CAKE was formed in 1991 by vocalist/songwriter John McCrea, guitarist Greg Brown, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, bassist Shon Meckfessel and drummer Frank French. Shon Meckfessel soon left and was replaced by Gabe Nelson. In 1993, the band released its debut single, "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle". Although self-released, the single managed to hit number 31 on the US Modern Rock Tracks. After the moderate radio success of their first single, CAKE released their debut album entitled Motorcade of Generosity. Eventually, CAKE signed a deal with Capricorn Records, who in turn released the album nationally on February 7, 1994. Some time after this deal Gabe Nelson and Frank French left the band.
On September 17, 1996, CAKE released their second album, Fashion Nugget. The album produced the radio gem "The Distance", which "dominated alternative radio that fall". The next single released from Fashion Nugget was a cover of Perren and Fekaris's "I Will Survive".
CAKE released their third studio album, Prolonging the Magic, on October 6, 1998. This album contained the hit single "Never There" which reached number 1 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks.
On July 24, 2001, CAKE released their fourth full-length album entitled Comfort Eagle. This was CAKE's first release under Columbia records. The lead single "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" was a major hit on alternative radio stations, climbing to number 7 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks, and is now the theme song to the TV series Chuck. It was also used as the background music for an Apple iPod Nano commercial launched in September 2010.
CAKE's fifth album, Pressure Chief, was released on October 5, 2004. It contained the moderately successful singles "No Phone" and a cover of the Bread song "The Guitar Man".
In 2006 CAKE announced Live at the Crystal Palace, the band's first live album. The album was delayed to 2007 and then 2008 before the band announced that they currently don't have plans to release it.
CAKE released a compilation, B-Sides and Rarities, on October 2, 2007. It features covers of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up," Singleton, Snyder & Kaempfert's "Strangers in the Night" and Piero Umiliani's "Mahna Mahna", as well as live versions of CAKE songs "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "It's Coming Down". Rarities is the band's first album on its own label, Upbeat Records.
In 2008 the band removed their studio (Upbeat Studio) from dependence on Sacramento, California's power grid by installing a system of solar panels. The band subsequently announced that their upcoming studio album will be "recorded using 100% solar energy."
A new studio album is currently in the works, due to be released on January 11, 2011. Titled Showroom of Compassion, John McCrea describes the album's sound as "very different" from previous CAKE records, also indicating that he will be playing piano much more than usual. The album will be released on Upbeat Records. Cake released a new song from the upcoming album in September, called "Sick Of You".