The Truth About Costco Sheet Cakes

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People flock to Costco for many reasons. For some, it's all about the bulk toilet paper, per CNBC. For others, it's the love of seemingly inflation-proof rotisserie chicken. For others still — particularly in the case of parental units and others in the position of having to plan multiple birthday parties each year — it's Costco's sheet cake that has them ponying up the retailer's annual membership fee, year after year after year. 

Fortunately for lovers of buttercream frosted layer cakes that are sized to feed a small army (or at least a classroom or two of hungry middle-schoolers), rumors of the Costco sheet cake's demise have turned out to be greatly exaggerated (albeit oddly persistent), according to Cheapism. And so it is that Costco sheet cakes are still available as a perk for Costco members (and only Costco members, because Costco cakes can only be purchased in-store, as Costco spells out on its website). It's not a free perk like Costco's famous and abundant samples, but Costco's sheet cake is seen by many as a good value, nevertheless. 

Consisting of two 12" x 16" layers of cake separated by a fluffy creamy mousse, slathered in real buttercream frosting, and customizable to order, Costco's sheet cake is, technically speaking, a half sheet cake, according to Web Restaurant Store. And that's the first of many sweet facts about Costco's sheet cakes that only savvy shoppers such as yourself will now know. 

Costco sheet cakes can be decorated with a vast array of different designs

Reflecting on the popular dessert's widespread versatility and appeal, Costco offers a cake design for every occasion, age and personality. According to this order form, the retailer's bakery team can craft 27 unique icing illustrations to adorn your confection. Birthday motifs include a rainbow, rose bouquet, princess crown, and an "over-the-hill" version for when your party guest of honor is turning 40. On top of that, designs such as a cross, baby carriage (available in either pink or blue), and graduation cap are available to celebrate nearly every milestone in between. Basically, if it's an important life event, Costco's bakery has a cake design for it. 

Plus, the Costco cake artists can also create just about every sports ball under the sun, making them perfect for a delicious ending to a little league season or a Super Bowl party. If nothing out of this selection strikes your fancy, though, the big-box store's bakery also takes custom orders a couple of days in advance to give their cake artists time to craft a special design or bespoke message (via

Costco's sheet cakes are only offered in two flavors in the U.S.

Easily customizable and available in a pinch, the options are endless when it comes to Costco's signature half-sheet cakes — except in terms of taste. The confections are only available in two different flavors: white cake layered with vanilla cheesecake mousse (a whole two pounds of it!) and topped with decadent vanilla buttercream frosting, or chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and, you guessed it, iced with chocolate buttercream. Not exactly a lot of variety, but they get the job done. 

Meanwhile, the warehouse store's bakery offers other sweet treats, such as a mini carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and (to some folks' chagrin) raisins. Equally impressive is the flavor bonus offered by Costco's Australian stores: Shoppers have the option of adding raspberry or chocolate filling to compliment either the chocolate or vanilla sponge cake. Given the dessert's enduring popularity, though, American customers clearly appreciate each cake's quality and freshness, and don't mind a more tailored approach to these treats.

Costco's sheet cakes are a rich source of energy

If you're watching your calories, you may be disappointed to find there's not much to go on when it comes to Costco's sheet cakes. It's unclear why. However, it could be worth noting Costco sheet cakes are often customized with edible decorations, which could conceivably cause the nutrition info for various iterations to vary widely. 

Nevertheless, we're willing to make the following educated guess. Before the addition of any edible decor, we're estimating that a single three-ounce serving of either the chocolate or the vanilla flavor of Costco's frosted/filled sheet cake supplies around 400 calories. The way we arrived at that was by looking at the total weight of a Costco sheet cake (9.5 pounds) and dividing it by 48 (the number of servings, per Aisle of Shame) to come up with three ounces as the typical serving. Then we used SF Gate's estimate of calories in a four-ounce serving of chocolate-frosted sheet cake (537) and adjusted that for Costco's three-ounce serving. 

