Celebrations and cake often go hand in hand. When it comes to cake, does it make more sense to buy at Sam’s Club or make your own?
To Bake or not to bake? That is the question. When it comes to the gatherings of friends and family for special occasions, often a sweet treat is both welcomed and often expected. But does it make sense to buy at Sam’s Club or to bake your own? Let’s take a closer look at what option ‘takes the cake’ when it comes to the differences in taste, quality and price of store-bought or homemade.
The History of Cake
It’s no wonder that we often serve a sweet treat when celebrating considering the history of cake. While historians are not able to pinpoint the exact time or country that we have to thank for this delicacy it is known that cake probably came from a sweetened version of a typical bread recipe.
Egyptians are known to have been wonderful bakers of honey and fruit bread which could have sparked our modern sweet treat. Romans likely are responsible for adding yeast as a leavening agent to the recipe and Italians innovated swapping yeast for beaten eggs. They also began the tradition of serving a wedding cake. Although they would break a wheat cake over the bride’s head as a symbol of good luck and fertility. Eating a few broken crumbs would be one of their first acts as a couple. Afterward, crumbs would be offered to their guests to allow them to share in their good fortune.
Let Them Eat Cake
From its humble beginnings cake has risen in both popularity, availability and innovation. Modern wedding cakes can be made to serve 1000 guests or more, feature complex designs and delicious flavor combinations.
It seems we find more and more reasons to celebrate with cake. From the popularity of having a ‘smash cake’ for a child to enjoy solo on their first birthday, gender reveal celebrations and even throwing a ‘first moon party’, it seems we love finding any excuse to celebrate with something sweet.
When it comes to planning your next celebration, the question isn’t whether to serve a cake or something sweet, but rather whether it would be better to make your own, go to a bakery or check out your local Sam’s Club for the ready-made variety?
Boxed Cake Mix
Those would-be bakers seeking an easy, frugal and delicious way to enjoy cake can thank John D. Duff of Pennsylvania Molasses Canning Company. He accidentally created the first boxed cake mix. Duff was trying to dehydrate excess molasses and accidentally created a gingerbread cake mix in 1929.
Despite his innovation, by 1951 Duncan Hines had gained control over almost half of the boxed cake mix market with their mixtures that called for fresh eggs instead of powdered.
Today, amateur bakers can enjoy freshly baked cakes, cookies and brownies will these boxed mixes. The boxed mixes come in a variety of flavors and varieties and most only require the addition of eggs and oil to complete the recipe.
Boxed bakery mixes are also an affordable option for most families. Boxed mixes usually cost between $1 and $3 at most major grocery stores. On average, a single tired frosted birthday cake could be made for about $5 with minimal effort and baking skill. This makes boxed cake mix an affordable and tasty option for any party.
Another bonus of baking your own treats is the ability to adhere to diet or allergy restrictions. Many boxed cake mixes (with the exception of angel food) are vegan. They provide an easy way to provide cruelty-free snacks. Many frosting and sprinkles options are also vegan! Check out some of these vegan cake mix hacks from PETA.
Easy Chocolate Cake: One box of chocolate cake mix plus one 12 oz can of cola or lemon-lime soda.
Simply add the two ingredients together and bake. You can try different combinations such as yellow cake and lemon-lime for a citrusy twist. Or use diet soda for a lower calorie option.
Classic Yellow Cake: One box of cake mix plus one cup of unsweetened applesauce and one cup of water.
Pumpkin Spice Cake: One box of spice cake mix and one can of pumpkin puree. This recipe produces a super sticky batter but will make a light and fluffy cake! Add pumpkin spice to the frosting for an even tastier treat.
Orange Dreamsicle Cake: One box yellow cake mix plus one cup of orange juice and six oz of vegan greek style yogurt (vanilla or plain). Whisk the orange juice and vegan yogurt together and then add to the cake mix.
