Q. What is the origin of the word cakewalk?
A. The word cakewalk can be used as either a noun or a verb meaning something very easy, something done without effort, or money obtained without effort. It can also refer to the dance from which the word is derived. The cakewalk originated among American black slaves who used the dance as a subtle satire on the elegance of white ballroom dances. Stepping high with backs arched backwards contestants would promenade around a cake placed in the center of the dance floor. The couple who performed the fanciest steps would 'take the cake'.
Sources: The Cassell Dictionary of Slang, Whistlin' Dixie: a Dictionary of Southern Expressions, 2007 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.