The moment that Coraline suspects something’s not right in the world of her “Other Mother” is when she’s presented with a beautiful cake at dinner (skip to about halfway through the trailer to see it). The words “WELCOME HOME” magically appear in frosting across its surface, and it has candles for some reason, despite not being a birthday cake. Despite the enchanting offering Coraline is suddenly uneasy, and she immediately excuses herself from the table. Not only does the cake go uneaten, but the candles aren’t even blown out.
None of this should surprise anyone — there is a huge cinematic precedent for cake and bad news arriving simultaneously. Sometimes the cake is deliberately offered as a distraction, in hopes that it will soften the blow. Other times it’s just a cosmic accident designed to make the entire universe seem like a cold and hostile place to exist. (Or in the words of Depeche Mode, “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor and when I die I expect to find Him laughing.”)
Cupcakes and other baked goods feature prominently in Coraline as well; it’s all a nod to the witch in the Hansel and Gretel story, or Pinocchio’s “Pleasure Island,” in which the promise of overindulgence is used as a lure to ensnare children.