Maybe we should enable badges!
It's funny, I hadn't considered this use case because I've always viewed badges as far more intrusive than notifications. But I can see where you and @petebocken are coming from.
One thing you could do in the meantime for social apps like Cake that don't support badges but that you'd still like some form of less-intrusive notifications from would be to limit those notifications to the Notification Center, but turn off the "Lock Screen" and "Banners" settings.
This way you'll only see the notifications if you manually pull down the notification center to look, so you won't have to see them unless you want to.