Jaffa Cake - Cake or Biscuit? The Never-Ending Debate

Jaffa Cakes! Cake or Biscuit? 

The delectable McVitie's Jaffa Cakes. It's a soft spongey bottom, a dark crackly top, and a jelly orange center. It's an icon on the biscuit shelf (the debate hasn't started and I'm just saying where it sits on our shelves!) It's the perfect treat to satisfy those sweet cravings with a delectable orange twist and is known across Britain not only for its mouthwatering taste but its hilarious TV adverts and, of course, the never-ending debate: Is it actually a cake or biscuit? 

So McVities Jaffa Cakes, we are tackling this debate head-on and leaping out of the pan and into the fire as we look at the history, the court case, and the opinions of those who work here at Kelly's Expat Shopping.  

McVities: A History 

McVities' origins are rooted in sunny old Scotland! The name originally comes from the Scottish biscuit maker, McVitie & Price Ltd, all the way back in 1830. Founded by Robert McVitie, who started out as a humble apprentice baker for his father, he started running the company creating both baking goods and confectionary at the time.

It wasn't until 1884, when Robert's son took over, that the change to creating biscuits almost exclusively came into play. Why biscuits instead of cakes? Simply due to the longer lifespan offered by biscuits at the time. 

When McVitie died, he left the company to Alexander Grant as director and lead shareholder. He was a bright new employee when he created the first major selling biscuit - the classic Digestive! Named as such as it was supposed to help with digestion (go figure!) 

After much merging with other biscuit makers and bakers, McVities became the company we know and love today with five factories producing the biscuit all over Britain today. One in Halifax, two in Harlesden and Manchester, one in Glasgow, and the last (named the Biscuit Works!) in Carlisle.

Fun Fact: According to the Daily Telegraph, with a study of over 3,000 people, McVities was voted the nation's favourite biscuit to dunk in tea!  

Nowadays, according to the team over at United Biscuits, "Over 71 million packets of McVitie's chocolate digestives are eaten in the United Kingdom each year, equating to 52 biscuits per second" which is amazing! Becoming the nation's favourite to dunk in their tea, it's easy to understand why. A delectable crumbly base with a smooth chocolate top. 

But enough with the mini-history - onto the Jaffa Cake itself! 

Jaffa Cakes: An Origin Story 

And soon the debate will begin. All the way back in 1927, perhaps they did not know what would spark the United Kingdom into this fight. Perhaps they simply did not care... Either way, they created a fabulous biscuit/cake which is enjoyed by millions to this day. 

Named for the orange from which it is produced - the Jaffa Oranges - which have a tough exterior that proves perfect for transportation as it's not easily damaged! Each Jaffa Cake goes on a mile-long journey in order to be made in Stockport, Manchester (seriously the conveyor belt is reported to be around 1,6km in length). They are made from three layers of magic - a genoise spongey base, orange flavoured jam encompassed in a smooth layer of chocolate which creates a small dome for the orange! 

And according to the Daily Telegraph, in 2012 they were the best-selling cake or biscuit in the United Kingdom! So are they cakes or are they biscuits?

Well, according to the tax offices - they are in fact... (drumroll please): CAKES!  

The Debate

You heard that right. Those circular bites of heaven are classed as cakes as far as the law is concerned. 

It went to court in 1991 as McVities defended the classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes! (Those on the biscuit team may see this as a blow, as the manufacturer themselves states it's a cake!) The reason behind this debate is partly due to the tax office, which initially argued it was a biscuit due to a couple of factors. Namely: the size, the shape, and that many people typically eat them instead of a different biscuit. (you don't grab a chocolate sponge when you fancy a Jaffa cake do you?).

Expert testimony was brought into court and they explored several other factors: 

- Whether it goes stale, as a cake would. 
- The ingredients are considered similar to a cake - especially the sponge (and the texture being sponge-esque) 
- The fact it is not eaten with a fork as a cake might be, but with your hands
- Where it was displayed in supermarkets (the biscuit section). 

Funnily enough, the name had very little consideration in the debate! 

The ruling? It had both qualities of biscuits and a cake but it was ultimately ruled as a cake!

Don't panic, Biscuit Supporters!

The good news: If they were classed as a biscuit instead, the VAT would be higher and therefore the cost for consumers would be too. According to the Daily Telegraph reporter, Harry Wallop, "The fact it is free of VAT means it can charge shoppers 20pc less than if it was just a jam-filled, chocolate-covered biscuit" - so we shouldn't complain too much! 

However, it's undeniable that you tend to eat it whilst sipping a steaming cuppa tea. You pop it in the biscuit tin at home - not the cake one with your buns and sponges. You spot it nestled on the biscuit shelf in almost every supermarket you enter in Great Britain...

So can this be considered a technical hiccup? 

The Kelly's Ruling

But does the legal talk influence the team over at Kelly's? Simple answer: Nope! 

Having asked all the employees whether or not they were happy to share their stance on the biscuit/cake debate (and subsequently set off the hottest argument the team has had in years). 

The result? 

Out of everyone asked: 33% said cake! 53% said biscuit! The remaining 13% said neither! 

One wonderful colleague, wishing to remain anonymous, stated: "It's definitely not a biscuit, wouldn't really call it a cake either though".

Team Biscuit said: "I would say biscuit, teacake also has a biscuit base with soft [centre] in it and a chocolate cover. So [it's] classed the same in my head, so my verdict is a biscuit." 

Others simply stated: "Team Cake". 

And one colleague started a separate debate on what to call bread: "[Definitely] a biscuit just like a roll is not a bap or a bun". (However, that debate might become a second blog.)

We even asked some of our fantastic customers to chime in: 

One customer says: "In Dutch, I'd call them koekjes... not cakes I think? But in English...I don't know!"
Another brought up the fact they go stale, "They were ruled as cake in court, right? They harden when exposed to air." 

So let us know your thoughts. Team Biscuit? Team Cake? Pop your opinion in the comments below! 

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