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May 7, 2008 02:56 PM

Hostess tried to return my cake?

This is such a weird one.

My family was invited to a "party," really more of a dinner. I asked the hostess what I could bring, she said she didn't need anything. I'd normally bring a bottle of wine anyway, but since this was a "little kids included" party, I decided to make and bring a bundt cake.

The hostess seemed glad to get it and only had storebought cookies otherwise for dessert.

But then! She let me know about an hour after I got home that I "forgot my cake," and she would bring it to me the next morning. (Via email.) I didn't get the email until the following morning, was in and out, and didn't worry about it -- I don't *want* the cake back, it was supposed to be for them. But she called twice that morning and (I think) tried to stop by, too.

Am I crazy? Isn't it poor etiquette to try to return a dessert someone brought to you? I'm just baffled by this, and don't quite know how to take it.

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  1. IMO that is incredibly rude. I would respond with "I made it for you, but if you don't want it just throw it away." Said in a very sharp way, showing your displeasure. So sorry. Been there myself and it burns.

    3 Replies
    1. re: danhole

      I agree, that is just weird. What is up with people these days? Just eat it or throw it away for goodness sake. Returning it is like a slap in the face. "Here's your cake, we didn't think it worthy of our paletes!" If you are on a diet then toss it-trying to return a couple day old cake is just plain weird and rude.

      1. re: danhole

        I agree 100%. This happened to me as well. I brought an apple pie to a rather informal dinner and (1) the hostess didn't put it out on the table when dessert time arrived (she favored someone else's dessert) and (2) "remembered" the dessert 3/4ths through dessert that people were eating and then suggested it to folks who were done eating (as if anyone would want a second dessert) and then (3) tried to get me to "take it back" when we were leaving. i was rather curt and said exactly what danhole suggested - "i don't want it, it was for you, throw it away if you don't want it." i was beyond mortified and have crossed her off my future guest lists (other than holidays - where everyone has to be included). it was just so rude and so unnecessarily so. i'm sorry this happened to you - but it sounds (from the repetitive attempts to give the dessert back that this person is just clueless.)

        1. re: dtud

          From an etiquette standpoint, the hostess didn't *have* to put your dessert out; it's to be considered a gift from you to her...unless she asked you to bring dessert. However, when I read that she put out another dessert brought by someone else - yes, completely rude. And then asked you to take it back? Yikes.

      2. You asked what to bring, she said nothing, you decided to bring something anyway. She didn't want it and wants to bring it back to you (ie, she's not asking you to make another trip or do anything additional). I don't see anything to get upset about. She clearly didn't understand that you intended the cake as a gift. I'm not sure that I would either given the situation you describe.

        I'd take it as she was being honest and sincere when she said she didn't need anything. I'd get back in touch with her and explain your intent.

        edited to add: as I've thought about this, it seems pretty clear to me that she's not intending to be rude. She doesn't want the cake but doesn't want to waste it. For whatever reason, she thinks its better to try to bring it back to you. Ends up in the same place for me: no reason to be upset, either let her know you don't want it, or accept it back and do what you like with it.

        12 Replies
        1. re: ccbweb

          I'm kind of siding with ccbweb on this. It's strange that she offered to bring it back to you. Maybe she doesn't feel right wasting food and really has no need for the cake. If I was the host I guess I would have dumped it if I didn't want it to avoid the awkward situation that you feel you are now in. I would not over think this and get upset. People are weird and social graces have gone by the wayside. If you like this person, don't let this get in the way. Brush it off as it is really an insignificant incident. Too many real problem in life to deal with. Don't sweat the little things.

          1. re: ccbweb

            I'm with ccb on this. You brought something when she asked you not to, and she obviously does not want the cake. A lot of people see tossing food as a huge waste, so maybe she figures you can enjoy it.

            1. re: ccbweb

              I don't know; I thought it was standard etiquette to bring something, either flowers, wine or an edible, to a dinner/party. I've never encountered anyone either taking something back afterward or trying to give a person back their contribution.

              I'm not upset, I'm trying to understand what the proper etiquette is.

              1. re: WickedWit

                I think its the distinction between a host/hostess gift and something that can be interpreted as being for the meal itself. Wine or flowers or what have you would almost always (or should be) interpreted as a hostess gift. Attempting to return something like that (barring one of those uncomfortable "I'm a recovering alcoholic" moments) would certainly be something I'd qualify as "rude."

                If you ask what you can bring, that implies "for the dinner" and the host declines anything, I think it safest to avoid bringing anything that would be interpreted as being for the dinner or taking a moment to explain that you don't intend her to serve it, its just a thank you and for her and her family later on.

                I do agree, I'd bring _something_ as a hostess gift but if I've asked what they need for the meal and they tell me "oh, don't bring anything," I avoid food and only bring wine if I know they drink.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  Yes, bringing something that by implication would or could be part of the meal is out of line. I'll offer to bring a maybe a salad or dessert, but if I'm asked not to do that then I'll bring flowers or wine. Choosing one appropriate to the menu (if you know its main constituents) is acceptable, but if they're serving a fish mousse and you've shown up with a big Bordeaux, assure your host or hostess that it's for the cellar.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    May I also point out, as has been pointed out in the boards many times: Bringing food as a hostess gift to someone who has held a party is not always a help: It requires space that is not always available.

                    We've also had significant and lengthy discussions on this board about guests who insist on bringing food after being told 'no'. Given the way the OP referred to the hostess dessert (without the cake) as insufficient ('only store bought cookies, otherwise'), I wonder about the mood of the entire encounter.