The vanilla-frosted may have fewer calories, but not likely by a lot. In any event, it may have considerably more sugar than the chocolate. Again, working off SF's numbers, we estimate a single serving of chocolate frosted sheet cake contains 44 grams of sugar. For the vanilla, it's 49. In either case, let's just say it's over the daily limit on sugar recommended by the American Heart Association (via Harvard), and leave it at that.

Costco's sheet cakes are just as sweet on your wallet as your tongue

Between its size, taste and price, the retailer's most-loved dessert might just be the ultimate budget bite. Costco's trademark treat is a steal at $24.99 (per Aisle of Shame), especially considering their ability to be customized to any style or occasion. The cost for a cake from a high-end independent patisserie can easily eek up into the triple digits, and even a confection from your run-of-the-mill local bakery still costs a few dollars more than the reliable Costco standby (via Know More Stuff). 

According to one Facebook commenter, the taste of the cake rivals a fancy bakery as well: "I've been marketing that cake to everyone for several years. Also served it at my daughter's wedding in fear the big wedding cake wasn't enough. I got more compliments on the Costco cake than the $400 cake!" Low cost aside, the time you save not slaving away over a bowl of batter before your birthday bash is priceless.

Costco's half-sheet cakes can satisfy up to 48 sweet tooths

Weighing in at a whopping nine and a half pounds (via Know More Stuff), there's no question that Costco's signature confection is perfection when it comes to feeding a crowd of hungry partygoers. Each half-sheet cake is intended to serve as many as 48 dessert die-hards, so basically you're spending just a little over 50 cents per person no matter how you slice it. Compared to one of the 10-inch round cakes, which only feeds up to 10 for more than half the price, there is no comparison: The half-sheet's 12" x 16" of fluffy frosted goodness comes out on top (or on plate) every time.

Although you might not think a cake made to serve nearly half a hundred people is needed during a global pandemic, one cake lover who signed the petition to bring it back (when it was discontinued in 2020) argued that a dessert this size does have a very important purpose: "Because buying a cake doesn't mean you're having a huge party. A lot of businesses buy these cakes for essential workers!!"

The age-old Costco question: will it keep?

Sheet cakes are perfect for parties, but there's no rule saying you can't buy one for yourself with the intention of enjoying a slice every day while still fresh. The question is, how long can a Costco sheet cake stay fresh? The answer depends on where and how you're storing it.

First things first, it doesn't seem like a great idea to store any sweet and moist baked good at room temperature, per Baking Business. Although baked goods aren't particularly vulnerable to microbial contamination, they will spoil more quickly if left unrefrigerated. They'll also lose moisture rapidly outside the fridge, per Query Sprout. According to Cake Re, a refrigerated cake with buttercream frosting will last anywhere from three to four days, and slightly less if filled with a creamy mousse like Costco's sheet cakes are. 

On the other hand, some Redditors on the Costco subreddit suggest Costco cakes may stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week or slightly longer. Moreover, if you freeze your sheet cake, you may still be able to enjoy it three months from now, or even longer if you carefully wrap each individual slice, per The New York Times. But if you're buying a Costco sheet cake for a party, then you're probably best off doing so as close to the event as possible. Store it unopened in the fridge, transferring it to room temperature about no more than an hour before serving (via Southern Living).

Costco sheet cakes can make for pretty great wedding cakes

A 2019 article from The Knot surveyed 27,000 couples about their nuptial dessert of choice and reported that the average price of a wedding cake is around $500 (yikes!). One creative couple (via Today) decided to eschew a more expensive option in favor of building their own tiered treat out of Costco's sheet cakes and fresh flowers from Trader Joe's. The homemade wedding cake masterpiece racked up a total of $50 — a truly sweet deal –  and was created from two humble sheet cakes which were sliced into smaller squares and stacked on top of each other to achieve a traditional wedding cake shape. Luckily, the couple had a pastry chef in the family, who assisted in topping the confectionary creation with decadent layers of homemade buttercream and arranging the pale pink roses in a cascade down the cake.