Fruity Dump Cake: Yellow box cake mix plus one 20 oz can of crushed pineapple plus one 21 oz can of cherry pie filling and one cup of vegan butter. In a large baking dish, layer the pumpkin and cherry filling. Sprinkle the yellow cake mix on top and top evenly with slices of vegan butter. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
Making your own sweet treats can also offer peace of mind for those with allergies, especially allergies that are life-threatening, such as tree-nut. By preparing dessert in your own kitchen you are able to control the environment and the ingredients.
The Sam’s Club bakery prepares a variety of dessert items every day by a large staff of bakers. As such, their items are not considered to be peanut-free and are not encouraged to be brought into peanut-free environments, such as a child’s classroom.
When baking instructions are followed properly, many boxed cake mixes are fairly tasty. In fact, when it comes to a basic recipe, it could be hard to tell the difference between store-bought and homemade.
There are also many hacks available on the world wide web to help amateur bakers make their confections taste more like a high-end bakery. You can even use cake mix to make cookies! Simple substitutions and additions to a basic cake box mix can take your cake from average to awesome.
- Using milk instead of water can give your cake a denser bakery-like texture.
- Add an extra egg or two for a richer taste
- Add an extra ¼ cup of sugar and flour to your mix
- Add coffee instead of water to chocolate cake to kick up the flavor
- Add ½ cup of sour cream for a rich taste
- Add a small package of instant pudding mix for flavor and moisture
- Use melted butter in place of oil for a rich taste
- Mix in chocolate chips, nuts or fruit for flavor and texture
- Use quality frosting! Many recipes are easy to make homemade.
One place where box cake mixes can often fall short is on quality. After all, the box can only offer step by step baking instructions, not make everyone a baker. Baking is a science and substituting ingredients, varying oven temperatures and times or even failing to adequately cool your cake before frosting can all result in an epic cake fail.
While baking a cake can be seen as straightforward, frosting a cake requires at least some artistic skill. Most amateur bakers are able to smear on a layer of frosting and add a dash of sprinkles, but not produce a high-quality dessert. While many may be willing to have a lower quality confection at a family party, larger celebrations may call for a more polished dessert.
Trying to personalize cakes, either by adding a name and age or trying to create a character or theme cake can be tricky. Yet leaving these details out can make your cake fall a little flat.
Instead of trying to create a character cake, try creating a simpler sheet cake and add some plastic character figures. This is an easier way of creating theme cakes, but the cost of the toys can eat up any money saved from baking the cake yourself (unless you already have them on hand!)
Another important consideration when choosing whether or not to bake your own is the experience. Choosing to make your own may save you a couple of bucks, but if you stay up until three a.m. decorating your child’s birthday cake the night before their party you may find that it hampers on your enjoyment of the event. You could also end up with a product you are less than happy with.
Sam’s Club Bakery
Of course, spending time baking in the kitchen is not everyone’s idea of a good time, especially when faced with the task of planning a large celebration or event. The thought of ordering a customized ready-made sweet treat could be the answer to your party prayers. But is Sam’s Club the right bakery for you?
History of Sam’s Club
Sam’s Club was founded in 1983 by Sam Walton as a resource for small businesses. In exchange for a membership fee, entrepreneurs could access bulk goods at a reduced rate. The business model offers low prices to its members by buying in bulk and passing down the savings as well as a basic store model, with items often displayed on pallets, rather than expensive store displays.
Presently, Sam’s Club operates almost 600 stores over the United States and Puerto Rico. In addition to offering savings and business services for entrepreneurs, it also offers memberships to families.
Is Sam’s Club Worth a Membership?
In order to shop at Sam’s Club, customers must present a valid membership card. Sam’s Club offers two levels of membership: Sam’s Club member and Sam’s Plus.
A Sam’s Club membership costs $45 annually. In addition to shopping at Sam’s Club, members can access lower prices at Sam’s Club gas stations, as well as free flat tire repair and windshield wiper installation at the auto center.
A Sam’s Plus membership will run you $100 annually but offers many more perks. This card offers a cash-back option where members can earn $10 back for every $500 spent on qualifying purchases (excludes items such as third-party sellers and gift cards) up to $500 year.