                    Also, if she offered the cake at dessert, perhaps she thought you might want it back. And yes, perhaps she didn't want it for any number of reasons but why stress? Why not think the best of someone who is ostensibly your friend (she invited you into her home for meal)?

                    There is a lot of talk of etiquette on the boards as well-- the word comes up again and again. Sometimes it's there as a guideline for behaviour (why we like it, so we know how to act in a number of circumstances) but all too often it is raised as some kind of bludgeon of excoriation. As Miss Manners has pointed out on a number of occasions: pointing out someone broke social rules is possibly the greatest breach of etiquette, whose purpose is to facilitate encounters and interactions-- not make them even more fraught with potential for offense and unhappiness.

                    Do not listen to those who advocate icy, stern, or hostile responses couched in the pretence of politeness. It is not polite to make someone feel bad about how they are behaving. Do you not want the cake? Simply tell the person not to worry, that you hope she might enjoy the leftovers, but if not, accept the cake back if it makes her feel better.

                    Goodness, the way I've written here, you'd hardly know that I am one of the grouchiest misanthropes around!

                2. re: WickedWit

                  WickedWit, did you end up getting the cake back?

                  Did you try a 'no that's okay I don't want it back' response?

                3. re: ccbweb

                  < I'm not sure that I would either given the situation you describe.> what is it you don't understand about the civility of bringing a hostess gift when you go to someone's home?

                  In fact, the gift would still be appropriate if the hostess HAD requested the OP to bring something specific. It's just the nice thing to do!

                  imho trying to return a cake like that is the height of gauche. not to mention hurtful.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Point being that given the exchange and the way the OP described the event/situation, I don't think it was clear that the cake was intended as a gift. If that were made clear, I agree that it would be impolite to try to return it after the fact. If it seemed to the hostess that the cake had been brought as an unnecessary addition to the dinner, then perhaps she was trying to keep the cake from going to waste.

                    If you read my other post above, you'll find that I agree wholeheartedly with bringing a nice gift when going to someone's house for dinner.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      Based on the OP's statement that because it was a "little kids included" party, she decided to bring a cake, it seems clear to me that the cake was intended to be eaten at the party. I agree with those who say it's bad form to bring a food item to a party that you intend for people to eat at the party, especially after being asked not to. A host/ess gift should be given with the intent (explicit, if necessary) that the host enjoy it at his/her leisure.

                      Still, I think it's a bit off for the hostess to make such a big deal of trying to return it. I can't even speculate about her motives. Weird.

                  2. re: ccbweb

                    I think ccweb is right -- she didn't think it was a gift, but rather a meal contribution. Very often, I am invited to things that require me to bring a dish, and the etiquette seems to be "take it back home with you if it isn't eaten." I don't usually want any of the food back, and sometimes I can get someone else to take it if the hostess doesn't want it, but I would guess that she really does think you might expect it to take it back.

                    BTW, at the last big bash at our place before the holidays, we provided everything -- buffet entrees and appetizers, booze, fruit, salad, etc., and decided to allow guests to bring dessert if they offered. At least six people showed up with cakes and cookies, and there was just so much left over that we insisted on sending it back home with them. It would have gone to waste because we couldn't possibly eat it and most would have been thrown out. I don't think anyone was offended, but it did occur to me that perhaps I should have been a little more specific with my generous guest/dessert contributors rather than allow a situation in which some of them decided to bring two cheesecakes. The problem here was that I did not try to coordinate it, and didn't even know that some people were bringing food.

                    I would call her and explain that it was meant to be a gift, and if it was not eaten at the party, you would love for them to enjoy the cake themselves. I wouldn't take offense.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      If I've got a cake I don't want, I'll bring it to work. Nobody at work ever says no to cake. If she doesn't have a group at work or church or a club that would enjoy it, yes, I'd toss it and simply say, "It was delicious," if asked.

                      Everyone seems concerned about the receiver's feelings, nobody seems concerned about the giver's feelings. Even if bringing the cake is construed as a breach of ettiquette, returning it simply compounds things, waste or no waste. It's a gift.

                    2. Some people can not have cake in their house or they will hear it calling all day, yet they have been taught not to throw things away. She probably means well. Maybe just a lesson not to repeat the experience with this particular person. Personally I would have thrown it away if I could not have it around, but we all come with baggage.

                      1. Yeah, I'm with ccbweb on this too. You asked, she said nothing, then I'd bring nothing. I may on the phone say, "oh are you sure." I could bring this ?? If she says, "no worries. I've got everything covered" then I'd bring nothing.

                        I do find it strange how insistent she is about trying to get it back to you. Emailed, called twice, may have stop by. Crazy. If I were in her situation, it be going straight to work. Food disappears in an instant when you take it to work and feed the masses. A cake would be like gold to my co-workers

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: livetocook

                          "If I were in her situation, it be going straight to work."

                          That's what I was thinking, too, but perhaps she doesn't work, or perhaps, like me, she works in an office where there's only two other people, and it still won't get eaten.

                          I'm in agreement with ccbweb on this, too.

                        2. I am also with ccweb on this. Had you brought some chocolates or something that would not have gone bad or stale within a day or 3 then it would have been rude of her but it was a homemade cake and maybe they just don't eat cakes or someone has a gluten allergy in the family and it would be a temptation. It's kinda odd but I guess she felt your family could use it more than hers.