What do you do when you want to celebrate a birthday? Have a lovely cake made up and then enjoy it with friends and family. That works -except in some restaurants. A new trend is discouraging patrons from bringing in their own desserts, whether by banning cakes all together fees or charging for plating them.
Kim Severson wrote about this in yesterday's New York Times Food section. The practice is called "cakeage" a play on the word corkage, the fee a restaurant gives to open a bottle of wine brought in by customers. It's surprisingly a common practice around the world. A restaurant in London charged the equivalent of $14.00 a person in cakeage fees.(well, leave it to the English to know how to ruin a joyous occasion).On some levels it is understandable,The staff has to cut and plate the dessert. Diners are using the eatery's plates and cutlery. All that has to be cleared away and washed afterwards which takes time and energy. Bringing in any kind of baked good is an insult to the restaurant's pastry chef as well. He or she spends hours , even days creating the perfect torte or tart . Favoring a store bought over a much thought out creation is a slap in the face.Also pastry chefs do not want other patrons to think that a garishly decorated birthday , anniversary or any other celebratory cake came out of their kitchen,Some chefs don't mind. They accept those supermarket cakes and cupcakes brought in. Their philosophy is people go to a restaurant for a good time and good food. Why spoil that mood by copping a diva attitude over what's served at the end of a meal.
What should you do if you want that cake after a birthday dinner? The old fashioned answer would be have the dessert at home after dinner. Everyone has to agree it's a more relaxed atmosphere. he group can linger for hours over second helpings without being pressured to "wrap it up" from testy waiters.You can also call the eatery a few days in advance and ask if they can make you a special cake (mind you, this will cost).Some chefs and pastry chefs may balk at this, some may see it as challenge to create something memorable and cater to the customer's tastes. Doing this is an excellent form of publicity because everyone usually posts their dining experiences on Yelp these days. Another idea is just ordering two or three desserts , stick a candle -those are allowed - into one of them and then celebrate..What diners should not do is antagonize the waitstaff,no matter how politely they ask for plates. Famed cookbook writer and baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum brought a box of her deep chocolate passion cake to the pricey Breslin Restaurant in the Manhattan's Ace Hotel. She wanted her friends,both food professionals, to taste it,it didn't go as she had thought it would. They were humiliated and rebuffed by haughty waiters who refused to serve her creation. A better move would have been skipping dessert and just handing the sweets over to friends after the expensive meal.
So, should you bring or not bring cake to a restaurant? If the restaurant says yes, then fine, if not have it at home. You'll save money along with keeping your favorite eatery's waitstaff and owner sweet