute as the next bride-to-be, but I just couldn’t give up the idea of cutting a lovely, stacked cake together. The more I considered the situation, I realized that I couldn’t give up having that moment, not to mention having the actual cake itself photographed and documented as the literal icing on top of what I hope will be one of the most memorable and beautiful days of my life.
Even still, I kept reminiscing over my sincere fondness for a simple grocery store sheet cake, and it then all came together.We would order what I am calling a small “show cake,” and then serve the good stuff – sheet cakes, likely from Kroger or Costco or Giant Eagle, sliced from the back room. Not going to lie, I thought this was a pretty clever solution, one I was excited to ask our wedding coordinator about. So during our tasting when I said “I have a question about cake, let me know where I land on a scale of 1 – silly…” and she finished my sentence with “you can have a small cake for photos but we can serve store-bought cake from the back.” I nearly jumped across the table to hug the woman. Not only was it a possibility, it’s apparently an increasingly popular choice.
You’re welcome to have your judgments, but I could not be happier with this decision. I realize I could have our traditional baker also make cakes we could serve that don’t require the same labor and decorating as the “show cake,” but not having my grocery store favorite present as we tie the knot would feel inherently wrong. Not to mention, this move is going to save us a few hundred dollars that we can allocate to other elements, e.g. the aforementioned late-night pizza. There are quite literally hundreds of things to make decisions about for the big day, from venues and invites, to music and food, and dozens of details in between. And obviously, cake would be one of those important details. Assuming your venue allows it (you should definitely ask!) and you are, like me, a lifelong fan of the grocery store greatness, you too can have your cake and enjoy eating it too.