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An honest review of Carlo’s Bake Shop cake ATMs in Calgary

By Josie Simon, February 17 2022—

I tried one slice of cake from a Carlo’s Bake Shop Cake ATM and this is my honest review. 

First, there are four Calgary locations — CF Chinook Centre, The Core Shopping Centre, Southcentre Mall and Cross Iron Mills. The available flavours of cake include carrot, chocolate, red velvet and rainbow, all of which are $9.99.

I selected one slice of rainbow cake and the taste was exceptional. The sponge was light with a smooth vanilla flavour, while the frosting was thick with a creamy consistency and tasted of sugar, butter and vanilla. The side of the cake was decorated with rainbow sprinkles which added a delightful crunch. However, I wish the sprinkles were spread throughout the sponge layers as the additional texture would have contributed to a more complex sensory experience. 

The cake slices are substantially more expensive than traditional vending machine food. However, the $9.99 fee is reasonable compared to desserts sold in restaurants or bakeries. Additionally, each slice of cake is relatively large and could be shared between friends or eaten over a couple of days.

Overall, the ATM is very easy to use. First, you use the touch screen to select your chosen flavour and use either credit or debit to pay. After paying, the cake is dispensed from the machine and forks are available to the left of the ATM. While you can order online from carlosbakery.ca, the website does not sell single slices and the least expensive option is eight slices for $69.99.

Additionally, shipping is location-dependent but averages around $70 in Calgary. As the COVID-19 pandemic has led to food inflation and widespread food insecurity, the relationship between the value and cost of food has become a heightened concern for Canadians. Furthermore, Carlo’s Bake Shop online prices are inaccessible for the average student in Calgary. 

My primary criticism of Carlo’s Bake Shop Cake ATMs involves the packaging and larger implications for Calgary’s job market. The cake slices come in a single-use plastic wrapper which is neither resealable nor eco-friendly. As the slices are large and the ATMs are in shopping malls, I assume that a large consumer base would prefer to eat a portion of their cake in the mall and then at home.

However, as the wrapper is not resealable, the cake is hard to transport, which will ultimately lead to food waste. Not only is food waste bad for your wallet, but food waste in landfills creates a greenhouse gas called methane, which contributes to the release of carbon dioxide and global warming. Therefore, I believe that adding portion variety — like having a small, medium and large option — could prevent the cake slices from creating unnecessary food waste. 

Further, I am disappointed that the packaging will contribute to our growing climate crisis. Not only will the plastic wrapper never decompose but it will also contribute to global warming, spread toxins and endanger wildlife. 

In 2020, Calgary had one of the highest unemployment rates out of all metropolitan areas in Canada. While the ATMs will require restocking and routine maintenance, the establishment of a traditional bakery would have generated higher employment. Moreover, the cake ATMs come from a multi-million dollar American company called Carlo’s Bakery.

If you watched TLC in the mid-2000s, that name might sound familiar as the bakery was a part of a hit reality show called Cake Boss. Further, I think we should be asking ourselves whether we are sacrificing the betterment of our community in the name of convenience.

Overall, I give Carlo’s Bake Shop Cake ATMs a 2/5 rating for outstanding taste and questionable ethics.

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