One rather dark ad for Chips Ahoy showed a talking, child-sized cookie at a child's birthday party, wearing a pointy hat, singing and everything. He asks where the cake is. She tells him there is no cake. Oh.
And here it is. If it is removed, just look up "Chips Ahoy Commercial Birthday" (without quotes).
For a real scare, listen but don't watch, and imagine it's a person and not a cookie.
Around 2000, AOL was running ads touting how improved the service was. In one ad, an AOL user brings a homemade cake into a cubicle-style office to thank the person responsible. The whole office becomes suddenly awake, with one woman peering from behind a wall saying "I smell cake!"
In the K-On! manga/anime, many of the club members or the teacher in charge of them are bought off or motivated by cake.
Yotsuba&!: When Yotsuba attends Fuka's school's festival, she is told they'll have cake. There is cake, but Yotsuba is far from impressed on learning it's pound cake. Attempts to rectify this by giving her a crepe are only partially successful.
George Carlin's "Refrigerator Man" routine, including the mystery of "meat cake".
Jim Gaffigan has a whole sequence on the power of cake, how cake can bring enemies together, how pancakes are mysteriously considered wholesome breakfast food, etc.
"It's Roy's birthday in the breakroom!" "I always hated that guy." "There'll be cake." "...well, I suppose I should stop by and at least say hi..."
Whereas for Bill Cosby, even chocolate cake is a wholesome breakfast food.
"Eggs! Eggs are in chocolate cake! And milk, oh goody! And wheat! That's nutrition!"
Swedish comedian Johan Glans has a routine about how he's realised that he's getting old. One of the things that made him realise that was apparently that, when arriving at parties, he has started asking the host if there will be cake.
Mitch Hedberg wishes that long hair didn't connote "drug user", but something else, like "an extreme longing for cake".
"Mothers telling their daughters, 'Don't bring the cake-eater over here anymore. He smells like flour. Did you notice how his eyes widened when he found out your birthday was fast approaching?'"
Greg Behernedt refers to his love of cake several times:
"I will go anywhere if you say the phrase 'there might be cake.' Not even a definite... there might be cake, and I'm there. I would go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, register somebody else's boat in Spanish, a language I do not speak, without ID — for cake." "I'm getting married in a couple weeks. Wanna know why? CAKE! There's a human-sized cake at the end! Haven't you been listening? CAKE!"
This line delivered by Volstagg in a Thor comic, upon arriving with a handful of other Asgardians at the Broxton City Hall, shortly after Asgard was relocated there (it's even quoted in Marvel Database):
"Excuse us... but we heard... we heard there was cake, and, well... what unfortunate day's events are not made gladder by cake?"
In Sonic Bastardized (by Fireball 20 XL), episode 4 starts with Peach narrating: "Dear Sonic, Please come to the castle. I baked a cake for you. Peach. (And NOT Eggman)"
Eric Cartman: Tell them we'll have punch and pie. Kyle: We're not going to have punch and pie. Cartman: More people will come if they think we have punch and pie! Kyle: (typing) Punch and pie.
And then later, two of the kids attending leave when they find out that there isn't any (Cartman was supposed to get it, but Kenny's haunting made him unable to).
"We were to understand there'd be pie and punch."
Films — Live-Action
In the So Bad, It's Good Hulk Hogan vehicle Suburban Commando, intergalactic bounty hunter Shep Ramsay adapts to the suburban lifestyle with a mix of grievous bodily harm and property damage... but it's all against assholes, and is thus rewarded with cake. Shep is initially confused that Earthlings eat the stuff, but then tastes it and promptly wolfs it down.
In Office Space, Milton claims that at a previous birthday party (at which there was cake, but at which he did not receive cake), he was told that he would receive cake at the next party. That party occurs in the movie, and there is cake, but Milton does not receive any cake.
In Stargate Continuum, O'Neill expects this as a reward for killing the last of the Goa'uld.
Sort of the Trope Namer: I Was Told There'd Be Cake — the chronicles of one woman's attempts to meet various unmet expectations, petty annoyances, imponderables and absurdities with only the occasional promise of cake at a wedding or somesuch.
In the children's book Big Max by Kin Platt, the King of Pooka Pooka offers Big Max a room full of rubies, a room full of emeralds, or a room full of gold for finding Jumbo, his prize elephant. When Jumbo is found, though (he was at his birthday party), all Big Max asks for is a piece of the birthday cake.
Cake was the reward in The Poky Little Puppy, too.
"I agree it's complicated," I said with a shrug. "Working in fiction does give one a somewhat tenuous hold on reality, but it's not the hold that's tenuous — it's the reality: Which reality? Whose reality? Does it matter anyway? And will there be cake?" "And was there?" "Was there what?" "Cake." "Generally speaking, yes."
