You Will Eat My Dessert

by admin on September 13, 2012

I have been pondering for some time whether or not to submit this story on my mother’s behalf. It is something that comes up quite frequently whenever our family is planning a party. Ultimately I would like to know if this story will land anyone in e-hell or if my mother is being dramatic.

A couple of years ago my family threw a Memorial Day party, a nice get together with many of our closest friends and relatives. My mother is an amazing hostess and is known to leave no detail undone, no belly empty. We often joke that my mother makes enough food for an army and that we would need to invite the guests over again for lunch the next day just to finish off the left overs.  Many of the guests, although unnecessary, end up bringing a sweet hostess gift for my mother. These gifts usually are in the form of flowers or something of the sort. As everyone is accustomed to my mother’s abundance of food, people generally shy away from bringing anything food related. This party however, a friend of ours brought a beautiful store bought chocolate cake. My mother accepted the gift with no qualms but was required to place the cake on the back counter as the dessert table was very full with her homemade delicious. This in turn, is no etiquette breach; the breach comes when dessert time comes around.

At the time that folks are starting to make their way over to the very full dessert table the cake bringing guest takes it upon herself to take the cake out from the counter and cram it onto the dessert table. Not only has she pushed some of my mother’s delicious desserts to the back of the table but she is now parked at the table cutting and serving this cake. Most of this, a little odd at best, I could deal with. The kicker to it was that she basically forced anyone within 10 feet of the table to take a large slab of this dessert. My mother tried to use her polite spine and suggest that we let people serve themselves; this party was primarily buffet style. Cake bringing guest refuses and stands there until pretty much everyone at the party had taken a slice. Because of the pushiness and hovering over the table, many guests were unable or too full to enjoy any of my mother’s homemade desserts.

After the party my mother was really annoyed that cake bringing guest was so adamant about this cake. It really bothered her that even after asking her to basically back off that she was still forcing cake on everyone. It hurt my mother’s feelings as well that she was pretty much stopping other guests from getting to and enjoying my mother’s desserts.

The question remains, was the cake bringing guest in the wrong or is my mother just hyper sensitive to the subject? Please advise! 0829-12


It’s been my observation that people such as your cake bearing guest who compels other guests to take a portion of their dish are not people who entertain themselves. If they did, they’d be finding their own contentment in serving what they really love or think their guests would enjoy.  But they don’t host so they are obliged to piggyback on the efforts of other hosts.

Guest was pushy but it appears most of your other guests lacked any spine to decline a dessert they may not have preferred.    No one would have made me take a slice of chocolate cake if there was a homemade cherry pie among the other dessert choices.  And your Mom can stiffen her spine a little more and just quietly remove the cake from the dessert buffet.  At a buffet at my own house, a new guest, unfamiliar with how I set up my buffet, proceeded to completely rearrange my set up.  Without a word, I promptly rearranged it back to how I had originally laid it out.  And I did it right in front of her.  She knew immediately she had overstepped herself, apologized and no more was thought of it.   The minute that cake walked out of the kitchen and onto the buffet, your Mom can just as promptly remove it and walk it right back into the kitchen.  If guest takes issue with this, a calm reply, “When it is your party, you can decide what and when to serve your guests.  I prefer my guests to have first choice of the desserts already on the buffet.”

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

ferretrick September 13, 2012 at 5:47 am

Guest certainly was pushing and overstepping, but I think your mother started the rudeness by banishing guest’s cake to the back counter where no one would see it, as though it was beneath all the homemade dishes she made. No, a store bought cake is not as nice as homemade, but not everyone’s a baker, and your mother sent a nice message that the cake her guest had spent good money for everyone to enjoy just wasn’t worthy of her precious homemade dessert table. If she didn’t want to serve it in the store bought container, that’s fine, put it on your own dish, but don’t banish it out of sight. Your mother was given a gift and was accepted it in the most ungracious manner possible. It sounds like her “hospitality” has a lot more to do with showing off her culinary skills than it does a true desire to welcome people into her home. I’d act accordingly and decline her future invitations; I’d rather be a real guest than an audience member.


Bint September 13, 2012 at 5:48 am

Oh, yes, she was in the wrong. I can’t stand people doing this – it’s rude enough in their own home to force food on people, but to do it in someone else’s is inexcusable.

This reminds me of my best friend’s mother when I was little, who always forced pudding on us. The interaction never changed:

Mother: Would you like some pie?

Child: No, thank you.

Mother: Oh, you have to have some. I made it specially.

