This Grocery Store Dessert Has a Fandom Like No Other—We Can See Why
It really takes the cake.
It’s no secret that Publix has developed a cult following with highly publicized offerings like Italian subs, chicken fingers, and key lime pie. These signature staples have earned permanent spots on shoppers’ grocery lists for years, but it’s the store’s ever-so-humble cake and buttercream frosting that has become the bakery section’s unofficial crown jewel.
Fluffy, moist, and the perfect balance between sweet and creamy, a Publix cake is a must-have treat at many celebrations for those who live in the South. And while its buttercream frosting can be quite polarizing (it’s less sugary and more, well, buttery for lack of a better term), its silky-smooth texture makes it a home run.
Why Are Publix Cakes So Good?
We know it’s not some mythical creature in the kitchen concocting the recipe and churning out cake after delicious cake. And despite multiple unanswered requests by Publix’s communications team to let us in on some baking secrets, we did a little research of our own to explain why Publix’s cakes have obtained a certifiably iconic status. Check out our breakdown below.
The Dreamy Frosting
Thanks to the Publix blog, we learned that the supermarket’s famous buttercream frosting is made with a combination of actual butter and vegetable shortening. The dynamic duo imparts a wonderfully rich flavor while allowing the frosting to maintain shape and stiffness. This is particularly important for wedding and birthday cakes where edges may be piped with the utmost care, precision, and detail. It also has to stand up to Florida’s notoriously high heat and humidity without melting or separating.
Rich and decadent, but with a slightly hardened shell, this frosting encapsulates the piped decorations so that they remain intact until ready to be served. Using actual butter also means the buttercream is less sweet than other varieties. It complements and balances the sweetness of the cake while keeping the layers secure and moist.
The Airy Cake
Publix’s cake earns rave reviews for being one of the fluffiest and softest you can find in a grocery store. You can literally pick up a slice with your bare hands and it will maintain its triangular shape, rather than crumbling apart like most drier alternatives.
The store has stayed pretty mum on revealing too many details about the cake’s actual recipe, but we can imagine that they follow a few basic techniques to achieve its coveted texture:
The use of sifted flour: This adds air to the mixture and makes the batter lighter.
The use of cornstarch: The common ingredient, typically found in cake flour, will make the result spongier.
Room temperature everything: Bakers likely beat their eggs and dairy components at room temperature. They may even incorporate warm butter, as this will result in a more tender outcome.
No overmixing: It’s pretty self-explanatory, but making a cake is not the time to flex…literally. If you overmix, the gluten in the flour will become more elastic and make the batter too dense.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of shopping for a Publix cake is the option to customize it for any occasion. Shoppers have complete control over the outcome, down to its overall design, and can request specific bakers who may have experience with different piping techniques (i.e. flowers, leaves, script, etc.).
For a standard sheet cake, you have your choice in size, cake flavor, icing flavor, as well as trim color and design, border color and design, and the decorations on top. You can also request a filling like cannoli cream, fresh strawberries, vanilla custard, hazelnut cream cheese, or chocolate pudding for an even more decadent dessert experience.
Of course, last-minute shoppers can opt for one of the bakery’s many premade options, sometimes tiered and intricately decorated. These can be personalized with a message in practically no time at all as you shop for other groceries.
And if a sudden hankering hits as you’re perusing the aisles, Publix now sells its famous cakes by the slice for portion-controlled indulgences.
A Slice of Cake With an Ocean View
Unfortunately, many of us will have to venture to one of seven states in the South (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky) to enjoy the wonder that is Publix cake. But any local will argue that it’s worth the trip alone (or at least a necessary first stop before hitting up the park or the beach). After all, good cake is happiness embodied in food form and, nowadays, we’ll take any excuse to bring a little boost of serotonin into our lives.