The 6 Best And 6 Worst Grocery Stores To Buy Cakes

Nothing beats a homemade cake, but c'mon. Baking, frosting, and decorating a whole cake — especially one that feeds a crowd — requires time, patience, and a not-small degree of talent and skill. Not everyone has all three of those things in spades, and some of us don't have any of those things at all.

Your party guests might have expected a homemade cake 75 years ago, but today you can be forgiven for paying a bakery to do all that work for you. And it doesn't even have to be a corner bakery that charges $89.95 for an eight-serving round cake, either. Grocery store cakes can be good, even exceptional, as long as you buy the right cake from the right grocery store.

Okay great, but how do you know which cake and which store? You've probably heard nightmare tales of disastrous cake purchases featuring dry cake, misspelled names, lopsided layers, and frosting flowers that look like the furball your cat barfed up last Wednesday. Rejoice, we're here to help! We've compiled this list of the best and worst grocery store cakes to help you make an educated choice. Bear in mind, of course, that even bakeries that belong to the same parent store can produce cakes of varying quality.

Best overall: Safeway

Safeway's bakery offers an assortment of cakes from traditional birthday-style sheet cakes with white frosting and sprinkles to decadent triple chocolate cakes topped with fruit. If you just want to eat cake (versus buying one for a party), you can choose from a pretty decent variety of single slice options that are just small enough to hide in your lunch bag and just big enough to make you feel like throwing up when you're done eating them.

Most importantly, Safeway's regular-sized and party-sized cakes are consistently beautiful, moist, and reasonably priced. They're frosting-y without being overly frosting-y (with a few notable exceptions), and they're super customizable with options for different cake styles, flavors, fillings, and frostings. You can even get a carrot cake sheet, you know, if you want your children to murder you.

Perhaps no one is more qualified to review a cake than a bride, and that's why we consulted Wedding Wire to see what newlyweds had to say about their Safeway cake experience. As an example, the Bellevue, Washington Safeway is recommended by 94% of reviewers, with an average overall rating of 4.7 out of 5.0. "Our guest[s] could not believe it came from Safeway," one reviewer wrote. "I was shocked at the quality really, because it was so inexpensive," said another.

Best birthday cakes: Target

If you've ever shopped for kids' birthday cakes, you know it can sometimes be a little frustrating to find the exact one that matches the party theme your child chose six weeks ago and then changed their mind about it like 150 million times. This is why we weighed heavily in favor of stores with long lists of licensed character themes, and not just those in the current top 10 most popular kids' TV shows because streaming is a thing and kids don't always like what mainstream television networks want them to like.

SuperTarget offers a long list of licensed character cakes so you can match the cake to the party theme. And the price is right, too, which means you can invite every kid in the third grade and still have enough cake for everyone.

Kids are a little less concerned about whether a cake is a little dry or overly-frosted (in fact, for most kids, overly-frosted means bonus points), but SuperTarget cakes are also widely praised for flavor. A Yelp reviewer who purchased a Tiana cake in 2018 from a Target in Brighton, Colorado said her cake was "absolutely gorgeous and delicious too" and even called the cake maker "a true artist." And Target cake decorators evidently have some creative freedom, too — the Instagram account Target Cakes features a range of fun designs from the Very Hungry Caterpillar to Fortnite Battle Royale.

Best sheet cakes: Costco

Let's say you're having an office party and you need a ginormous cake to feed all of your coworkers and the coworkers from the second floor that you haven't even met yet, and the guest of honor is your boss. You need a huge cake that is also delicious because you want everyone to walk away with a slice and you especially don't want your boss to wonder about your weird taste in cake.

Well, it probably won't surprise you to hear that just as Costco is great for buying giant packs of toilet paper and giant bags of frozen salmon filets, it is also great for buying giant cakes. Costco's sheet cakes are inexpensive and delicious, which are — as it turns out — two qualities that are quite possible to achieve in the same cake despite what your local overpriced bakery might have to say about that.

Reddit users rave about Costco's sheet cakes. "A heck of a deal for a custom half sheet cake that everyone loved," wrote one. "Used Costco cakes as my wedding cake and got so many compliments on how good the cake was," said another before adding, "Little do the[y] know how cheap it was."

Best ice cream cake: Walmart

Let's face it, good ice cream cake is hard to do, and opinions abound about what exactly makes a good ice cream cake. Should it be more cake than ice cream, more ice cream than cake, or an even split?

These variations in taste make it kind of hard to select the best ice cream cake, because best in this category is so subjective. So to make it easier, we just went for the ice cream cake style we personally like the best. Well, with the help of a few customer reviews.