She was the worst cook in the universe. Crab apple pie without sugar, rock hard sponges…nice to make the effort, but not nice of her to ask the child then ignore their request.

I suspect the guest knew her shop-bought chocolate cake was going to be ignored against the mother’s puddings, and wanted to show everyone HER hospitality was right up there! Or something equally silly.


Cherry September 13, 2012 at 5:59 am

Ah… chocolate cake… some days I can eat nothing but, some days I can’t stand the sight of it…

Someone trying to force it on me usually pushes me into the second camp.


Puzzled September 13, 2012 at 6:53 am

A hostess gift is just that, a gift to the hostess. It is not required that it be served at the function if it is food or drink. She wasn’t rude to put the cake away after going to the trouble of hosting the party to begin with. The rudeness is all on the part of the cake bringer. It’s just as bad to “help” without asking as it is to not offer to help in the first place. I cannot abide people who are this pushy, and if I had been a guest, I would have said something to her when she tried to push the cake at me.


The Elf September 13, 2012 at 7:05 am

I could understand moving the cake to the dessert table, but cutting and serving it is too much. For a serve-yourself buffett style affair, each person should take what they want and only what they want.


jch September 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

Both OP and Admin have focused on the guest’s behavior, which was certainly over the line. But I think it started much earlier, with the hostess herself, and there was a breach of etiquette on both sides.
True, the guest was much too pushy in forcing her dessert on everyone, and taking it upon herself to jump into the serving side of the entertainment without asking the hostess if she wanted help. But I do wonder if maybe she did so because she felt slighted by the reception of her hostess gift.
I think it was a bit rude and ungrateful of the hostess to shove the woman’s cake into the back. How hard could it be to make a little room for it? I am assuming it was presented in the same vein as every other hostess gift — as a token of appreciation, and one which should be graciously accepted regardless of whether or not the hostess had enough desserts already. I imagine the guest felt rather hurt to see her cake not even placed on the dessert table – I can easily see her actions a result of anger/hurt feelings… Doesn’t mean she was right to handle it the way she did, but I can understand she might have felt slighted.

I think the OP’s mother could have been much more gracious and accommodating at the start. Being a hostess — even an exceptional one, as is implied here — doesn’t mean you always need to be Star of the Day. I am sure the spotlight (in this case, space on the dessert table) could have been shared more willingly. A few inches of space and a sincere “thank you” for a guest’s initial thoughtfulness, whether it is wanted/needed or not, could have avoided the little power play that resulted.


Shannon September 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

The whole thing just strikes me as completely childish and ridiculous, on both the hostess’ and guest’s side. I host often, and when people bring things I make room for them on the buffet. Doesn’t matter what it is – someone took the time and effort to bring a treat to share with the group, and I’m going to put it out there to be enjoyed. Otherwise you’re turning up your nose at a gift, and I don’t care if you’re the Greatest Bestest Baker Ever and your parties are a Smorgasbord of All that Is Perfect…that’s just RUDE. It’s like the hostess can’t bear to share the spotlight, even a little bit.

I agree with ferretrick’s theory that the guest was miffed the hostess made a production out of hiding the (gasp!) store-bought dessert and overreacted.


Cerys September 13, 2012 at 7:31 am

Had the guest made the cake herself, I could understand her need for validation of her skills. I could even understand why she was so pushy about it, even though such behaviour is unpleasant. But a shop-bought cake? What was she trying to prove? ‘Hey, I’m so well-off I don’t NEED to make things myself’?

If the cake in question HAD been baked by the guest, then I’d agree that placing it on the back counter could be seen as inconsiderate of the guest’s feelings. But it wasn’t, and the guest was rude to shove the other desserts aside so she could force it on other party-goers.


Chicalola September 13, 2012 at 7:42 am

The cake was a gift for the hostess, to do with as she pleased. She was under no obligation to put the cake out for everyone to eat. She had already planned and served what she wanted. It was her party, wasn’t it? I would not have felt obligated to take a piece of the cake, even if being forced by the cake bringer. I feel sorry for your mother, who obviously has a great time entertaining.


Lori September 13, 2012 at 7:46 am

A hostess is not obligated to serve food brought as a hostess gift, just as she is not obligated to serve wine or any other delectible brought by a guest. The hostess has set her menu; it is not up to others to alter that menu, however well-intentioned the guest or how delicious the offering.