Those wishing to avoid the crowds are able to get early access at select Sam’s Club locations starting at seven a.m. Or avoid leaving your house altogether because this membership also offers free shipping when shopping at Sam’s Club online with no minimum purchase.
Sam’s Club has also partnered with many businesses to offer additional discounted services such as an auto buying club, accounting, and identity protection services.
Sam’s Club Bakery
Of the many advantages to having a Sam’s Club membership is access to an affordable bakery. Buying bread in bulk is a great way to save on this kitchen staple. With options to save on both fresh-baked and manufactured loaves, customers have lots of options.
Buying in bulk allows shoppers to stock up at a reduced rate. While fresh-baked bread has a short shelf life because of a lack of preservatives, you can easily freeze them until you are ready to enjoy.
The bakery is a great option to stock up on items for your party like hotdog and hamburger buns for BBQs. Stocking up your freezer with party food ahead of time allows you to do some party prep in advance and make the lead up to the event less stressful.
Sam’s Club bakery also offers bulk orders for those who are planning a large scale event. Members can purchase cookie trays, tubs of icing or even premade layers of cake. Perfect for those events that you want to wow your guests at with a limited budget. Or perhaps you want to be able to take credit for the three tired-cake even if the only thing you did was assemble it.
When it comes to party planning, a ready-made cake or dessert will win hands-down as the stress-free choice. With Sam’s Club, members can pre-order personalized cakes to be freshly made for their celebrations.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of ordering a cake through Sam’s Club. While Sam’s club can offer 30 count cupcakes for a reduced cost, your cake flavor choices are limited. If you are happy to have a crowd-pleasing option of chocolate or vanilla (or a combination of both) this may be your perfect option.
Sam’s Club offers a variety of cake sizes to suit different event sizes. While prices and availability vary from store to store, most bakeries offer:
- 10″ round cake (serves 12-16)
- 1/2 sheet cake (serves 36-48)
- full sheet cake (serves 72-96)
- cupcakes (30 count)
- 1/2 sheet cake cupcake combo (serves 64-74)
- cupcake cake (serves 30)
- cookie cake (serves 36-48)
- 5″ cake/10 cupcakes (serves 14-16)
Licensed and Wedding Cakes
Sam’s Club also offers licensed cake options such as Paw Patrol, Batman and Star Wars. While the option for flavors is limited, you can customize your icing colors to suit your party theme. You can even order a three-tier wedding cake from the bakery as long as you don’t mind basic flavor options. While typical wedding cakes can cost hundreds or even thousands, Sam’s Club offers their version for about $75. That is a huge savings for those on a tight budget for their big day. Planning a wedding? Check out our budget wedding tips!
Sam’s Club cakes seem to be a crowd pleaser. One advantage of purchasing a cake from a bakery is a consistent taste and quality. The cakes are freshly made and professionally decorated. Sam’s Club also sells their icing in bulk, which many professional bakers choose to use for their clients as well.
While the cost of Sam’s Club cakes is a good value, they are still significantly more than making your own. For example, a 10-inch cake could cost about $15 to buy but could be made for about $6. Of course, with Sam’s Club, you can buy in bulk and save, so a half sheet cake that could potentially feed up to 48 people only costs about $23. While it costs more than to make it yourself from a box, (although not significantly more) it is far less than purchasing it at an upscale bakery.
While many bakers can start a project with high ambitions and find their efforts fall flat, choosing a ready-made option practically guarantees a quality product. While you cannot taste before you buy, you can certainly check for smudged icing or poor quality decorations.
There is no arguing that freshly baked cakes taste best, but that also leaves a short time frame and little margin for error. By pre-ordering your cake and picking it up the day of your fete your stress level is limited. A Sam’s Plus membership would even allow you to enter selected locations early, allowing you to avoid the crowds.
While the bakery services aren’t the only reason to get a Sam’s Club membership, it is definitely a perk. While baking your own sweets is cost-saving, it can also be stress inducing. But when it comes to trying out tasty confections, sometimes you have to get a little dirty in the kitchen. Check out our recipe for peanut butter sheet cake and let us know if it is worth the mess in the comments!