Friday, June 19, 2020

Cake Walk - a recipe and a cautionary tale


Here is the lusciously moist chocolate cake with serviceberries that we shared on the first lockdown forage picnic this week. The recipe for it is over on 66 Square Feet (the Food). And some appropriate and sobering backstory: When I posted about that walk on Instagram I made a flippant pun. I said it would be a cake walk. Cos, cake, plus people walking...

Something made me Google the term the next night. I had never thought about the origin of "cake walk" - to me it was an easy tune I learned from my first piano book. As I read my eyes bugged. It was a dance first performed by slaves on plantations, and judged by plantation owners. The prize was a cake. It went on to become a staple of minstrel shows.

And could be interpreted on several levels. I copied this from Wikipedia's entry (NPR also has an interesting story):

'Amiri Baraka in Blues People explained the strangeness of a slave dance covertly mocking white slaveholders that later was adopted by whites unaware of the mockery: "If the cakewalk is a Negro dance caricaturing certain white customs, what is that dance, when, say, a white theater company attempts to satirize it as a Negro dance? I find the idea of white minstrels in blackface satirizing a dance satirizing a dance satirizing themselves a remarkable kind of irony--which, I suppose, is the whole point of minstrel shows..."

Did you know the history of cake walk?


  1. Yes.I had a children's record/storybook in which "Golly danced a cakewalk." I thought it was a rather silly name for a dance, but my father explained it, though not the bit about minstrel shows.

  2. I knew a little about what a cake walk was, but not all the details.

  3. Hmm... I thought cakewalk meant some thing really easily done. I had NO idea! Thanks Marie!

    1. Well, that is the meaning of the idiom. The etymology is just fascinating. x

  4. Having grown up in the South and educated in southern schools, I had no idea. And, am now appalled! Thanks for the info, so I can add one more list to the terms I will never use again. But, ain't the Internet wonderful?


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