When everything was cake: A year in review of COVID-19 pop culture memes

The past year has been absurd. But even throughout all the craziness, the internet has found ways to spice up each day — whether that be with a whipped coffee recipe or a Bernie Sanders meme.

Nina Raemont, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

A year has passed since COVID-19 took over our world, and we were all encouraged to shelter in place. With more time at home came more time on the internet, and if it wasn’t already weird enough, the internet got even weirder.

A&E has rounded up the funniest and most memorable moments that took over the last 365 socially-distanced days to commemorate this crazy year.

1. Internet-influenced eating habits: whipped coffee, bread baking, tomato feta pasta, “nature’s cereal.”

In however many years, when I will think back to this weird point in time, the first thing that I’ll remember is the internet’s obsession with dalgona coffee, the first TikTok food trend of the pandemic. Just like every other food trend, this quarantine staple originated on TikTok, but soon enough, everyone, including New York Times cooking contributors, was offering their own recipes, and it immediately became the coffee recipe the internet needed to try.

This past year, the internet influenced our eating habits, so much so that — once quarantine began — grocery stores began running out of flour after the great sourdough craze of 2020; everyone flocked to stores for feta and cherry tomatoes for that viral pasta dish; and now, people are putting berries in a bowl, covering it with coconut water and ice and calling it “nature’s cereal.” Needless to say, 2020 put a lot on our plates, and the internet made whatever was on it taste a whole lot better.

2. “Tiger King”

We may never know what happened to Carole Baskin’s husband, but we do know that “Tiger King” united the nation for a hot minute. Everyone and their mother was tuning in to watch the docuseries about the life of felon Joe Exotic and his feline friends. The show sparked online conversation, and a Carole Baskin reference even made its way into another hit song of the year, “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion.

3. “Gossip Girl” Anagrams

The meme rearranging the letters of “Gossip Girl” was all over Twitter feeds way back last April. One anagram featuring Blair telling Serena she had to pee, to which she responds, “Go piss girl.”

4. Everything is cake

This absurd trend made you question what is real and what is cake. The internet erupted over videos of rats, water glasses, Crocs and human arms being sliced into to reveal their true identity: cake. The food artist and chef behind this project, Tuba Geçkil of Red Rose Cake, posted these videos in July, and since then, we haven’t been able to tell man from cake.

5. WAP and Ben Shapiro’s subsequent reaction

The Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion song of the summer — and Pitchfork’s song of the year — took over our playlists and public discourse. The TikTok dance, a complex combination requiring the dancer to perform a jump kick, a ground twerk and a kick split followed by a booty pop, was just as impressively executed as the song’s lyrics itself. Even Ben Shapiro had some questions and comments; he uncomfortably read out the lyrics on camera explaining to the audience that “p-word is female genitalia,” and detailing the song’s vulgarity. The music video has 365 million views and features Kylie Jenner, Normani and Rosalía.

6. Cranberry juice dude

In a year of uncertainty, we all needed a little boost of happiness. That came in the form of a man named Nathan Podaca, also known as @420doggface208, gliding down the street on a skateboard, Ocean Spray in hand and optimism in his eyes as he sang “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.

Podaca posted the video on TikTok, and within a few days, it blew up on every platform imaginable, leading him to Internet fame (the video now has over 80 million views and 12 million likes on TikTok) and a slew of videos copying Podaca’s — one from Mick Fleetwood himself.

7. Mike Pence’s fly

The fly that vibed on top of Mike Pence’s head during the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate distracted the nation from whatever political point Pence was making and became a character in SNL sketches and a topic on Twitter feeds.

8. Bean Dad

It was the first week of 2021, and John Roderick decided to document on Twitter his experience teaching his daughter how to open a can of beans. Through his 23 tweets, we learned that Roderick withheld food from his daughter for six hours until she learned how to open a can. Of course, the internet had a lot to say about it.

9. Bernie Sanders memes

Most people didn’t watch the inauguration with the intention of seeing Bernie Sanders cocooned in his down jacket and knit mittens, but sure enough, the internet took those images and ran with them. Since then, the internet has cropped Bernie minding his business at the inauguration into every setting imaginable, from iconic movie scenes like Forrest Gump to New York City street corners.