A Piece of Cake (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "A Piece of Cake"?

The term "a piece of cake" means a task that can be accomplished easily.

"A piece of cake" derives from slavery in the American southern states in the 1870s. During parties thrown by slave owners, black slaves competed in "cake walks," which saw them mocking the ostentatious gestures of the slave owners through dance. The most elegant performance would be rewarded with a cake. As this was seen as an easy way to earn cake, "a piece of cake" came to mean "easy." (Detractors of this theory highlight that slavery was abolished in the US in 1865.)

Competing Theory

This phrase derives from the American poet Ogden Nash, who in 1936 wrote:
  • "Her picture's in the papers now, And life's a piece of cake." (from Ogden Nash's book "The Primrose Path")
Etymologists note that "cake" and "pie" have a long history in the United States as metaphors for things that come easily (e.g., a "cake walk," "as easy as pie"). Researchers are unsure whether cake and pie are linked to the notion of easy because they are easy for chefs to make or easy for people to eat.

Another Competing Theory

In 1930s, the Royal Air Force used "a piece of cake" to suggest an easy flying mission. The idea is that the mission was as sweet as eating a piece of cake.
A Piece of Cake (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • That exam was a piece of cake. I doubt I dropped a mark.
  • Who needs instructions? Building shelves is a piece of cake.
  • He found the Rubik's cube a piece of cake.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.