If the cake guest wants to serve, she must do so at her own dinner party.


hakayama September 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

The Old World traditional “guidelines” for guests dictated that wine, candy or flowers were acceptable gifts for the hosts. It goes without saying that anything else messes up carefully planned and balanced menus, and might lead to situations described by the OP.
Culture shock has many facets, and the “What can I bring?” question initially brought on perplexity and vehement protests. Later on, we got less upset by the concept of unwanted and objected to “contributions”.
Giving a place of honor to said unnecessary, unwanted and often objectionable gifts of food, only sends the message that when I say “no”, I mean “maybe” or even “yes”.
I hope that the guest that hijacked the BUFFET dessert table was never invited again… The self-important callous dumb cluck! 😉


L.J. September 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

It’s a hostess gift. The hostess could have wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator for the next day and that would have been perfectly fine. If someone brings wine as a hostess gift, and the hostess has already chosen a wine to serve that night, she can put the bottle away for another day. I would not have invited the cake-bringer back.


Marc Sulinski September 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

It seems some people don’t really understand what a hostess gift is. It is simply a gift to the hostess, not part of a potluck dinner. The hostess is under no obligation to actually serve the gift at the party. This goes for chocolate cake, wine, etc.. Of course, if the hostess wants to, she certainly can serve the item.

Hosting a party is difficult enough as it is. There is no reason a hostess has to figure out how to serve every random food dish brought by guests.


Margo September 13, 2012 at 7:56 am

Guest was rude and pushy, but I agree with those saying the OP’s Mother could have handled this better.

She should have either added the cake to the buffet, treating it just the same as the other, home made desserts. Or Alternatively chosen not to include it all, treating it as a hostess gift rather than as a contribution to the buffet, and thanked the guest, saying she’d enjoy it, it would be nice to have a treat she hadn’t had to bake herself etc., and taken it off the guest and put it away in the kitchen.

Adding it to the buffet but sticking it at the back as if it were second rate was petty and unkind to a guest.

Although it is awkward when you are trying not to make a scene, it also sounds as though OP’s mother could have been a little firmer about stpping Guest forcing it on others.
Deflect it by making it about there not being space for servers,for instance, or a firm, “no, no, you’re my guest, I won’t hear of you acting as a server”


Spuck September 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

I think that complaining about the hostess putting the cake on the counter is splitting hairs. Her table was already full of desert that she had specifically made for her party. If the cake bringer had any idea about the hostess’s tendencies that person would have known better that to bring food. If not, it isn’t her place to rearrange the food table. It would be as bad if she decided to change around her host’s directions or rearranging a book shelf that is not in alphabetical order. The cake brother was the only performing all the social faux passes.


hakayama September 13, 2012 at 8:01 am

It’s not about “spotlight”… it’s about coo-coo bird-like behavior of taking over someone else’s nest.
Also, the hostess was not necessarily HIDING the cake. She probably just set it aside since the dessert table had been already nicely arranged.
Presentation. The “cake guest” messed it up.


Ripple September 13, 2012 at 8:09 am

The hostess was under no obligation to put out the extra cake. She went to a lot of effort to provide a sufficiency of food for her guests. Miss Manners says that hostesses do not have to offer food brought to a dinner party if it does not fit their menu, so why would it be different for a buffet? And to force guests to take the cake rather than some of the other desserts was just beyond rude. If I were the hostess, that guest would not be on any invite list for the near (or ever) future.


Shoebox September 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

I’m having a bit of trouble imagining how a dessert could be ‘forced’ on anyone. Visions of the server chasing people round threatening to smear cake on their white shirts come to mind…

…Seriously, there’s more than enough blame to go around, here. Guest’s behaviour was appalling (albeit possibly cluelessly so — some people do just equate hospitality with insistently offering food), but Hostess could’ve been much more gracious about the gift in the first place.

No, she wasn’t technically rude, but the ‘I am the most wonderful baker EVER’ thing is off-putting enough in the story that I can easily imagine it being so in real life.


yokozbornak September 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

The hostess didn’t ask her to bring a dessert, and she had no obligation to serve it. The guest was extremely rude.


Bowser September 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

I’m a little confused, but isn’t a hostess gift for the hostess? Isn’t it up to the hostess to decide what to do with it?


MiseryLovesYou September 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

I think the root cause of the issue here is that if a person is not used to hosting their own affairs, they probably don’t know that when they bring a gift the expectation is that the host has the option to NOT serve it. E-Hell is doing it’s part to make the world a better place by making people aware of this expectation, but I’m sure there will be some debate about whether its a valid expectation in the first place.

