I found the phrase “I don’t care how you cut it, the brother just can’t bake the cake,” in the Maureen Dowd’s article in New York Times (December 10), titled “Fire and Ice,” that compares the character of GOP Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich and President Obama.

In this article, there was the following line referring to the skirmish between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in the recent presidential debate:

“Nutty Newt is dancing a fandango on Mitt Romney’s head even though not a single hair has gone askew. As Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chief eloquently summed up the Romney free fall on MSNBC, “I don’t care how you cut it; the brother just can’t bake the cake.”

I don’t understand what this ending line means. I guess Steele said “It’s up to Romney how to respond to Newt’ charge (or cook Newt) in the debate, but he didn’t know how to finish Newt off,” but I’m not sure.

What does “I don’t care how you cut it, the brother just can’t bake the cake,” exactly mean? Is “(Somebody) bake the cake” an idiom or a popular set of words?

  • Please change tag "sentense" to "sentence". Tags "meaning-in-context" and "idioms" may be relevant too. Dec 15, 2011 at 9:36
  • @jwat7. No problem to correct "sentense" to "sentense" and change Tags to "meaning-in-context" and "idion," but I don't know how to do it on the page. Can you teach me how to? Dec 15, 2011 at 11:08
  • Yes, when you click 'edit', I think you'll see four edit boxes: Title, question body (followed by preview), Tags, and Edit Summary. In the Tags box, put the cursor after "sentense" and press backspace to delete "se" at the end; half a dozen choices containing "senten" will pop up; click the "sentence" one. For the other two tags, typing the first few characters of each should cause correct choices to pop up to be clicked. Thanks for the questions! Dec 15, 2011 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


In my experience, and according to web searches, "can’t bake the cake" is not idiomatic and is not common except in its literal sense of not being able to cook a cake, for example because of an oven problem.

The sentence "I don’t care how you cut it; the brother just can’t bake the cake" means that Romney "just can't get it done" and is failing to accomplish his campaign plans. This usage of "bake the cake" is found in numerous web pages that discuss planning sequential processes.

Note that Maureen Dowd’s wording, "As Michael Steele, ... eloquently summed up..." uses eloquently ironically, to indicate that the quotation is not eloquent and instead appears to be an attempt to be hip.

  • I naively interpreted Dowd's wording "eloquently" as "precisely and adequately" and didn't notice that's an irony. Dec 15, 2011 at 11:16
  • 2
    Note that "I don't care how you cut it" is Steele's somewhat garbled variation of "however you slice it," which is actually an idiom.
    – user13141
    Dec 15, 2011 at 17:38
  • 1
    Googling "I don't care how you cut it" shows that it is also an idiom on its own. Dec 16, 2011 at 11:24
  • NGramming both suggests "slice" is the more common version for this sense. From which I think the "cut" version gains currency, rather than the other way around. Dec 16, 2011 at 17:45
  • 1
    Maureen Dowd's writing is dense, even for native English speakers. Her brand of humor loses something in written form.
    – Theresa
    Sep 30, 2014 at 23:38

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