The Real Reason Costco Stopped Selling Its All-American Chocolate Cake

Ah, Costco, the land of low prices, delicious pizza, free samples for days (yes, Costco samples are back!), and the fudgy, chocolatey goodness that is — or was — the All-American Chocolate Cake. For years, this beloved chocolate cake, easily big enough to feed 20 guests or more, was a trusted go-to for birthdays, holiday parties, Mother's Day celebrations, and more. That is, until the day it unexpectedly disappeared.

Much to fans' dismay, this decadent delight faded from Costco shelves sometime in early 2020, the year of horrible things. And while it figured this would happen in 2020, Costco's chocolate cake fans weren't going to stand idly by while their favorite fudgy layers were lost to the world. In fact, they were so committed to the cause that more than 7,000 of them banded together in a petition to ask the wholesale club to bring back "one of the most amazing and delicious chocolate cakes anywhere." Now that's some serious fandom!

While Costco didn't comment on its decision to stop selling the cake (or the petition to bring it back), that's just the beginning of the All-American Chocolate Cake's story. From a shift in the way we celebrate milestones to the rise of "quarantine cakes," let's unpack some reasons this Costco chocolate cake might have met its end (and finish with a twist that suggests those 7,000 fans might have been heard after all).

A global pandemic meant fewer cake-worthy celebrations

Have we mentioned 2020 was the year of horrible things? Add "decreasing demand for big birthday cakes" to our laundry list of complaints. Actually, according to Numerator's Sweet Treat Tracker, cakes and other sweets as a category were up in 2020 as we turned to comforting foods in trying times, as reported by AdAge. But let's not forget the All-American Chocolate Cake wasn't just any cake. It was a massive cake, made for parties. And, you guessed it, 2020 took lots of parties from us, too.

In fact, research reported via the New York Post found six in 10 individuals only felt comfortable attending virtual events last year. Think of that impact in terms of birthday cakes alone. It's loose math, but let's assume every single one of the 331 million people that the U.S. Census Bureau reports was living in the United States in 2020 was planning on having a birthday party. If six in 10 of those people decided to celebrate virtually instead, that's more than 198 million birthday cakes that didn't need to be bought (unless of course, they were single-serve — more on that later). And let's not even get into the family reunions, graduation parties, and Groundhog Day celebrations we had to reschedule.

Holiday celebrations took a hit, too. Just 27% of Americans planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside their household in 2020 (according to research by data and survey firm Dynata at the request of The New York Times), and for many Christmas was canceled, too, reports Good Housekeeping. All missed occasions for us and the All-American Chocolate Cake.

People everywhere became at-home bakers

Next on our list of potential reasons for the All-American Chocolate Cake's demise we have the entire phenomenon of pandemic baking. With so much time at home, people everywhere embraced their inner baker. Sales of baking-related products like baking chocolate shot up 24% (via Prepared Foods) and The Atlantic reported flour was flying off the shelves faster than it could be restocked.

The benefits to pandemic baking were three-fold: it gave us something to do, sweet treats are often nostalgic and comforting to eat, and, for many, the actual act of baking or giving those baked creations away can be rewarding and stress-relieving, as well. A contributor to Time shared her own experience with pandemic baking in a love letter to cake that expressed the feeling well: "In times of waiting and worry, it feels useful to gather ingredients and turn them into something that might bring sweetness to someone's day."

So, people everywhere started going all-in on cakes made from scratch, some weirder than others as this roundup in The New York Times demonstrates, and Us Weekly showed us that even celebrities were forced to get creative with at-home birthday cakes (just look at Gigi Hadid — hers was shaped like an everything bagel with cream cheese and casually whipped up by Buddy Valastro of "Cake Boss," of course). All great developments for us newly-minted baking extraordinaires, but not so great for the fate of our story's hero — the All-American Chocolate Cake.

Huge cakes aren't great for social distancing

Have we mentioned the size of the All-American Chocolate Cake? Its four layers together clock in at a whopping 7 pounds. That's basically a baby. And another unfortunate reality of 2020 was that it involved a lot of social distancing. NPR reports that many cities were recommending gatherings of 10 people or less, and the standard All-American Chocolate Cake could feed at least twice that many guests with leftovers to spare. Even if you did get together, gathering around a cake to sing happy birthday and then eating that cake after someone literally blew on it suddenly seemed insane.

So a different kind of cake moved into the limelight: the single-serve. Sales of snack cakes grew by $347M (up 11.7% from the year before, via Commercial Baking) and miniature versions of cakes and other celebratory baked goods became more and more popular. In fact, Datassential found miniature grocery cakes, those that were 1/8 of the standard size, saw a 12% increase in sales as gatherings got smaller or loved ones sent single-serve cakes cross-country for virtual celebrations.

The demand for smaller cakes was so high that an entirely new industry emerged around "quarantine cakes" (reports People). These are cakes that serve just one or two, many that came with safety PSAs or pandemic-related sayings on top — like "wash your hands" or, a personal favorite, "you can't spell quarantine without U-R-A-Q-T" — and bakeries across the nation were quick to jump on the trend.