As someone who has given up hosting because of event after event of ungracious guests, I side with the mother here. Many people have no idea of the insane amount of work it takes to throw a nice party. After all that work of creating the experience that she wants to offer her guests, it is understandable that she would be annoyed that someone else who did literally no work (picking up a cake from the store is not work) would demand that their vision is now what the guests are going to experience. What an ugly way to show gratitude for your hostess.


Ellie September 13, 2012 at 8:28 am

A “hostess gift,” is a gift for the hostess. Were I the hostess faced with this gift I would have said, “Oh! Thank you so much. It will be lovely to have a dessert to serve the family tomorrow when I am tired and trying to relax. How thoughtful of you.” Then, I would have taken the cake out of the guest’s sight, and put it in the fridge.


Stacey Frith-Smith September 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

I agree with Admin- and this is the sad state of affairs we have because people have become so accustomed to being required to bring a dish, or providing beverages, or stopping to pick up dessert… It’s as if we can no longer arrange any other form of dinner but a potluck. It is so nice when a host or hostess offers a lovely meal and no one has the prerogative to step in and add to it. A gift of food, wine or fruit is a gift, and need not be served with the food already laid out. Guests who are offended at this should simply host an event at which their own choices in food and drink can prevail. And commandeering the dessert station? Oy!


KarenK September 13, 2012 at 8:35 am

Sorry, no. I completely disagree with the PPs who stated that the OP’s mom was at all rude by not putting the guest’s cake on the table. This was not a pot luck dinner. This was a hosted event, with the hostess providing everything. The guest, by insisting that her cake be served, was criticizing the hospitality provided.

I usually try to avoid stating an opinion too strongly on this board, but I can’t help it here. The OP’s mom was not obligated to serve the cake at all. She could have put it in the refrigerator or the cupboard. She did absolutely nothing wrong at all, and I can’t believe anyone could possibly think she did.

I actually think she was very gracious not to walk directly over and take the cake back off the table.

As for the forcing of the cake on people to the exclusion of the hostess’s dessert offerings, this was pretty darn rude, but I agree with the Admin – where were the guests’ spines? I can tell you, as much as I love chocolate cake, if there had been cheesecake anywhere in the vicinity, you would have had to tie me down and force-feed me the chocolate cake.

OP, I’m sorry your mother had her wonderful hospitality thrown back in her face by this pushy woman. I assume she will be rethinking inviting her in the future.


Cat September 13, 2012 at 8:48 am

If the hostess had asked the guest to bring a dessert, then she would have been wrong not to place it front and center on the dessert table. She did not do that; a guest chose to bring her a gift.
A hostess gift is a gift to her, just as a bottle of wine would have been. Does she have to serve the wine then and there? No, she can put it away. The cake should have gone directly to the freezer with the comment, “Thank you so much. I know we will enjoy your cake after supper one night.”

The guest was rude and far too pushy. She should have been told that she was blocking the buffet line and told she had to move. “Perhaps you would like to stand in the kitchen and serve cake to those who want it there. ” I would not invite her again.

I faced a situation in which I was asked to bring a hot dish to a luncheon. I made sweet and sour pork with rice. The hostess refused to serve it, but brought out stale sandwiches she had made the day before. The bread was dry and hard. I left after an hour and regret not taking my sweet and sour pork with me so I could have enjoyed it. Why ask me to bring a hot dish and refuse to serve it?


Shawna September 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

This gift falls under the heading of hostess gift. This was not a potluck. When you bring a hostess gift it is not up to you if it is served or not. The hostess was right by keeping it in the kitchen. It was her gift. The hostess might have said when the cake was presented “thanks, this is a great hostess gift. I’ll just put it away. ” Have we forgotten how to be good guests.

The lady who brought the cake was wrong. The hostess did not ask or need help hosting. This guest would not be invited back to my house if it were me. I would have pulled cake lady aside and had a private word with her.


Cobbs September 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

Once a gift is given the giver surrenders any authority over it.


DGS September 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

I think both parties were rude. The guest was certainly too pushy in forcing her cake onto people, while the OP’s mother was rude in banishing the cake to a back table, as that sent a message, intentional or not, that the guest’s cake was unwelcome. If the purpose of the party is entertain guests, share good food and enjoy one another’s company, then why not make some space on the table for the chocolate cake and let guests help themselves? If the purpose is to show off OP’s mother’s culinary prowess, then, by all means, serve only the food she made, but also communicate to those who are invited that no other food is welcome.

