Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Cake.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
To take the cake. To carry off the prize. The reference is to the prize-cake to the person who succeeded best in a given competition. In Notes and Queries (Feb. 27th, 1892, p. 176) a correspondent of New York tells us of a “cake walk” by the Southern negroes. It consists of walking round the prize cake in pairs, and umpires decide which pair walk the most gracefully. In ancient Greece a cake was the award of the toper who held out the longest.   1
   In Ireland the best dancer in a dancing competition was rewarded, at one time, by a cake.   2
        “A churn-dish stuck into the earth supported on its flat end a cake, which was to become the prize of the best dancer… . At length the competitors yielded their claims to a young man … who, taking the cake, placed it gallantly in the lap of a pretty girl to whom … he was about to be married.”—Bartlett and Coyne: Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 64.
   You cannot eat your cake and have it too. You cannot spend your money and yet keep it. You cannot serve God and Mammon.   3
   Your cake [or my cake] is dough. All my swans are turned to geese. Occisa est res tua [or mea]. Mon affaire est manquée; my project has failed.   4



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