There’s one dessert that always seems to take center stage at big, important occasions. What is usually the centerpiece of your birthday party? What is one of the key parts of a wedding celebration? You guessed it: cake.

Why does cake always seem to “take the cake”? And what exactly does “take the cake” mean anyway?

If something “takes the cake,” it’s the best or most extreme example of something. The phrase originated in the late 19th century when winning couples would be given an actual cake as the prize for winning cake-walk strutting competitions.

We think that cakes do “take the cake” when it comes to delicious desserts. Cake has a long history and has been around for thousands of years. Unlike our modern sweet dessert cakes, the first cakes were likely more like fried breads or cheesecakes. The word “cake” has Viking roots. It comes from the Old Norse word “kaka.”

Today, cake takes on many forms, flavors and designs. Cake decorating has even become an art form of its own. Some cakes look too beautiful to eat! Cake decorators use many types of decorations, including food coloring, a special icing called fondant and shaped sugars to make sure that their decorations are edible.

Cakes can be made with a lot of different ingredients. Most, though, contain a combination of eggs, flour, sugar, butter or oil, milk or water and yeast or baking powder. Some cooks like to make cakes “from scratch” by using individual ingredients according to a favorite recipe.

If you’re in a hurry, though, you can also make fantastic cakes using boxed mixes you can buy at the grocery store. When using these mixes, you usually only need to add a few additional ingredients of your own, such as eggs, water or milk and oil or butter.

Cakes come in all sorts of flavors. What’s your favorite cake? Vanilla? Red velvet? German Chocolate? Angel’s food? Fruitcake? Coffee cake?

Cakes also come in some interesting shapes. Two of our favorites here in Wonderopolis are cupcakes and cake pops!

Cupcakes (sometimes called fairy cakes in England or patty cakes in Australia) are small cakes intended to serve one person. Just because they’re small, though, doesn’t mean that they don’t have big taste. Cupcake decorating is also just as much of an art form as regular cake decorating is!

Cupcakes have been around since the late 12th century. Cake pops, on the other hand, are a fairly-new arrival on the dessert scene. Popularized by Bakerella blogger Angie Dudley and coffee chain Starbucks, cake pops are like a cross between lollipops and cupcakes.

Small balls of cake are attached to short sticks and then decorated in a wide variety of ways. Like regular cakes and cupcakes, cake pops can be transformed into miniature works of art that look too good to eat!


62 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (11 votes, avg. 4.64 out of 5)
    • We think cupcakes for breakfast would be a fun treat every once in a while, don’t you, Melissa? Cake pops are fun to make as a family (and lots of fun to eat, too!). That sounds like a super SWEET Saturday activity! :-)

    • Hello, Isabelle! Thanks so much for checking out today’s Wonder of the Day® about CAKE! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • It sounds like you’re a big fan of cakes and cupcakes, Isaiah! We are, too! In fact, we think we might head over to our favorite Wonderopolis bakery after lunch today and pick out a vanilla-chocolate swirled cupcake with cream cheese icing and sprinkles for dessert! YUM! :-)

  1. Hi, it’s me again. My mom and I really liked today’s wonder. Later in the morning, we were wondering where does the phrase “we caught you red handed” come from? So, we were wondering if you guys would do a wonder about popular expressions and how we got them? Bye, see you guys tomorrow! :)

    • WOW! That sounds like so much fun, Zoey! What a super creative way to use cupcakes, play a game of golf, AND celebrate your sister’s big day! :-)

    • We love them too, Keshaun! We love chocolate ones with chocolate icing, strawberry ones with lemon icing, carrot cake ones with cream cheese icing….the flavor combinations are endless! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,
    MMMM, those desserts look good! I had cookie cake today and I made cupcakes 2 weeks ago. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about snowflakes or penguins.

    • We think it’s lots of fun to make and decorate cupcakes, Paige (although cookies ROCK, too!)! Thank you for leaving us another awesome comment! :-)

  3. I think that that person was very careful and had lots of practice. I love your website. I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about penguins.

    • There seems to be a lot of love for penguins in the predictions for each next day’s Wonder lately, Kendall! We like penguins, too! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  4. Hi. I love wonderopolis and I love vanilla cake! It is really good. Oh, and at school we watch wonderopolis for morning work!!! Cool! I learned something new. I never new cupcakes are called patty cakes in Australia.

    • Hello, Sara! We think it’s AWESOME that you learned something new about cakes by exploring this Wonder! Thank you for letting us know that you and your classmates visit Wonderopolis in the mornings at school…that is GREAT! :-)

  5. CUPCAKES ROCK!!! My mom told me to start looking at this site and now I love it! I look at it EVERY day! Tomorrow you should write about… stuff that’s pink! :) I LOVE CUPCAKES and CAKES!