I am a very good baker, and I generally make all the desserts I serve at a party or holiday gathering, from scratch, while my sisters-in-law seldom bake and generally bring storebought cakes and pies as hostess gifts. All get served, and guests help themselves. Usually, my homemade goodies get eaten with no leftovers remaining, while there are leftovers of the storebought stuff, but we are not picky about it. DH and I are more than happy to nosh on those dessert leftovers after the party over the next few days, and I don’t discourage them from being brought because I sincerely appreciate that my SIL’s thought to bring me a hostess gift, and because a delicious dessert is always a treat, homemade or storebought. If I don’t like something someone brought, I will usually bring it to work and leave it in the breakroom, as everything left there gets eaten. Problem solved!

Of course, the guest should not have shoved the cake down other people’s throats, but I am surprised that more people did not show their polite spine if they did not want to take a peace and simply say, “No, thank you. I must insist. I would prefer to try some cherry pie instead”.


Margaret September 13, 2012 at 9:10 am

I think this started as a misunderstanding. It sounds to me as if the hostess received the cake as a gift and dealt with it accordingly, but that the guest had given it as a contribution to a potluck, in which case it should be served. As for whether it should have been served on the dessert table — well, I’d like to see the table set up. A cake large enough to serve large slices to a party was probably quite sizeable. I’m guessing half slab sizes like the cakes you can get from costco. That takes up a significant amount of table space. the pushiness in serving it was out of line. But if I were a guest and was forced to take a big piece of cake, I might have eaten a couple of bites (and maybe not, because I make awesome chococlate cake and so far, all storebought chocolate cakes taste cardboardy in comparison), and then I would have abandoned the cake and gone back for the good stuff!!! It also strikes me that if the guest shoved the homemade desserts to the back and then stood there serving the cake, it might have been very difficult for any guest to actually reach the homemade desserts and serve themselves.

Side story — one time I brought a decorated cake to a family event at my mom’s. I put it with the two other desserts my mom had provided. The dessert area was set up where people would walk past after going through the buffet line, so everyone would have had a chance to see it. I’m no professional, but I’m a reasonably good amateur. One of my aunts was puttering around trying to help my mom set things out, and she sliced up my cake before almost anyone had had a chance to see it and before I had gotten a chance to take a picture of it.


Annie September 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

If it’s a hostess gift, the hostess has the right to do whatever she wishes with it. Why shouldn’t she tuck it out of sight? Perhaps she wishes to enjoy it privately later (I know I would want to keep a chocolate cake to myself if anyone brought me one : )


Nicole September 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

The cake was a hostess gift and it would have been perfectly accepted for your mother to put the cake away and not serve it at all. She could have thanked the guest and made some mention of how much the family would enjoy the cake tomorrow.

I was invited to a party last year and was asked to bring a dessert. Imagine my surprise when the pie I baked not only wasn’t served, but the host mentioned that he would be taking it to his parent’s house later! I had no problem bringing a dessert for that party, I just didn’t know I was helping to cater another event!


Anastasia September 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

Perhaps the hostess didn’t put the cake towards the back out of superiority? Maybe she just thought, ” Finally! I get to enjoy one nice dish ALL BY MYSELF later on!”


Cammie September 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

Ferretrick, jph, Shannon;

The hostess did nothing wrong, and it’s completely inappropriate to suggest otherwise. A gift is a gift and the giver has shoud have no expectation that her “contribution” will be used as she would prefer.
She was not asked to bring food, so it wasn’t that her donation wasn’t up to snuff, it’s that she dictated how and when her “gift” was to be used by the hostess. That’s not a gift at all. Had she brought a massive bunch of flowers should the hostess have rearranged her whole table to accomodate them, or given a blossom to each guest? Or better yet, shoud the gifter have ripped apart the bouquet and handed out flowers herself?

The guest, on the other hand, should be mortified at her behaviour and not be surprised that invitations start drying up. I’m sure the rest of the guests wouldn’t want that scene reinacted in their homes.


Chrysla September 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

As I was reading this I became confused. Was this a hostess gift or not? If this was a hostess gift, then the hostess can do whatever she wants with it and that includes throwing it in the garbage or wearing it on her head. If this was brought to share with others, it should have been cleared with the hostess first. No one should bring food to a party to be shared with others without the hostess’s approval. IF the hostess wanted to share HER gift with others then it could be put on the table. What if the hostess wanted to save it and eat it on her own after all the partying was done or have it in the evenings after dinner for a week? I am just confused why a hostess gift MUST be shared with guests.


chechina September 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

I think the guest was being rude and excessive, but I must admit that after reading again and again and again how delicious OP’s mom’s homemade goods are, my sympathy for the guest was peaked a bit. If your mom’s table was so full of “homemade delicious”, then why did it matter if she made room for some cake? She hosts often; people know how super-duper-awesome she is. I only feel sorry for the guests who were stuck in this awkward situation.