The groom's sister documented the final product on Instagram, praising her brother's creativity and craftsmanship and revealing that she was the mastermind behind the beautiful, budget-friendly rustic cake stand.

One Costco sheet cake's design stirred up a scandal

Back in 2015, a Costco controversy broke out due to a mother complaining that her son's dinosaur-themed birthday cake contained Satanic symbolism. According to an article by the Inquisitr (via Snopes), the woman purchased the cake in question at the Superstition Springs Costco location in Mesa, AZ, likely drawn to the friendly-looking blue and green dinosaur prancing through grass drawn in icing across the surface. As she was singing "Happy Birthday" to her son, however, she noticed that the dino's three visible legs seemed to be in the shape of "666," a numerical sequence commonly associated with the devil.

"I was extremely shocked and upset to see a demonic symbol written clear as day on my 6-year-old son's birthday cake," says the woman. "What was supposed to be a whimsical dinosaur became something very distasteful. I was extremely surprised at Costco for allowing such an inappropriate joke be sold to an unsuspecting victim." Although the claims have been debunked since and thought to be orchestrated by the woman and her boyfriend (a reporter), there were exactly 666 Costco stores spread across the world at the time of the scandal. Oooh, spooky!

The popularity of sheet cakes might have distracted from another budget-friendly Costco confection

What the warehouse store's sheet cake lacks in elegance, it makes up for in ease and simplicity. But for some special occasions, you might want a confection with a dash of class. Fear not, you still won't have to stray from the Costco bakery's shelves to find a crowd-pleasing cake with some international flair. 

Enter the tiramisu bar cake. Made with layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and creamy mascarpone, this decadent dessert is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder, as well as a generous pile of chocolate shavings. This sweet treat is sure to impress even your pickiest party guests. Tiramisu can also be pretty expensive, but again, Costco bucks the trend and delivers this on the cheap. 

The traditional Italian cake is recreated on a large Costco-sized scale (2.38 pounds to be exact) by extending lengthwise to form an elongated rectangle perfect for slicing up to feed a crowd, ringing in at just under $19.99, as seen in a video from TikTok user @costcobuys. Between their sheet cake and tiramisu, Costco's bakery might have you saying ciao to pricey pastries forever.

For a time, Costco's half-sheet cakes were discontinued in the U.S.

To the dismay of all cake enthusiasts, Costco released a Facebook advertisement in late May 2020 encouraging members to purchase cakes to celebrate graduations — only the cakes pictured in the ad were the bakery's 10-inch round cake, not the fan-favorite half-sheet cake. At the bottom of the post, it broke the upsetting news: "Please note: Half-sheet cakes are currently not available to order or customize." Weeks later, the warehouse retailer confirmed in a statement to Business Insider that they had no intention of restocking the cakes. 

According to The New York Times, the loss of the sheet cakes could be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, where gatherings for larger groups have gone by the wayside along with hugs and handshakes. "To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments," the retailer explained. "At this time, we are not making sheet cakes for special order." 

Although Costco originally claimed that the 10-inch round cakes "[seemed] to be resonating" with members" (per Business Insider), a petition was formed not too long after the store announced that they would be discontinuing the beloved dessert. It racked up over 1,500 signatures, with many signers expressing their adoration in the "reasons for signing" section. 

Fortunately, Costco brought the fan-favorite cake back less than two years later, albeit at a slightly higher price than its original $19 price tag (via Cheapism).

How the sheet cakes at Sam's and BJ's compare to Costco's

Like Costco, Sam's Club offers a ready-made frosted half sheet cake that can be decorated to order. Like Costco's sheet cake, the one available at Sam's Club is good for 48 modestly sized servings. At $28.99 (via Bakery Cake Prices), it's priced at just a few dollars higher than Costco's sheet cake, but maybe it's worth it to you if you're craving a marble cake, because Sam's Club offers that option in addition to white and chocolate, according to Shop Food. Whether you have to order your Sam's Club ready-made frosted half sheet cake in advance may depend upon where you're located. However, it would appear that if you do need to pre-order but didn't do so, you may still be able to pick up an un-frosted half sheet cake for $34.99 and frost it yourself, via Sam's Club.

