On the Saying 'Shitcakes'

  • December 6, 2004
  • James Skemp
  • article

The language used in this article is for mature audiences. If you might be offended, please stop reading now.

The saying “Shitcakes” is in no way a popular saying[1]. In fact, it’s something of a rarity in the world today. However, since it is a saying that I have heard many a time, and since I wanted to try to understand where this statement may have originated, I decided to try to work through its significance.

First, we are drawn to the word ‘Shit’. In fact, a popular variation of this saying is “Shit cakes” or “Shit-cakes”, neither of which, as my article will show, is correct. ‘Shit’ is not only meant to stand for faeces, but also as an exclamation of a bad move, or a stupid decision, and of a troublesome individual. Of course, there are numerous other meanings attached to the word ‘Shit’, since as feelings of love or emotion, or anger.

Second, we may be drawn to ‘cakes’, the second part of the saying, or conjunct. Cakes are typically a kind of dessert, or something that is sweet, nice smelling (as it brings to mind ovens and the odours that they release), and a treat.

The important thing to keep in mind is not the two words that are seen in the saying, but rather the result of the combination. It’s easy to think of a very similar word, namely cupcake. A cupcake is a cake that is contained within, or constrained by, a cup. You pour a batter into a metal tin, sometimes with a paper wrapper (if you’re smart), sometimes without, and you back it. While the wrapper, or ‘cup’, is not edible or very desirable (usually these are torn off), the cake is. Are there any similarities between ‘cupcake’ and ‘shitcake’?

First, we must see ‘shitcake’ in action. “Oh, shitcakes!” is the most common occurrence of the saying[2]. Yet, that doesn’t really tell us much, by itself. If we create a dialogue, however, we can gain context clues from the surrounding phrases.

“Hey Pete, I heard that lazy dog of yours got some bitch pregnant.”

“Yup, sure did Hank. I’ve had that son of a bitch since he was a pup and I never would have expected that he would have left me for some easy old one-eyed bitch.”

“Hey Pete, isn’t that your wife driving your Ford? What’s she got in the back, luggage?”

“Oh, shitcakes!”

“Well Pete, I knew she was sluttin’ around, but I never would have thought that she would have taken your Ford!”

“Oh Hank, I am indeed a cursed man…”

The above example, with some level of context clues, may indeed be all that we need. Walking through the above dialogue, we see that poor Hank loses his dog Mack to some female dog, and then loses his Ford to his fun and outgoing wife, Susan. After finding out this latter point, after having just been reminded of the former, he exclaims in sorrow, as the last, open-ended, phrase shows, “Oh, shitcakes” (but not simply “Oh shitcakes” – the comma has real significance here, and is not just a way for Pete to catch his breath, or a tear and/or moan).

But why not just “Oh, shit”? Why does he exclaim, and others with him (although not at the same time, and perhaps not over the same reasons), “Oh, shitcakes”?

Perhaps it is because, like being served ‘shitcakes’ instead of cupcakes, he is caught off guard. In our example, he’s assaulted with a reminder and a new bit of bad news (or two bits, if you do not believe that he knew that his wife was fun and outgoing, which, seeing how women are devious, is not too hard to believe).

If we were to try to explain his saying “Oh, shit-cakes”, or “Oh, shit cakes”, we’d have much more trouble than we have with “Oh, shitcakes”. After all, if Pete had yelled out a ‘hurrah’ or three, and asked Hank to try on some of his wife’s underwear with him, then we could use the ‘shit-cakes’ or ‘shit cakes’ explanation – that what first appears to be shit, is really cake (or so the most common and popular explanation goes). But, poor Pete does not say this, so Hank has to sneak into the house later, ending up in a longer night for both of them (Pete having spent most of the night caressing his wife’s side of the bed, and Hank having to wait for Pete to fall asleep, and then creeping in oh so quietly to get the underwear (tops and bottoms), during which he almost knocked over a lamp, but didn’t, but on the bright side, at least the damn dog wasn’t there, as it never really had a hankering (:cough:) for Hank…).

At this point, we can see where this saying came from, and why it is to be used over a simple ‘shit’, at the right time.


  1. By ‘saying’, I hear mean both the actual saying or speaking of ‘shitcakes’, as well as the phrase. Perhaps the phrase that I really should have discussed was ‘Oh, shitcakes’, in order to remove any misunderstanding at the very start, but I did not, because I hope to show the way ‘shitcakes’ came about and should be used.
  2. Is “selling like shitcakes” another phrase that occurs? While some may argue that it is, that is unfortunately not the case. This phrase appears to come from “selling like hotcakes”, which means that some thing, which the phrase is referring to, is flying off the shelves, or selling very quickly. One may argue that “selling like shitcakes” is the opposite of this, that the thing is selling very slowly, but because people love shit, this cannot be. If any “selling like shit…” phrase exists in common usage, it is simply the phrase “selling like shit”.


Created: December 6th 2004
Modified: December 7th 2004
Notes: My thanks to Gavin for pointing out some grammatical mistakes, as well as bringing up some excellent clarification questions.