Walmart's Marketside Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream cake is more cake than ice cream, with layers of real chocolate cake separated by a layer of vanilla ice cream. Reviewers praise it for its whipped-cream style frosting that isn't overly-sweet, and it's Walmart, so it's also an inexpensive option if you don't need a giant cake and would rather spend your extra cash on a birthday gift. "Way better than the all ice cream things that they call cakes and there is no cake in them at all," said one Walmart reviewer. "Delicious! It's not over sweet and everyone loved it [and] wanted more," said another.

It's also probably worth noting that Walmart's ice cream cakes are made by the same company that makes ice cream cakes for more ice-cream-centric brands like Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery, so you're not sacrificing quality if you opt for a cheaper, more convenient Walmart ice cream cake.

Best chocolate cake: Sam's Club

White cakes are fun for parties but sometimes you just want to eat a piece of rich chocolate cake by candlelight, or while hiding from your kids in your walk-in-closet. And if you're going to spend like half your allotted daily calories on a piece of chocolate cake, you want it to be the best chocolate cake you've ever eaten.

It's kind of hard to get chocolate cake wrong, but we've seen some dry, flavorless cakes and weird textured not-quite-cheesecakey things, so there's definitely a scale of bad to good. Rather than playing Russian cake roulette, maybe just go directly to Sam's Club and pick up a chocolate tuxedo bar cake, because more than 700 five-star reviews can't be wrong. Topped with fancy, chocolatey loops, gold scroll, and chocolate curls, this cake isn't just pretty, it's also decadent. The layers of chocolate cake are separated by layers of chocolate mousse, a sweet cream cheese filling, chocolate ganache, and whipped chocolate icing. A complete cake serves eight to 10 people, or just you if you hide it in your closet.

Sam's Club's tuxedo cake has an average 4.8 star rating on the grocery giant's website. One reviewer even says she swore off baking in favor of just buying this cake. "It was like something from a nice restaurant," she said. Another reviewer buys it by the slice "every time I shop." If that's not enough accolades for you, maybe you actually just don't like chocolate.

Best healthy cakes: Whole Foods

There's no such thing as a healthy cake. If someone tells you their cake is healthy, don't eat it because it's not going to taste good. Real cake is full of sweetener, fat, and calories, and if it's not, it isn't cake.

Having said that, some cake is healthier than others. Many of the cakes you'll find in a grocery store are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup and not-so-great-for-you fats, but it is possible to find cakes that don't contain these demonized (for good reasons) ingredients. If you're concerned about the long-term consequences of consuming unnatural ingredients, make your next cake purchase at Whole Foods.

According to SFGate, Whole Foods uses real buttercream, not the bettercreme that some other stores use, which by the way doesn't even taste like buttercream and has high-fructose corn syrup as a first ingredient. According to the Grocery Store Guy, Whole Foods also has a store-wide policy against artificial sweeteners of any kind, and they sell vegan and gluten-free cakes, so they're also a great option if you have dietary restrictions.

Reddit user kyleemonica even says Whole Foods' vegan cakes are incredible "most of the time," which is high praise for vegan fare. And a Tripadvisor user in Macungie, Pennsylvania said her cake was "beautifully decorated," made with non-GMO flour, and a hit at her party.

Cake with the worst frosting: Walmart

Speaking of terrible-tasting frosting, Walmart is not the place to go if you're the sort of person who scrapes off the frosting and eats it last. It's true that frosting is supposed to be sweet, but there is such a thing as too sweet, and that's the general complaint most people have about Walmart's frosting.

Walmart does have inexpensive cakes — just like they have inexpensive everything else — but Walmart reviewers gave its Unicorn Swirled Pink and Teal Vanilla Cake a sad three out of five stars, mostly because of the horrible, horrible frosting and general too-sweetness of the finished product. "Do we even measure the amount of sugar we use to make the cake or just pour out sugar. The cake is way too sweet," wrote one reviewer. Another said, "the frosting was so sweet and thick we had to take the top and back frosting off each slice to be edible. I am a sugar head and eat too much sugar for reference ... but this was too much." And one reviewer said the frosting's texture was off. "Feels like plain lard," she wrote, which ... ew. That should be enough to convince you to give the Walmart bakery a pass the next time you're in need of a birthday cake.

Worst tasting cake: Walmart

Even after you scrape off the overly-sweet frosting, the cake itself is supposed to taste good. In fact, there's a good argument to be made that excellent cake doesn't even need frosting — it should be delicious in its original naked state (pause while the American public loses its mind).

Anyway, it is evidently possible to make a cake that tastes gross, and not just because it's too dry (which is a pretty common flaw even in home-baked cakes). Some Walmart shoppers have complained that the Double Layer Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Icing has a strange flavor that's so off-putting they actually threw most of the uneaten cake in the garbage.

Walmart reviewers gave this cake an average of 2.4 stars, and more than a few of them said their cake tasted like baking soda. One said, "Cake was fresh but had a strong baking soda taste!!!!! Threw it away!" Others said the cake had a "funny taste" or was essentially tasteless. "It left an aftertaste that was ... almost bitter," another person wrote.

