Jaffa Cake Dilemma: Cake or Biscuit? The Legal Battle That Had Britons Puzzled


Jaffa Cake Dilemma: Cake or Biscuit? The Legal Battle That Had Britons Puzzled

The Jaffa Cake dilemma is one that has been debated for years. Is it a cake or a biscuit? It’s a question that has divided the nation, and even sparked a legal battle that had Britons puzzled. In this article, we will delve into the history and legal controversy surrounding the Jaffa Cake, and explore why its classification as either a cake or a biscuit was so important.

The History of Jaffa Cakes

Jaffa Cake

Jaffa Cakes were first introduced in the UK in 1927 by McVitie’s, a popular British snack food brand. They are a sweet treat consisting of a sponge base, a layer of tangy orange flavored jelly, and a coating of chocolate. Jaffa Cakes quickly gained popularity due to their unique combination of flavors and textures.

For many years, Jaffa Cakes were classified as a cake. This classification meant that they were exempt from Value Added Tax (VAT), a sales tax in the UK. However, in 1991, the tax authorities argued that Jaffa Cakes should be classified as biscuits, which do incur VAT. This sparked a legal battle to determine whether Jaffa Cakes were indeed cakes or biscuits.

The Legal Battle

Jaffa Cake

The legal battle over the classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes or biscuits was centered around the question of what defines a cake and what defines a biscuit. According to British tax law, a cake is considered a staple food and is usually eaten with a fork, while a biscuit is considered a luxury food and is usually eaten with the hands.

The argument put forth by McVitie’s, the manufacturer of Jaffa Cakes, was that Jaffa Cakes share more characteristics with cakes than biscuits. They pointed out that Jaffa Cakes have a soft and spongy texture, similar to traditional cakes. Additionally, when Jaffa Cakes go stale, they become hard like a cake, rather than soft like a biscuit.

On the other hand, the tax authorities argued that Jaffa Cakes are more like biscuits in terms of their size, shape, and consistency. They stated that Jaffa Cakes are typically eaten as snacks or accompaniments to hot beverages, which aligns more with the characteristics of biscuits.

The legal battle surrounding the classification of Jaffa Cakes lasted for several years. In order to settle the debate, a crucial experiment was conducted. McVitie’s baked a giant Jaffa Cake and presented it in court, proving that when left out for a few weeks, it becomes hard and stale, just like a cake. This evidence played a significant role in the final ruling.

In 1991, the court ruled in favor of McVitie’s, declaring that Jaffa Cakes were indeed cakes and should be exempt from VAT. The court noted that while Jaffa Cakes share some characteristics with biscuits, their overall characteristics align more with those of cakes.

The Impact and Significance

Jaffa Cake

The ruling that Jaffa Cakes are cakes and not biscuits had significant implications. Not only did it mean that Jaffa Cakes remained exempt from VAT, but it also set a legal precedent for similar food items in the future.

The Jaffa Cake dilemma sparked discussions about the definitions of cakes and biscuits, and whether these definitions should be based on physical characteristics or how the food is typically consumed. It also highlighted the importance of classification for taxation purposes and the impact it can have on businesses and consumers.

Despite the legal battle, Jaffa Cakes continued to be a favorite treat among Britons. Their unique combination of flavors and textures made them a popular choice for afternoon tea, snack time, and even special occasions.

In conclusion, the Jaffa Cake dilemma and the legal battle surrounding its classification as a cake or a biscuit captivated the nation. The ruling in favor of the Jaffa Cake being classified as a cake has had a lasting impact on the UK’s tax laws and sparked debates about the definitions of cakes and biscuits. Whether you believe it’s a cake or a biscuit, there’s no denying the deliciousness of the Jaffa Cake. So, next time you enjoy a Jaffa Cake, remember the legal battle it went through and savor every bite!

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The writer is an anthropology graduate who is interested in learning many things. Like to eat anything anywhere.


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