Boy Meets World: This is how Mr. Feeny and Cory convince Shawn to take the SATs.
Feeny: (at Cory's urging) Well, I suppose there could be... cake, or something. Shawn: Really? Cake? Feeny: (scowling): I don't know. (cut to a scene later with everyone taking the test... with Shawn eating cake)
In one episode of Burn Notice, Sam promises an entire office department of employees cake in order to lure them to a conference room where he could distract them with a motivational speech while Michael and his newest client break into a supervisor's office to hack a computer.
On the CommunityChristmas Episode "Abed's Uncontrolable Christmas", the only reason Pierce takes part in Abed's therapy session is because they're serving cookies.
In the Doctor Who episode "Victory of the Daleks", the Doctor holds the Daleks at bay with the TARDIS self-destruct device. When the Daleks figure out that the "Self Destruct" was just a biscuit all along, the Doctor says "Alright, it's a Jammy Dodger — but I was promised tea!" The reference being that the Daleks had previously been posing as domestic robots. One had indeed offered him tea. Made even funnier, that when prior to that, the Doctor was attempting to beat the "Ironside" into admitting it was a Dalek. The Dalek answers the beating with, "You do not require tea?"
On Everybody Loves Raymond, a flashback to Ray and Debra's dating years has Marie learning that they plan to have sex, so she lures the family priest to Debra's apartment by promising him lasagna. When it becomes clear what's going on, he snaps "Is there even a lasagna here?"
On Heroes, when Sylar kills a woman who can detect lies on her birthday, her colleagues enter her office with presents to find Sylar with blood all over his hands and a delightful smile on his face as he asks "Cake?"
While temporarily in charge of The Office, Jim decides to celebrate all the office birthdays for the year on one day to cut down on expenses. The plan unravels when everyone demands their own favorite type/flavor of cake for "their" birthday portion. Except for Creed, who wants cobbler instead.
Stargate SG-1's Jack O'Neill frequently mentions cake, and has invoked this Trope by name at least once.
One interesting fact: While this game predates Portal (the Trope Namer for The Cake Is a Lie) by several years, the same situation happens at the beginning; Mario is invited to the castle by a letter promising cake, but the letter is actually writted by Bowser, using a forged signature, who uses it to lure him there. (At least Peach does make cake at the end in this case.)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 has Peach inviting Mario to her castle via a letter asking if he'd fancy watching shooting stars, whilst eating cake.
In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars the cake is a two-part boss that tries to stop your party as they are ready to leave Marrymore. And then Booster comes and eats the boss cake just as the battle winds down because "you have to eat cake at a party".
In Paper Mario, Tayce T. gives you a cake for returning her frying pan. You also have to bake a cake for an extremely fat Shy Guy.
In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, two of the sidequestsnote introduce Goom Goom to a potential girlfriend and introduce the president of the Luigi fan club to "Luigi" have cake — the Couple's Cake and Choco Cake, specifically — as a reward.
Portal uses the big contrast between the hell that Chell is expected to perform through and the pettiness of the reward of Cake as humor. It exaggerates this pettiness with the Room Full of Crazy's over-dramatic exclamation of "The Cake Is a Lie", and sends up the concept of video games rewards in general. The whole cake thing came about in development, when the team sat down to decide what philosophy the game would be based around. After a while of thinking, someone suggested, "A lot of people like cake."
Cakes are rare healing items (that give a boost to both MP and HP) in MapleStory. They can be bought from certain shops, and are very rare drops from cake-based enemies.
In Monster Rancher 2, your monster is rewarded with cake and a song on its birthday. If memory serves, it relieves stress and fatigue a fairly small amount while raising its weight. In at least one other game in the series, cake is a regular item with similar properties.
In The Sims 2: University, the Cow Plant uses a blatantly-fake-but-admittedly-tasty-looking piece of cake as a lure for Sims. When one of them grabs for it, the plant eats them. Then the owner of the plant can milk it and drink the dead Sim's life essence (which extends their own life).
In Megaman ZX, if you speak to a certain NPC on your birthday (which is recorded in the DS' system memory), she'll give you a cake. It's an expendable item in your inventory that recovers about 8-10 bars of life.
In World of Warcraft, there is a hard-to-get recipe for "Delicious Chocolate Cake". Getting the recipe and baking the cake earns the achievement "The Cake Is Not A Lie".
Most Harvest Moon games have some sort of holiday that centers around handing out cake (or baked goods of some sort). In Magical Melody, this occurs on Valentine's Day. Your character can give out pieces and you will be given pieces by people who like you enough.
Cake can be found randomly in levels in most Kirby games.
Each stage of Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards (except for boss battles) ends with the characters having a nice picnic, and you play a little minigame where Kirby can pick up some extra items. This includes a slice of cake that heals some of Kirby's health.
