Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by McKinlee. McKinlee Wonders, “Who invented cake?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, McKinlee!

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!

Wonder What's Next?

The subject of tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day makes other dips green with envy!