icing on the cake

icing on the cake
or frosting on the cake

Meaning | Synonyms

  • when something good is added to another good thing that you already have
  • an extra enhancement
  • an additional benefit to an already good thing
  • something that makes a good situation even better
  • an attractive but often unessential addition to something

The idiom can be used in a sarcastic manner meaning that something bad has been added to an already bad situation.

Example Sentences

  1. Everyone expected him to do well in the exams. Getting first rank was the icing on the cake.
  2. He was happy to have his first book published. All those congratulatory messages and fan-mail that came in were the icing on the cake.
  3. The sportsman was already on a high after having won at the competition, the frosting on the cake was when the government announced a huge cash reward for is achievement.
  4. He was already happy with his pay hike, the icing on the cake came when he received a large bonus.
  5. Winning the race was a feat in itself, creating a world record was the icing on the cake.
  6. The hotel was very nice and we enjoyed our stay there. The icing on the cake was when they gave a complimentary voucher for a two day stay which we could redeem on out next visit.
  7. The fact that my car broke down was just the icing on the cake. My day had already been a disaster.
  8. After the nightmare of a party, my son vomited everywhere. It was the icing on the cake.

Origin

The phrase refers to the sweet, creamy toppings, called the icing, added to a cake to make it even better. It has been in use since the mid 1900s.

The idiom can be used in both a positive and negative manner, depending on the intonation.

Icing or frosting, has been around for hundreds of years. Initially, people would enjoy cake without frosting because refined sugar was very expensive. The cake in itself was already a treat. If icing was added, the event would be even more special. Thus, an already good situation was further enhanced. The word “frosting” has been used since the 1600s to describe the act of covering a cake in a sugary, buttery coating.

The first example of the idiom being used in a figurative sense comes from “The Sin of Pat Muldoon” written by playwrightJohn McLiamin 1957.

There are sins and there are sing, but the sins I speak of are the chocolate icing on the cake of life.et

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I 3 Comments

3 Comments

AuthorAuna Blessing writes on 18th August 2018

I also am an American, in my mid-forties, and well-read. And I have NEVER heard or read the term “frosting on the cake.” Though we do put frosting on our cakes. We also put icing on our cakes. It depends. Frosting is a very creamy fluffy layer, and icing is either a drizzled mixture of sugar and water or a white, sweet decorative touch which looks very much like snow. We also refer to fondant exclusively as icing, never calling that frosting. Please don’t keep telling people that Americans say “frosting on the cake”! That’s the strangest thing that I have heard in a while. Also, to the lady that is wondering would someone in the 60s have said “icing on the cake,” the answer is a resounding “YES”! Like it says in the above article, the phrase has been used since they started putting icing on cakes. (However I don’t with certainty know that that’s true, given their mistake of saying Americans say “frosting on the cake.”) Anyway, the 60s really were not that different than today, linguistically, and they would have definitely used the term then.

AuthorMary Jean Adams writes on 3rd July 2018

I am an American and have never heard anyone use the phrase “frosting on the cake.” Although we often call icing “frosting,” where I come from, the idiom remains the same as the British original.

AuthorCaroline Smith writes on 5th July 2017

I’m trying to find what period the earliest recorded example of the phrase ‘The icing on the cake’ dates from. I’m writing something and need to know if my character would be likely to use this phrase in 1961.

Thanks folks.

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