It had been a long quarantine for Megan Engles and her family, and they desperately needed a reason to celebrate. So when their dog Linus' birthday arrived, Engles, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., did what she would do for any other special occasion: She headed to her local Costco to pick up a sheet cake. But there were none to be found.
Costco's half-sheet cakes, rectangular creations beloved by shoppers for their affordability and freshness, have long been a staple at birthday parties, graduations and other large events. But like handshakes and crowded bars, the cakes may have become another casualty of the coronavirus.
Half-sheet cakes are not 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 last week. The bakeries instead will focus on round, 10-inch cakes that "seem to be resonating with our members," the statement said.
While Costco would not elaborate on the specific reason for discontinuing sales of the half-sheet cakes, 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. "At this time, we are not making sheet cakes for special order."
While Engles realizes that under coronavirus protocol, there are few, if any, large-scale gatherings happening that would require a large cake, she said she thought customers should have the choice to buy one -- even if that means having leftovers to freeze. Costco's half-sheet cakes, which were advertised as serving 48 people, cost less than $20, customers said.
The company announced in a video on Facebook last month that it was discontinuing its half-sheet cakes, prompting an online outcry from customers. Several commenters said the sheet cakes were the only reason they had splurged on a Costco membership. One customer said she had served the cake at her wedding and had bought it every year for her anniversary.
When Shala Reed, of Yorkville, Ill., became a Costco member, her first purchase was a chocolate sheet cake that read "Congrats on your new Costco card." She said she had bought a sheet cake every month since.
"Cakes are at the very center of celebrations," Engles said. "Entire events are even centered around the cutting of the cake. Being able to have them in this time helps create joy and still allows for celebration in a time that some people may feel there isn't a lot to celebrate.