In Kirby Squeak Squad, a stolen piece of strawberry shortcake is Kirby's entire motivation.
In Animal Crossing, a random villager will give you a cake on your birthday. It is apparently one of the few furniture pieces that raises your feng shui wherever it is placed.
Cake was added to Minecraft in Beta update 1.2 to celebrate the game winning Indie of the year. It's the most complicated food recipenote 3 milk, 2 sugar, 1 egg, and 3 wheat per cake. in the game, but the resulting cake can heal 90% of your health bar, and you can eat one-sixth of it at a time so you don't need to wait until you're on the verge of dying to ensure that you don't waste any of its healing potential. When beta 1.8 was released, a Hunger Meter was added and all food items affected that instead of health. Each slice of cake restored 1 point of hunger, up to 6 in total. Cake became a bit impractical because of it.
In RuneScape's Thanksgiving 2011 holiday event, Turkey Protest, one of the turkey attendees seems to find the protest boring and is only present because he was told there would be cake.
In Atelier games, cakes usually have very rewarding cost-to-profit ratio (not to mention being a good recovery item by itself). In Atelier Viorate, you can fill your shop with cakes and then go adventuring without much worries about your finance.
Fat Princess focuses on this trope somewhat indirectly. While cakes are not exactly rewards, they are helpful in grabbing, serving and fattening your hostage princess so she's slowed down in escape.
The Red Princess' story-mode in Playstation Allstars Battle Royale plays this completely straight: once the cake supply started to get low, the princess ventures off to new lands (aka, the other Playstation worlds) in search of more cake note based on her rivalry and ending cutscenes, she's somehow been mildly successful. Some of her battle quotes have her wondering why there isn't any cake involved in the fight, or when the other fighters will be having a snack break.
Another meme from 4chan, "delicious cake", involves a drawing of "you", "delicious cake", and some obstacle keeping you from it. Repliers are expected to draw in a solution using MS Paint. The release of Portal complicated these threads somewhat...
In Brazil, one meme is "Fica, vai ter bolo" ("Stay, there will be cake"), is a riffi on the usual quip to someone leaving a birthday party early), sometimes over tragedies or downright disturbing images.
Cake is the focus of a string of related episodes, wherein the KND enact various absurd plots to secure the Delightful Children from Down the Lane's lavish birthday cake — which the Delightfuls not only refuse to share with any other children, but cruelly torture them by forcing everyone to watch them eat it.
In another episode, the Delightfuls became Fourth Grade presidents by promising Woodrow Wilson, the kid in charge of counting the votes, a slice of their cake. However, the episode wasn't about the cake, which was only mentioned when Wilson confessed his wrongdoing to Numbuh One.
In an episode of Arthur, after the namesake character's father decided to make a cake for a theme party in his class, the resulting unusual-looking cake turns out to be a hit with the class, especially Mr. Ratburn. As Arthur gets his dad to keep making cakes for various events in order to make himself more popular, a Running Gag occurs as Mr. Ratburn appears at wherever cake may be present with the pretense of bringing a reading list for students. It gets to the point that he randomly appears at Arthur's house unprompted just for a chance to eat cake.
There's a popular restaurant called Cake 'N' Bacon.
In the episode where Timmy Turner decided to run for President of the Student Council, Co-Presidents Tad and Chad offered a huge cake to sway the voters into their side. It backfired on them as everyone who ate of the cake became too sick to attend school during voting day. The only people at school that day were Timmy and Principal Waxelplax, the latter of whom said she was only there because she's frosting intolerant.
The Regular Show episode "Free Cake" is all about Mordecai and Rigby trying to get chocolate cake. They finally convince Benson to throw a birthday party for Skips, but in trying to get Skips they inadvertedly interrupt a ritual that Skips needs to perform to live forever. When The Powers That Be threaten to drain away Skips' lifeforce, Mordecai is forced to give them the chocolate cake in exchange for letting Skips live. In the end, they get cake, only it's vanilla.
In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Band Geeks", Squidward organizes a band by setting up fliers all over town, promising free refreshments. At the first meeting, Mr. Krabs asks "When do we get to the free food?"
In Class Of The Titans, presumably taking a nod from an actual Greek myth, one of the only ways to distract Cerberus is with cake. He loves cake. The heroes are amazed to learn this.
In Rugrats , the babies think a wedding is just a big party with a giant cake. In one episode, when Tommy and Chuckie's families get invited to a place where several weddings and receptions are being held at once, the kids spend most of the episode wandering around looking for the cake.
In The Penguins of Madagascar , as part of King Julien's Day's festivities, there's a baking contest to make the official cake for the party. As Julien himself says, even if they can have the party without the cake, it wouldn't feel right.
As any college student (or high school student) will tell you, the easiest way to get people to show up to an event is by providing free food.