Other shoppers complained about more basic problems like a dry texture and a "greasy mouth feel." And as an aside, a number of reviewers also complained that their cakes had been bagged upside down, which ruined the frosting and the aesthetic appeal of the product.

Sloppiest cake: Lucky

When you buy a cake, you're almost always buying it for someone else. This means you're trusting your bakery to function as your stand-in when you don't have time to bake-with-love in your own kitchen. That's kind of a big responsibility for a bakery — some take that responsibility seriously, others just show up to work every day.

We can't say all Lucky bakeries sell poor quality cakes, because while the ingredients may be the same from store to store, the bakers and cake decorators are not. So Lucky gets the prize for sloppiest cake only because it seems to have the most complaints about careless, not-exactly-made-with-love cake designs and if you want to maximize your chances of getting a beautiful cake, you might want to choose a different bakery, just to be on the safe side. Apologies to those Lucky cake decorators who do produce beautiful cakes (we know you're out there).

A couple of Yelp reviewers complained about cakes that were "falling apart and poorly decorated." One reviewer from Ukiah, California said her local Lucky made her cake with an off center top layer, and another from the same city said her 10-year-old's birthday cake "looked like a cake for an elderly woman." The Salinas, California location also got poor marks from a Yelp reviewer who said she got "the worst cake writing I've ever received ... This cake was horrible and it has the writing of a child."

Worst chocolate cake: Trader Joe's

Just to reiterate, chocolate cake had better be pretty danged good because in today's world where everything has added fat and sugar, every calorie has to be delicious or you're gaining extra pounds for no reason.

Stay away from Trader Joe's chocolate bundt cake. This pre-frozen cake sure does look delicious on the package, what with its delightful bundt cake shape and playful buttercream drizzle, but reviewers give it a pathetic three stars out of five. On the plus side, the cake isn't made with high-fructose corn syrup like so many other store-bought cakes (the first ingredient is cane sugar), but what it lacks in terrible ingredients it makes up for in terrible texture and taste.

One reviewer posting on a Trader Joe's review site said the cake was attractive, but dry and without flavor. That reviewer indicated, "There wasn't a lot of icing so you can't make it look like the photo on the box. I won't buy it again." Another reviewer went so far as to say Trader Joe's chocolate bundt cake was the worst cake she's ever had. She also said, "After the first bite, I went digging in the trash for the box to see if it was gluten-free or expired." Other reviewers complained about a bitter, "medicinal" flavor and a crumbly texture.

Worst gluten-free cake: Trader Joe's

If you have celiac disease, you can get really sick after eating products that contain gluten. This is why companies that sell gluten-free products really do need to make sure that those products are, you know, gluten-free. Now, we're not saying Trader Joe's gluten-free cakes aren't gluten-free, because it's not like we have a laboratory where we can do an actual scientific analysis to confirm or deny the presence of gluten. But we are saying there are an awful lot of reviewers who say the company's gluten-free cakes made them sick.

One reviewer gave low marks to Trader Joe's mini gluten-free cupcakes: "These are delicious but made me extremely sick both days I tried them. Painful upset stomach and urgent bowels, almost as soon as I got them down." Trader Joe's gluten-free cinnamon coffee cake muffins fared even worse. "I'm celiac and definitely got glutened from them," wrote one reviewer. The reviewer added, "They must have been cross-contaminated or something. The nice flavor and texture aren't worth the pain." And that experience is echoed in roughly a dozen other reviews by people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who almost universally said the product is delicious, but made them painfully ill.

Worst carrot cake: Sam's Club

Granted, carrot cake is pretty tricky to get right. Not everyone loves it, and some people hate it. But generally speaking, you know when you walk into a Sam's Club whether you like carrot cake or not, and if you don't, you don't buy the carrot cake. So the 3.5 star rating on Sam's Club's Carrot Cake Bar is not likely to be from people who are trying carrot cake for the first time.

Sam's Club's Carrot Cake Bar sounds like a typical carrot cake with walnuts and cream cheese frosting, but it doesn't really even look good on the store's website. In fact, it looks kind of warped and plastic-y. Seeing isn't everything, but Sam's Club customers don't seem to like the flavor, either. Some customers complained about basic stuff like dry texture, but the real killer for this cake is the frosting. Carrot cake is supposed to be made with cream cheese frosting, and a few reviewers say the frosting isn't cream cheese as advertised, but a whipped topping that lacks flavor and that rich cream cheese texture.

Then there's the mold. More than one reviewer complained that this cake goes off after only a few days, with visible mold growing on top. Now, if you think "I'll just eat it fast," here's a buzzkill for you: Mold can live quite invisibly in food, so it could be in your carrot cake for days before you actually see it.