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No, Publix wasn’t selling hurricane-themed cakes ahead of Hurricane Ian’s landfall

Here's the story behind that viral photo of cakes and cookies decorated with hurricanes made of icing.

Themed cakes are typically created to celebrate major milestones in people’s lives when a slice of frosted goodness might add a bit of sugar to times that are already sweet. Graduations, weddings and, of course, birthdays all come to mind when we think of events where a themed cake might be a fun addition. But buying a cake for a hurricane? Not so much.

On Sept. 26, ahead of Category 4 Hurricane Ian’s arrival in Florida, Twitter account @KnightfanNeal shared a photo that purported to show a table filled with desserts with unusual weather-themed decorations. 

“Rest of the world: ‘This week, Floridians prepare for what could be a catastrophic hurricane,’” starts the tweet, which has been liked more than 128,000 times and re-tweeted more than 12,500 times at the time of this story's publication. The tweet ends with the image of desserts preceded by the words, “Floridians preparing.”

The photo allegedly shows four hurricane-themed cakes and a stack of hurricane-themed cookie cakes sitting in the bakery section of a Publix grocery store in Orlando, Florida, a location the user themselves tagged in their tweet.

Reaction to this image was decidedly mixed, with many people taking to the comment section under the tweet to express their surprise at the desserts, which many feel is making light of a natural disaster:

“Hurricane Ian ‘could bring a level of destruction that many Southwest Florida residents may have never experienced,’” says one user on Twitter. “But people in Florida are busy buying hurricane cakes.”

“Everyone else’s hurricane prep is waters, boarding up, etc,” said another user. “Publix: hurricane cakes.”

Still, the image received its fair share of support from people living in and out of Florida.

“I love this.  I could eat one right now.  Very clever Florida!” said one Twitter user.

“If I was going through a hurricane I’d want a cake,” said another Twitter user. That’s fair.

So what’s going on here? Are hurricane cakes a thing? Well, yes and no.

While the image is real, cakes like these have appeared as early as 2019 when Hurricane Dorian hit Florida from the east, and Publix did in fact make and sell cakes like this

Additionally, you can tell the cookie cake in the now-viral image isn’t Hurricane Ian-themed but actually of Dorian because the icing hurricane is approaching from the wrong side of Florida to be Ian. (There’s a sentence I never thought I would type.)

The user themselves also later admitted that they didn’t actually take the image in their tweet, although by the time of their admission, several Floridians searched high and low attempting to get a hurricane-themed cake at Publix to no avail.

Still, there are many people in the lead up to Ian’s landfall who said that they have searched for Hurricane cakes at Publix only to be turned away. 

While hurricane-themed cakes were much more widespread in the past on supermarket shelves, the stormy desserts aren’t part of the menu at the grocery chain any longer.

When asked whether Publix still made hurricane-themed cakes, a representative had this to say to TODAY Food:

We appreciate your reaching out regarding decorated cakes from our bakery departments. Our associates make every effort to support our customers during weather events. Oftentimes, this includes finding ways to delight them with their favorite Publix items as they prepare for uncertainty.

For these requests in particular, it is our company policy to not produce bakery cakes that would make light of a natural disaster. We have sent communications to our stores reminding them of our policy. We regret if a store has not followed policy, and we are working to rectify the situation.

Our priority remains taking care of our customers, associates and communities as we prepare and respond to Hurricane Ian.

Maria Brous, director of communications for PUBLIX