    • Thanks for stopping by this Wonder of the Day® and for letting us know you love cakes and cupcakes, Maxini! Please tell your mom that we REALLY appreciate her introducing you to Wonderopolis…we LOVE meeting new Wonder Friends and reading the awesome comments they leave for us (like this one!)! :-)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Hello to the WONDER-ful wonder creators who made wonderopolis! It’s YuGiOhNinja in the website today! Great wonder! I say this wonder really takes the cake! LOL. Well, I gotta go to bed, so see you on Sunday for the next wonder. BYE, BYE!

    • We’re so glad you visited Wonderopolis today, YuGiOhNinja! Thanks so much for leaving us another awesome comment…YOU ROCK! :-)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I’ve got some surprising news for you! I’m actually Sarah from team Caisse! She is my reading teacher.
    Also, I know that I rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for letting us know your super secret identity, Sarah (we mean, YuGiOhNinja!)! You are lucky to have Ms. Caisse as your reading teacher…SHE ROCKS, TOO! :-)

  8. This is so interesting!!!! I love cupcakes and I learned a lot about them in this wonder of the Day!!! Hope to learn more in the next Wonder of the Day!!!

    • Hello, Hannah! Thanks for sharing your love of cupcakes…we know LOTS of other Wonder Friends who think they’re super yummy, too! :-)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Who likes cupcakes? I LOVE CUPCAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cupcakes are the bomb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could eat cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner (even though I might puke!). lol!
    your biggest fan: Abby M.

    • We’re glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today, biggest fan, Abby! We’re thinking you’re a big fan of cupcakes, too! :-) Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm for Wonderopolis and cupcakes with us today! :-)

  10. Hi, wonderopolis! I really like this theme. I wonder if you could do a wonder on a ballet dancer on point. If you know what I mean by that, which I hope you do. Well,thanks for listening! Bye!

    • We think a Wonder of the Day® about ballet dancers on point is a GREAT idea, Emmagrac! We appreciate you taking the time to let us know what you’d like to see coming up in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We love cupcakes, too, Rebecca! They are so yummy! Thank you for leaving us a comment today and for sharing that you like visiting Wonderopolis! We think you are a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That would be a really BIG snack, Sarah! Thank you for letting us know you liked this Wonder…that cake sure did look delicious! :-)

  11. Dear Wonderopolis,
    All of those deserts look good. How do you come up with all these wonders? I love making cakes and cupcakes.

    • Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis and leaving us this comment today, Claire! Did you know that LOTS of ideas for Wonders of the Day come from AMAZING Wonder Friends just like YOU? It’s true! You can let us know what you’re WONDERing about whenever you feel like it by clicking on the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis! It’s super easy (and bigtime fun) to fill in the boxes and send us your ideas! :-)

  12. I love this wonder because I well tell you some things. I learned it was cakes have different flavors and they come in different sizes. We do wonderopolis every day, but not on weekends. We think in our wonder journals and we go to wonderopolis. We write what we learned in are journals.

    • Your Wonder Journals sound so AWESOME, Kelly! We think you and your classmates are SUPER for exploring Wonderopolis together and writing about the things you learn while you’re here! :-)

  13. I really liked this wonder because me and my mom used to always bake cakes. We made a cake for my birthday and we made one for Cameron’s birthday. It is so fun.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this SWEET Wonder of the Day®, Kayla! Baking with our moms is a special treat! We bet you guys make AWESOME cakes! :-)

    • We like cupcakes a whole bunch too, Larissa! They are super sweet treats! Thank you for visiting this Wonder and letting us know you liked it! :-)

    • Your comment made our day, Kelley! We’re so glad to hear that you think Wonderopolis is the best website ever…THANK YOU! :-)

    • We agree, T+P! A slice of cake sounds REALLY yummy right now! Thank you for sharing your comment with us today! :-)

  14. Thanks for the article, but it is not really about cheesecake. Just normal cake. I like the article though! Cool facts!
    Peace out home dogs!

    • We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing about cake with us, Haley and Gabbie! We are glad you have a favorite: cheesecake! We’ll be sure to keep you idea in our Wonder jars… who knows if you’ll see a cheesecake Wonder in the future! :)

    • Yum, cupcakes do sound good right now, Cahmarrhii! We think we would also like a slice of cheesecake! 😉 We are so glad that you liked the Wonder!

    • Yum, Graham! That sounds delicious! Be sure to share them with your friends at Wonderopolis! 😉

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Which dessert takes the cake?
  • What does “take the cake” mean?
  • What’s your favorite type of cake?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

This Wonder has made us hungry! How about you? Ready to get baking?

Check out the links below for recipes and decorating ideas to make some fantastic cakes, cupcakes and cake pops of your very own!


Still Wondering

Explore ReadWriteThink’s Delicious Summer Treats podcast to learn about a number of ways to write recipes and have fun with food!


Wonder Categories/Tags



cake  cupcake  decorating  fondant  icing  pop 

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