take the cake, to

take the cake

1. To be the worst in a series of negative actions. Primarily heard in US. When I found out he had been reading through my text messages, well, that took the cake! You charged me for the drink you spilled on me? That really takes the cake!
2. To be the best or the most outstanding. Primarily heard in US. You've done some nice murals, but this one takes the cake!
See also: cake, take

take the cake

Be the most outstanding in some respect, either the best or the worst. For example, That advertising slogan really took the cake, or What a mess they made of the concert-that takes the cake! This expression alludes to a contest called a cakewalk, in which a cake is the prize. Its figurative use, for something either excellent or outrageously bad, dates from the 1880s.
See also: cake, take

take the cake

If someone or something takes the cake, they represent the most extreme example of something stupid or bad. I mean, he's done a lot of crazy things, but this really takes the cake. Compare with take the biscuit. Note: This expression has a similar origin to `take the biscuit', which refers to the practice in the past of awarding cakes as prizes in competitions.
See also: cake, take

take the cake

1. To be the most outrageous or disappointing.
2. To win the prize; be outstanding.
See also: cake, take

take the cake, to

To win; to top them all. This reference to a cake as a prize today is often used ironically, as in O. Henry’s “You Yankees assuredly take the cake for assurance” (Helping the Other Fellow, 1908). Apparently this was not always so, for the ancient Greeks awarded a cake to the person who best stayed awake during an all-night party. However, they then transferred the expression to any kind of prize-winning feat; the playwright Aristophanes wrote, “In all craftiness we take the cake” (the Thesmophoriazusae, translated as The Women at Demeter’s Festival, 411 b.c.). The term was revived in late-nineteenth-century America, and many etymologists believe that, rather than referring to the ancient practice, it alluded to the then popular African-American contest called the “cake walk,” in which couples walked around and around a cake that was then awarded to the couple judged to be the most graceful. See also piece of cake.
See also: take