take the cake
- being the best in a competition
- losing under awful circumstances
- the worst outcome in a situation
- the final straw during a series of bad events
- something ridiculous a person says
- I can’t believe you said that your hypocrisy takes the cake.
- Many horrible things happened that day but getting stuck by the side of the road took the cake.
- Her car’s repair bill took the cake.
- It takes the cake when someone makes an ill-timed snide remark.
- Everyone thought he was an underdog, but he ended up taking the cake.
- She felt terrible she snapped, but after her long day, his insensitivity took the cake.
- It’s unlikely he would take the cake since he had been on the bench most of the season.
- She loved her job, but when her boss demoted her, it took the cake.
Even though the idiom’s origins are Ancient Greece, it didn’t become commonplace until the 1800s. In 400 B.C., the person who stayed awake during an all-night party received a cake for their tenacity.
Some think O’Henry first used the phrase in his book Helping the Other Fellow, published in 1908. However, modern-day usage began on southern plantations. Slaves called had a dance competition called a cakewalk which mocked their owners. Some speculate plantation owners didn’t realize they were making fun of them. Whoever won was awarded a cake, a practice first started in Ancient Greece. The first record of these dance-offs was recorded in The Indiana Progress in 1874.
Additionally, William Trotter Porter’s 1874 piece A Quarter Race in Kentucky mentions the idiom as well. Many people think the phrase takes the biscuit is a variation of this phrase. However, it means being surprised and not a win.