I can’t believe it, my son is 6! In a flash of ambitiousness, I set out determined to make an R2D2 cake for his Star Wars-themed party. But after spending an overwhelming hour in the baking section of Sur La Table surrounded by employees advising me quite honestly about how difficult working with fondant could be (especially for the first time), I decided to go simpler.
I had heard that Giant supermarket’s sheet cakes are nut-free. I contacted our local Giant three times over 24 hours and spoke with three different people inquiring about their cake’s allergy information and was assured each time that it did not contain tree nuts or peanuts. I asked if there was mention of manufacturing issues in regards to nuts or peanuts and was again assured they saw nothing to indicate it was a problem. We ordered a Star Wars cake and I patted myself on the back for saving a few hours of work the day before the party.
An hour before the party started, my husband picked up the cake from the bakery and was alarmed to notice that the label stated, “Allergen information: this product contains walnuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, wheat and soy.” WHAT?! So, I placed my fourth phone call to Giant’s bakery. The employees apologized and kindly mentioned that we could return the cake and keep the Star Wars cake toppers. But with only an hour to go before 18 kids and their parents showed up, I had few options. So, I scrambled to make a small safe cake to be sure my son could eat some sort of birthday cake at his own party.
Yesterday, I spoke with the manager at our Giant in McLean about the incident. I urged him to work with his staff to better prepared them for food allergy questions and arm them with answers that could have avoided this debacle. He and his assistant manager were very gracious and understanding. The assistant manager has a daughter with food allergies and was naturally disappointed. The manager planned to discuss this issue with the bakery staff. And, they both insisted on refunding my money even though I protested that I hadn’t come in for that purpose.
So, here’s the skinny:
- Giant’s cakes and icings are not made on premises. They are made by outside vendors.
- There are ingredient lists available in the bakery for these products.
- The cakes do not contain tree nuts or peanuts.
- The icing is also tree nut, peanut-free as well as milk-free.
- BUT, the cakes are assembled and decorated in Giant’s bakery. And, they handle tree nuts and peanuts in their workspace.
- Since they can’t guarantee their workspace is free of these allergens, Giant puts a label on everything they produce in their on-site bakery which states those products contain tree nuts and peanuts
Although the rumor is that Giant bakery goods are safe for nut and peanut allergic children. They actually aren’t. Because while it appears the cake and cupcakes do not actually contain tree nuts or peanuts, there is an unresolved issue with cross-contamination that I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable with. This issue will likely prevent many parents from being able to buy their bakery goods for birthday parties and/or school functions from Giant (since most schools require nut-free treats that were not processed on contaminated equipment) and urged Giant’s manager to explore the possibility of correctly labeling their bakery products, at a minimum.
May the frosting be with you…