Rap September 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

I have to agree with Shannon. The guest was out of line to essentially run the desert table, but the hostess wasn’t very gracious either. And I have always thought that the mark of a good hostess was acknowledging a hostess gift with use and being gracious about it. I can remember visiting a friend’s home for Thanksgiving dinner and being an awkward 21 year old but knowing that I needed to bring a gift to my friend’s mom. I, knowing nothing about wine pairing, got a bottle of red and a bottle of white – nice wine but maybe 30 bucks total. Expensive for me, not even in the ball park for my host family who I realized were well above my folks in economic stature. But, my host graciously accepted the two bottles with a smile and a delighted “Wonderful! I needed something to serve with the appetizers and this way I’ve got something for the red fans and the white fans, its so nice when April brings her friends, what a lovely gift” and made me feel completely comfortable… when in fact I know in normal circumstances, NY wine would never have sullied their glasses. (figured that out later, but I always appreciated that my friend’s mom was welcoming and made it a point to thank me in both words and actions)


Cheyne September 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

A hostess gift is just that, a gift. The hostess is not obligated to serve said gift during the meal that the giver have been invited to. Mother was not rude by not serving the chocolate cake, perhaps she was saving it for herself to eat later, freezing it, or donating it to the local homeless shelter. It doesn’t matter what Mother was going to do with it, as it was a gift for the hostess, not part of a potluck contribution.

Think of it this way, if I bring a lovely bottle of red wine to my dinner hostess, she is not obliged to serve the wine with her seafood dinner. The wine is a gift to the hostess, and as long as she acknowledges the gift and thanks me for it, it is hers to do with as she wishes.


esh September 13, 2012 at 10:05 am

So what some of you are saying is that if I show up at your party with a new main dish as a hostess gift you are obliged to serve it? Hmmmm. I’m thinking not. A gift is just that, and once given is out of control of the giver. Had the hostess chosen to serve it that would have been fine. Her choice not to serve it was also fine. I think stashing it on a back counter hardly qualifies as making a production out of hiding it- it had to go somewhere. I think the guest was out of line to put the cake on a food table for a party she wasn’t hosting, and I think standing at the table serving was just plain passive/aggressive (oh here, let me help you by trying to take over your party…)


Lerah99 September 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

Hostess gifts are just that, they are a gift for the hostess. If you bring a bottle of wine, the hostess is under NO obligation to serve it at that time. If you bring a cake, the hostess is under NO obligation to serve it as dessert with the meal.
Maybe the hostess LOVES chocolate cake and just can’t bring herself to share it. Instead she is going to spend the next week savoring every single bite by herself. That is her prerogative.

It seems to me the guest didn’t know this about hostess gifts. So she felt slighted when her cake wasn’t presented on the dessert table. And in a huff, she decided to “right the wrong”. She was pushy and out of line.


Brockwest September 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

This question is a lot tougher than most. Strictly speaking, etiquette states that a gift to the hostess does not have to be served at that time (think hostess-supplied wine paired with her dinner, when a guest brings wine.) In that case, the offered wine is graciously accepted and put away for another day.
In the case of a buffet of food, and someone bringing a dish, pot-luck as it were, there becomes other issues. I agree with admin. that such a guest is piggybacking onto someone else’s affair, but in this case, because there was a buffett involved, I think the simplest solution would have been to put the cake with the other desserts.
The awkward part becomes the cake-lady becoming the dessert-hostess which she had not earned.

In my own experience, I bite my lip and let it happen. To remove the cake would be a direct social confrontation, that if it is a friend or relative, is just not worth the hassle. I HAVE seen MANY women directly order “helpers” out of their kitchens, tut-tutting them that this is the guest’s time to mingle. I haven’t been successful with this myself.

Had it been a sit-down multi-course dinner, without a selection, then my opinion would be stronger that the hostess has the absolute right to save the cake for another occasion. I would not like to prepare a full dinner, only to have someone else that their offering be used Instead.

There are a lot of situations that a strict etiquette book would dictate one outcome, but life’s realities dictate another. If a direct social confrontation is required, then one has to decide if the possible loss of a friendship is worth the argument.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a guest pull up a chair to the buffet table itself and Hog the entire Shrimp bowl. I chose not to say anything, but also chose not to invite that particular guest again. I’ve had guests that have taken it upon themselves to “donate” their singing voices to a paid professional musician I had hired. Again, I chose not to make a confrontation.
On the other hand, as I mentioned in a previous post, when I found a guest had taken three of my bottles of wine and hidden them for herself, I did choose to confront the situation, and take the bottles from her hiding place and serve them to my guests.

