In all the tweets, the Publix grocery store chain was associated with “hurricane cakes.”
Publix is a grocery store present in six southern states, including Florida, and the chain remained locally prominent (as explained in a 2019 food blog post):
Publix was a new-to-me grocery store when I moved to Atlanta over 10 years ago, but before I ever had the pleasure of shopping there, I’d already heard whispers of the store’s greatness. “Oh, you have to check out Publix while you’re there!” a friend told me before my first trip. “Try their fried chicken,” another insisted. And so my love affair with Publix began before I ever stepped through their door.
So, What’s the Deal with Publix?
Publix is a Southern supermarket chain with locations in six states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Founded in Florida in the 1930s, they are the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States. Publix has built its good reputation on making shopping pleasurable (their slogan is literally “Publix: Where Shopping Is a Pleasure”) and they more than deliver on this promise by making shopping easier, faster, and more pleasant.
Although the rumor about hurricane cakes ahead of Hurricane Ian in Florida was prominent and widely referenced, nearly all variations with images featured the same photograph. The oldest instance of the image we found was shared at 8:32 am on September 26 2022.
A repost of the image appeared two hours later, and this time it attracted a far larger amount of engagement. That tweet was geotagged at “Publix,” despite using a photograph that was originally shared by another account:
That account clarified in subsequent tweets that the image was not theirs:
Oh I didn’t [take the picture]. But people can think what they want ???? I just hope I’m not banned from Publix
The same account said that Publix stopped making hurricane cakes, tacitly complaining about putative offended people spoiling the tradition:
I’ve gotten multiple DMs from people saying they went to Publix to get a hurricane cake. Problem is, Publix has gotten too many complaints from this tweet saying it’s “insensitive” ???? Now Publix corporate has banned hurricane cakes.
Another commenter said that Publix hurricane cakes had been discontinued, claimed the image was from 2019, and discouraged complaints about availability of hurricane cakes:
On September 28 2022, Yahoo Life tweeted about Publix hurricane cakes, alluding to a different approach at the chain for Hurricane Ian:
In an attached article (“Publix is known for its ‘hurricane cakes,’ but is the tradition being shelved?”), an editor in search of a Hurricane Ian cake reported that they were unable to obtain one in September 2022. The story included commentary from Publix’s director of communications, confirming that the practice had been discontinued — perhaps due to the anticipated severity of Hurricane Ian and uncertainty about the prospective effect of an ongoing (and highly unpredictable) weather event.
After detailing how they visited two locations and attempted to place an order, the author continued:
But we did hear [back] from someone [about a hurricane cake order]: a cake decorator who left me a voicemail saying “because of the disaster,” she was unable to put the traditional hurricane design on a cookie cake. My husband was in route to pick it up, so he arrived to find a cake with a beach scene instead, still proclaiming, “Go away, Ian.”
Later, I called the Publix location and the employee, who did not wish to be identified, told me that individual stores had received a notice from corporate, saying because of the devastating damage caused by hurricanes, they were no longer able to make cakes involving “natural disasters.”
Maria Brous, the director or communications at Publix, tells Yahoo Life that Publix “associates make every effort to support customers during weather events.” Still, she confirms hurricane cakes should no longer be sold by any Publix stores.
“For these requests in particular, it is our company policy to not produce bakery cakes that would make light of a natural disaster,” she says. “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 [for] and respond to Hurricane Ian.”
Although a reverse image search was unable to match the September 2022 Publix hurricane cakes image, a September 2019 blog post (“Publix Is Selling ‘Hurri-Cakes’ in Honor of Hurricane Dorian — But Not Everyone is Laughing”) indicated that hurricane cakes for Dorian led to two distinct instances of backlash:
A popular Florida grocery chain is in some pretty hot water after the bakery department at select locations tried to make light of the oncoming — and historic — threat of Hurricane Dorian. Following the internet backlash, Publix ultimately apologized for selling the Hurricane Dorian cakes, but now, even that has sparked some backlash. In fact, some are saying the cakes were all in good fun, and argued that in times of tragedy, it can be nice to see stores try to put a smile on customers’ faces.
That post used Twitter to gauge reactions to Publix hurricane cakes, which appeared to be a localized and informal practice:
“Florida is somethin else,” joked Twitter user @AyanaTheDIVA, who posted pictures of both cakes to her Twitter page. People who happened upon her tweet seemed to fluctuate between finding it funny and finding it infuriating.
Some Twitter users thought the cakes were straight-up offensive, considering how deadly the storm has already become.
But not everyone was annoyed. In fact, some Floridians LOVED the cheeky desserts.
“It’s a way for Floridians (and other hurricane places) to relieve the stress and tension of THE WAIT,” one commenter wrote. “Also, many people have ‘Hurricane Parties’ where friends and family hang out together in the storm so they don’t worry about loved ones, and cake is good!”
Another person agreed.
In summary, Publix hurricane cakes became a topic of viral curiosity and debate after two tweets about them on the morning of September 26 2022. Of the two, the second tweet was by far the most popular — and its author later clarified they had not taken the picture. Publix hurricane cakes made headlines during and after Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, after which the chain issued an apology. Although the possibility of unauthorized Publix hurricane cakes remained, the chain officially confirmed that it advised all locations not to make hurricane cakes for Hurricane Ian in September 2022 — prompting some consternation directed at the specter of offended people.