BJ's Wholesale Club also sells a reasonably priced, customizable frosted half sheet cake ($27.99). Because it's described as a single layer, it won't have filling, which may explain why BJ's says that its half sheet is meant to serve 20 to 30 people, as opposed to the 48 claimed by Costco and Sam's Club. If layer cake isn't a priority for you, then the other thing worth noting is that, like the frosted sheet cakes available at Sam's Club, the ones at BJs would appear to require you order in advance, with at least 24 hours' notice. 

You can decorate the cake yourself if you'd like

So, you know how we just told you that if you forgot to order your half sheet cake in advance from Sam's Club, you can nevertheless still buy one through the Sam's Club bakery — it just won't be frosted or custom-decorated, and it will cost a few dollars more? Well, the same is generally true with regard to the half sheet cakes at Costco, except that your Costco ready-to-take-home sheet cake will come frosted — albeit not decorated — and it won't cost you a penny more. 

Obviously, if you happen to be creatively inclined, then this could be a really fun opportunity for you. Just look at all the fun the person who hand-decorated the above Costco sheet cake apparently got to have! Seriously, who amongst us has not fantasized (and during our adult years, no less) of squeezing a personally curated selection of sweet and colorful frostings all over a blank slate of a frosted sheet cake? Well, if you haven't, it could be an idea worth considering, especially if you're one of those people who likes to be prepared for anything. Because if that's your jam, then you could conceivably stock your storage freezer with a couple of extra Costco sheet cakes and the various accoutrements you need for cake decorating, for the purpose of having them on hand for those times when friends and family descend without warning. 

Other fun stuff you can make using Costco sheet cake

In addition to crafting a multi-tiered wedding cake out of a couple of Costco sheet cakes (via Kids Activities Blog), there are lots of fun and creative desserts that you can craft using a Costco sheet cake (or two, depending on your goals). 

Consider, for example, the fact that a Costco half sheet cake can be easily divided (using a cake knife and a cloth to wipe down the cake knife between slices) into 12 smaller rectangular cakes, each of which will be perfectly sized for two to four people. If the raw edges don't appeal to you, feel free to use this easy recipe to whip up a pot of ganache, and drizzle it over those edges with abandon. Moreover, next time you're in the market for a tall, trendy drip-cake, you may end up spending significantly less by purchasing a Costco sheet cake, cutting it into four 6-7" rounds, and stacking them one atop the other — frosting, filling, and all, per Standing in the Kitchen.

For smaller creations, you can use a cake cutting round or cookie cutter to turn that half sheet cake into some number of cupcake-sized frosted mini-layer cakes, depending on the diameter of your cake-cutting tool (via Food52). And if you've got an undecorated Costco sheet cake and are feeling whimsical, you can use larger-sized cake cutting rounds to create this Mickey Mouse-shaped cake, which requires one 9"- and two 5"-inch rounds. 

Yes, you can bake a copycat Costco sheet cake at home

There's no doubt that many regard the Costco sheet cake as a sweet and gooey gift from the supermarket gods. But perhaps you're an amateur baker who dreams of perhaps making and decorating your own half sheet cake from scratch. If so, you're in luck, because one of our recipe developers here at Mashed has managed to reverse engineer the classic vanilla Costco sheet cake, with great success. Now, you too can make it at home. 

Our recipe for copycat vanilla Costco sheet cake requires a mere 45 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of baking time, and it will yield you around 20 servings. It's rated, on average, five out of five stars by more than 600 of our readers, so clearly, it won't steer you wrong. But there is one caveat, which is that it requires a shopping trip's worth of ingredients: white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract for the cake, heavy cream, milk, and instant pudding mix for the filling, and powdered sugar, sweet butter, and vanilla extract for the buttercream frosting. 

By our estimates, if you have to buy all of those ingredients new from the supermarket, then this cake will set you back roughly $50 to $60. Assuming you have some of these ingredients already in your kitchen, then you might say, that's the icing on the cake.