It started focusing on its 10-inch cakes

Not only did Costco discontinue its All-American Chocolate Cake in 2020, it also announced in a Facebook post that it would be no longer be offering its equally popular half-sheet cakes and encouraged members to try its 10-inch round cakes, instead. Costco's half-sheet cakes were a blank slate for customization and could serve up to 48 people for just $19.99 (via Taste of Home) — perfect for weddings, grad parties and anywhere else you need an affordable yet crowd-pleasing option.

Costco's half-sheet cakes likely met their demise for the same reasons as the All-American Chocolate Cake: fewer occasions where we needed to feed 20 or more people and a shift towards favoriting tiny cakes over massive ones. It's also likely they were difficult to bake and decorate while Costco's bakers were practicing social distancing per public safety guidelines.

But back to those 10-inch round cakes. Costco offers these in both chocolate and vanilla and their two layers (compared to the All-American Chocolate Cake's four) are more in line with serving the 10-person gatherings we were growing accustomed to. While the chocolate version is similar to the All-American Chocolate Cake (it has the same chocolatey base and frosting), it's filled with chocolate mousse instead of fudge. While fans on Reddit give it mixed reviews, most say it isn't as good.

It could have been related to supply chain issues

As many companies were (and unfortunately still are), Costco was navigating supply chain issues around the time the All-American Chocolate Cake disappeared in 2020. According to its Chief Financial Officer, Richard Galanti, the members-only warehouse was struggling to keep products like sanitizing wipes, baking yeast, and laptops on shelves, and making more room for these highly sought-after items meant cutting back on other offerings that weren't as in-demand (says Wall Street Journal).

Costco wasn't the only retailer to streamline what they were stocking in an effort to manage inventory, increase sales, and cut expenses in a chaotic time. These impacts were felt across the industry and some of the sacrifices that had to be made inevitably involved food products that were not as in-demand as pantry staples or items like paper towels. In fact, Food Dive reports market research company IRI found the volume of non-edible items like paper towels have increased 10% at retail over the course of the pandemic, and while many of the items they displaced have made a return in the time since, that's not the case for all.

Maybe people just didn't like the cake anymore

Okay, we had to put this one in here even though it's pretty laughable. This cake inspired a petition, after all, and a quick scan through the comments on and the many Reddit threads dedicated to the All-American Chocolate Cake's discussion will tell you that people never stopped loving this fudgy creation. This was a cake that stirred up feelings, with one petitioner emphatically declaring it "the best cake IN THE WORLD." All caps, full stop.

It's no surprise then that are multiple Reddit threads dedicated to copycat recipes, as well, so true fans will never have to be without the joy an All-American Chocolate Cake brings. If you're looking to try your hand at Costco's chocolate cake creation yourself, one Redditor points fellow fans to a Chocolate Cake Recipe by food blogger John Kanell at Preppy Kitchen as a comparable starting point. While you're at it, you might as well try this Copycat Costco Sheet Cake Recipe, too. Just looking at the photos will make your mouth water and have you wishing it was your birthday today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the week (for the record, we totally support celebrating half-birthdays, and even quarter-birthdays, too).

Costco discontinues items fairly often

Let's not forget that Costco discontinued items well before we were hit with a global pandemic. So there is always a possibility that the All-American Chocolate Cake would have gone the way of the dinosaurs without any help from the virus-that-must-not-be-named. In fact, roundups of all the amazing Costco items we've had to part with over the years, from the Polish Dog whose disappearance severely rocked the nation to a house brand body soap that people apparently loved with a passion, are a pretty frequent occurrence. That could be more of a testament to the passion Costco members feel for their favorite products than the frequency at which those products disappear, though.

Thankfully, there's a way you can tell if any of your Costco favorites are about to get the ax. As explained by Reader's Digest, items that the wholesale store is not planning to restock will have an asterisk in the upper right corner of its price tag. So, if you see one of these asterisks on a shelf-stable product you can't imagine living without, clear out a space in the pantry and stock up.

It turned the OG All-American Chocolate Cake into a mini cake

You might be thinking 2020 was the definitive end for the All-American Chocolate Cake, but in a surprising and welcome twist, it would seem those 7,000 petition-signers may have gotten their way after all — or a version of it at least.

Earlier this year, Costco put a smile on faces across the nation when it brought back the All-American Chocolate Cake in a smaller — but undeniably cuter — miniature version! These mini cakes are made with the same chocolate cake, fudgy icing, and chocolate shavings that made the original version of the All-American Chocolate Cake the mega-hit that it was for so many years. And, while the standard size All-American Chocolate Cake was $16.99, the new cakes are available in packs of six for just $7.99 (via Eat This, Not That!).

So far, the miniature All-American Chocolate Cakes seem to be a big hit with the original's fans. Each one is a bit larger than a cupcake, making them the perfect size for one or two and a great solution for socially distanced gatherings as everyone gets their own serving and keeps their germs to themselves. Costco's downsized chocolate fudge cakes are also right in line with larger bakery trends toward smaller size cakes to suit changing celebrations. That combined with Supermarket News reports that the bakery section of grocery stores, in general, is finally on the rebound, has us hoping this new iteration of Costco's All-American Chocolate Cake will stick around!