REAL British Classic #1: The Jaffa Cake

There are few things dearer to my heart (or should that be my stomach) than a Mcvities Jaffa Cake. A wonder of food engineering, flavour and texture combination, Jaffas illustrate well the British tendency to enjoy a foodstuff with a hint of playfulness and fun about it. A small disc of firm, dry sponge holding a smaller disc of tangy marmalade coloured jelly, the jelly half finished with an ethereally thin layer of dark chocolate. Chocolate and orange are always a fine combination, and the “smashing orangey bit”(as advertising instructed us was the term for the centre of the Jaffa Cake) is refreshingly sharp and holds up well to the twin attack of  chocolate and slightly stale tasting sponge. I must point out here that a hint of staleness with regards to confectionary is no bad thing for the British. In fact, we have a soft spot for really low quality sweet things, waxy “chocolate” Rainbow Drops being one example that springs to mind from my happy sweetshop memories. No, for some of us, the beauty of the Jaffa Cake lies in the ritual of how you eat them. Heaven forbid that we should actually just bite, then chew. No, no. This is Great Britain! Do you scrape the chocolate away with your front teeth, then separating the jelly from its spongey mooring? Or is it a case of  precision-nibbling away the sponge, to then attack either the orange from below, or to strip it of its choccy covering. The saliva producing quality of Jaffas makes them one of the most horrendously moreish snack cakes that money can buy, and many a large cardboard tube has been finished off at a shamefully fast speed. (Ahem) Indeed, they have long been known as a staple of cash-strapped students eager for sugar to dampen down the munchie attack brought forth via daytime TV/Jazz Cigarettes…

So how long have we been in love with this plucky little fella? Like most things British, it has a long history, first emerging waaaay back in 1927, and remaining popular ever since. A question also remained popular too, namely: Is a Jaffa Cake a cake or is it in fact a biscuit? Now, under UK law, no VAT is paid on biscuits and cakes, with one notable exception. Chocolate covered biscuits incur value added tax. Her Majesty’s Customs And Excise challenged this in 1991 and took McVities to court over the matter, probably due to the fact that Jaffas are about the same size as most biscuits. McVities responded by making a giant Jaffa Cake – the thought of it just makes my knees go – to show that they were essentially just miniature versions of cakes. The court ruled in their favour and subsequently we can say for definite that the Jaffa is indeed a cake. Waste of court time? I think not! Truly a British icon (my Nan told me of a meal in her youth where a solitary Jaffa Cake was given as a dessert), a world without smashing orangey bits is a world I want no part of. Just watch Spaced to see the joy that they elicit. That’s how we feel about ’em!

McVities Jaffa Cake, I salute you!

And there we go, thus ends the first in what I plan to be a weekly series highlighting uniquely British foods for anyone in the dark about our eccentricities and habits. See you next time………

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4 Comments on “REAL British Classic #1: The Jaffa Cake”

  1. Marius Says:

    Casey, while I will admit that the thought of chocolate and orange together has yet to be anything but cringe-worthy for me, your obvious delight in these confections makes me dearly wish to try one. I can’t wait to read more in the future. 🙂

  2. weathereye Says:

    There’s a little shop here in my humble Canadian town called A Taste of Scotland or something, which for some reason has a big Union Jack on its sign. It’s all very confusing. On St. Patrick’s Day, they fly green flags and sell “Proud To Be Irish” t-shirts.
    I walk by it all the time; they sell Coronation Street DVDs, various odd items in jars and cans … and Jaffa Cakes. I think I’ll try one out, because (a) I like orange and chocolate together and (b) Canadians understand the beauty of stale as well as our UK cousins do. And it will be stale.

  3. Mary Says:

    Loving it. You’ve captured the essence of Jaffa Cakes perfectly. I may now have to go buy some!

    BUT… Rain Drops were ‘happy’ memories???? They’re awful. If anyone got me Rain Drops I was devastated, what a waste of 5p.

    Can’t wait for the next post!

  4. ToxicGiggle Says:

    Jaffa Cakes are the most amazing cakes known to man, and like you i have been known to eat a whole tube in one sitting.
    The new orange and cranberry ones are also very nice.

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