First, the masks, now sheet cakes.

Costco was one of the nation's first retailers to mandate wearing face masks. Now word has surfaced that its half-sheet cakes regarded for their good taste and inexpensive price of $19 have been eliminated, also due to the pandemic.

"To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments," the company explained on Facebook last month. "Half-sheet cakes are currently not available to order or customize."

A few commenters on Facebook even said the sheet cakes were their primary reason for getting a Costco membership. Several vowed to ask Costco to resurrect the sheet cake, but the company later confirmed that it has no immediate plans to bring back the party-sized cakes that feed up to 50. Instead, it has replaced the sheet cake with $13 10-inch round cakes that feed about a dozen people.

The decision follows guidance from health agencies to limit large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Few, if any, Twin Cities retailers are following Costco's lead.

Sam's Club locations in the Twin Cities are still selling Member's Mark half-sheet cakes for $19, although some national reports mistakenly indicated Sam's had discontinued sheet cakes. A Sam's Club spokesperson confirmed the cakes are still being made.

Grocery stores such as Cub, Walmart Supercenters, select SuperTargets, Lunds & Byerlys, Hy-Vee, Kowalski's, Whole Foods and Coborn's also reported they are still selling half-sheet cakes. Starting prices range from $25 to $45 for half-sheets, although larger and smaller sizes are usually available.

Many independent bakeries quit making sheet cakes after warehouse clubs undercut prices, but some specialty shops such as Wuollet Bakery are still making them. Prices start at about $60 for half-sheets.

Some cakes can be purchased off the shelf, but most bakeries require one to four days' notice depending on the amount of customization.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633