Fresh or fake: Is vending machine cake actually good?

by | Feb 8, 2023 | Arts & Life

There’s a new cake shop in town. Well, a cake vending machine. Buddy Valastro, owner and head baker of Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, is the master baker behind Carlo’s Bake Shop Express Cake ATMs. The Italian cake artist became popular after his reality television series, “Cake Boss,” premiered on TLC in 2009. Valastro is known for constructing elaborate cakes, but do his recipes hold up after being in a vending machine?

There are four cake vending machines located in Edmonton. The closest location to NAIT is in Kingsway Mall, with other sites at Southgate Centre, West Edmonton Mall and the Premium Outlet Collection mall. The vending machines offer six flavours of cake: chocolate fudge, white confetti, red velvet, rainbow, chocolate-vanilla and carrot.

As a grad of NAIT’s Baker program with 20 years of experience working in bakeries and restaurants, I wanted to test this cake for myself. I bought a sample of red velvet and chocolate fudge for my co-workers, who also have a wide range of food-related backgrounds, to sample and review. While not bakers by trade, we have knowledge of the baking industry and know a good cake when we taste it. 

Initial thoughts

Each slice of cake weighs 7.8 ounces and costs $11.01 including GST. The package had no expiry or packaging dates, which I found odd. According to the Government of Canada, prepackaged individual servings of food sold in vending machines are “exempt from the requirement to be labelled with a durable life date or packaging date.” The cake looked very nice in the package, but when I removed it, the outer icing stuck to the container. Can a cake that was baked in New Jersey and shipped across North America to sit in a vending machine taste good?

Photo supplied

Tasting the cake

While cake should be sweet, all five of the people who tried Carlo’s Bake Shop Express Cake found both flavours too sweet. While one cake reviewer claimed the red velvet to be “disgusting” and “some of the worst cake I had in my life,” another reviewer compared the chocolate flavour to a sweeter version of McCain’s Deep’n Delicious. “It’s okay. I wouldn’t pay $10 for it. If someone brought it to a party, I would eat it. It’s moist but too sweet.” The cake was moist and soft, but it had a manufactured taste and mouthfeel to it – not something you might get when tasting cakes sold by NAIT’s Baking and Pastry Arts students. 

Final thoughts

Overall rating: 4/10. Honestly, it was not the worst cake I’ve tried, but also not the best; it was a middle-of-the-road cake. The red velvet cake was the better of the two, but barely. After 15 minutes, my stomach got slightly upset after a few bites. I believe it might have been from the sugar in the cake. This decreased my initial score of five out of ten by one point. If the cost of the cake was $5 instead of $10.50, I might be able to justify giving it an extra two points. It’s best to save your money and go to a local bakery for a higher-quality cake. Skip the vending machines and check out the NAIT Alumni Business Directory to find bakeries owned and operated by NAIT grads, instead!

Cover photo via Instagram (@carlosbakeryca)

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