So you have to weigh the situations individually. Think of it this way, if everyone became etiquette-compliant, what would admin. have discuss?


Cat September 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

It was a hostess gift. The hostess was under no obligation to serve the cake. She should have put it directly into the freezer. Same thing with a bottle of wine presented as a gift. One serves other food only if the hostess has requested people to bring items to be eaten at the party. That was not the case here.
The guest had no business forcing the hostess to serve the cake and certainly no right to force it upon others so that the food the hostess had prepared was left and not eaten.


Lisa September 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

This reminds me of last Thanksgiving when I was hosting a large group of friends and family. I always make sure to have enough food and assortment of beverages so that everyone can enjoy what they like and made sure to include a nice selection of good quality wines. Of course, many of the guests brought nice hostess gifts, including a few bottles of wine to be shared; however the boyfriend of one of my guests brought wine for only himself and his girlfriend. During dinner, he kept the open bottle right next to his plate and it didn’t cross his mind to offer anyone else a glass, replenishing only their glasses. Incidentally she recognized this breach of etiquette and apologized, but it was still rather amusing and not lost on anyone.


Betty Edit September 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

I don’t see how placing the cake on the counter is much different than telling someone that no, your granddaughter may not sing at my wedding ( This is the mother’s specific event, and, just like a wedding or wedding reception, she may have had each course planned so that all the tastes complement each other, and everything is coordinated exactly how she wants it. It is not a matter of sharing the spotlight or turning up your nose, it is a matter of being the hostess and conducting your own event as you planned it, serving your guests as you prefer.

Would it have been “nicer” for the hostess to place this cake on the table instead of the counter? I guess so, but she was under no obligation to do so, nor was it a breach of etiquette or display of ingratitude to place it where she did. It sounds like most guests knew that additional food was not needed, and the guests were certainly not asked to bring anything to supplement the meal, so for the cake-bringer to expect her own cake to be placed on the table and supplant the other desserts is the equivalent of saying, “I know you orchestrated this whole thing and spent hours preparing and planning and baking, but my dessert is more important than yours, because only by cutting and serving this cake will I feel like I am truly appreciated as a guest.” Makes no sense.

At any rate, I see no reason why the hostess should be accused of any poor behavior. As long as she expresses gratitude for the cake and thanks the cake-bringer in writing afterwards, I don’t see any faux pas.

As for me personally, I would probably find a place on the table for the cake, but then again, I am a different person than OP’s mother, and I have a different style of hosting dinners.


E September 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

A “hostess gift” is not the same thing as “a contribution to a potluck.” If you give a hostess a nice jar of jam, a collection of chocolates, etc she is not required to open them up during your visit. The same is true of a dessert. This hostess clearly had dessert taken care of, and had spent a lot of time and effort to do so. Perhaps she wanted to save the cake for a lunch she was hosting in two days? If someone is not hosting a potluck, it is very presumptuous to bring something and expect it to be included in what is most likely a very well-thought-out meal. For example, if I have prepared an Asian-style dinner party, from appetizers to dessert and someone thinks to bring chips and salsa – sorry, I’m not putting it out. If you feel you must bring food to an event, ASK your hostess first what she might need. If you are for some reason unable to do it, don’t expect it to be consumed in any particular way. You have no idea what it’s like to slave over a certain dish or dessert, only to have someone bring a crappy store-bought version and expect it to be served. It’s insulting.


TylerBelle September 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

I’m kind of on the fence with this. First thing, I don’t think the guest should have tried to piggyback on the host’s hospitality, and especially should not have tried to push others to take what they may not have wanted. Although as ferretrick hit upon, it seemed since the cake wasn’t one of the mother’s homemade desserts, it was treated as rather inferior.

It wasn’t in the plans to have additional food items, and it surely messed with the placement of what was offered, but I don’t see too big a problem with slicing a few pieces of the cake, putting it on a pretty plate and ooging it in with the rest of the goodies on the table. Though if the cake bringing still wants to act as server, toughen up the spine and shoo them into being a guest.

On a personal note, if the cake had been the store-bought, white-frosted vanilla, and I’d been a party guest, I wouldn’t been able to resist. It’s my favorite. Although, I sure would have made room for the other goodies (the mouth’s watering simply imagining what could have been on the mom’s table) :).


RebeccainAR September 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

I know that if I was a host, and had arranged my table, and someone showed up with something extra (be it a box of Twinkies, a homemade Pavlova, or a store bought bakery cake) I would thank them and stick it right in the kitchen, just like the OP’s mother did. If they’d brought me red wine as a hostess gift, and I was serving fish, I’d do the same. Those that are saying it had to be served – would you feel obligated to put out the box of chocolates they brought instead, or the flowers, or the hand soaps, or the whatever it was? Hostess gifts are GIFTS, and we are taught that gifts are ours to do with what we want.

If someone brought me a dessert I loved, and didn’t make at home (and I don’t make chocolate cake at home because I haven’t gotten a good chocolate icing recipe yet), I’d be grateful that in the coming days, I’d get a treat that I don’t normally get – and would be equally grateful that I was not obligated to share, so that my homemade things could be enjoyed by others. Even if I hated the gift, I’d be likely to put it away, just so there wasn’t an obvious ‘mine and theirs’ split on the table.

This wasn’t a potluck. Extras were neither solicited nor needed. Rudeness solely on the head of the cake-pusher.


Ashley September 13, 2012 at 11:41 am

I come from a large family where there always ends up being more food than we can possibly eat, and very full buffet tables. If we run out of room, something stays in the kitchen til there is a spot for it, then it gets set out and people can take leftovers if they want, if they have ran out of room in their stomachs. It’s so we don’t end up with food falling on each other and so there is actually enough room to slice things when we need it.

With this story, my guess is the guest who brought the store bought cake probably thought that hostess was hiding it because it wasn’t homemade, even though the real reason appears to be that it was left out because there simply was no room. Hostess COULD have said “I’ll gladly make some room on the table once some of the other desserts that are already there get finished” but guest was still VERY wrong to force it onto the table then just start handing it out to people rather than letting them serve themselves as was customary.


Ergala September 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I don’t think the mother was hiding it. It was a hostess gift therefore it was up to the hostess to decide when and where it was served. Whenever I do a dinner party I go through a lot of work to make yummy dishes. Unless the guest had asked ahead of time if she could bring a cake to share then she was presumptuous that it would be served.

A little story. A few years ago I had a huge bounty of pumpkins from my garden. For Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie from a few of my pumpkins. If anyone has never had a 100% from scratch pumpkin pie (not the canned pumpkin but actual homemade puree) it isn’t that deep dark brown. It tastes fantastic however. I brought the pie to my in laws for dessert after asking what I could bring. They said a pie. When it was time for dessert my pie had 2 slices taken from it. The store bought pie was gone in a matter of minutes. There were over 20 people gathered. Yes I was quite hurt. The two people who had my pie kept telling everyone to try it and how amazing it was. I even made homemade whipped topping to go with it. Nobody would touch it. You better believe I was offended.


Jessiebird September 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm

What if everyone had brought a store-bought dessert? Would they have to pull out an extra table to accommodate them? What about the effort of the hostess to prepare and serve a meal to her guests?

My understanding is that a guest is welcome to bring any kind of gift to the hostess. By the same token, a hostess is not obliged to display or serve it. She/He has already planned the menu, which likely has a balance of complementing foods.

I always think, if everyone did what the one person did, would it work? If not, then what the guest did was probably inappropriate. If everyone brought a store-bought cake and insisted on serving it, the efforts of the hostess would be for naught, and I daresay, in her place, I’d take a hint that my desserts are not palatable. So, the guest was out of line.

I think the mother behaved fine in this situation. The cake was not part of the menu for her party. She had not stipulated it was a potluck. A guest forcing a hostess to make her party into a potluck is out of line.


Library Diva September 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

It seemed to me that the chocolate cake was meant to be a thank-you gift to OP’s family for hosting, not necessarily something to be consumed on the spot. Perhaps the mom being more forthright with her intentions would have smoothed the situation, saying something like: “Thank you very much! It looks so delicious. My family will enjoy having it for dessert the next few nights.” I think it’s unwise to just turn up with something without clearing it with the host first and expect it to be consumed on the spot. I don’t think it was rude or snobbish on the part of OP’s mom. It sounds like she just simply didn’t have room for it.

I think it’s wrong of anyone to try forcing food on someone else, especially at a buffet. The whole point of buffet-style is to give options to the guests. As a notoriously picky eater, I love when a party is set up this way — there’s always something for me, and no awkward questions about “Why aren’t you eating the fish?”


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