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What are Jaffa Cakes?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Jaffa Cakes are small cakes which were originally introduced to the British public in the 1920s by the McVitie's Biscuit Company. The cakes have a sponge cake on bottom, orange bit in the middle, and dark chocolate on top. Many people from the United Kingdom have become quite fond of Jaffa Cakes, and a number of companies have tried to capitalize on the phenomenon by making their own versions.

There are three parts to the Jaffa Cake: a sponge cake-like layer, a layer of orange jelly, and a coating of dark chocolate. These cakes are designed to be circular and bite sized, and the lightweight sponge cake can be deceptive; consumers often find themselves eating more Jaffa Cakes than they had intended. McVitie's makes several sizes of cakes, and has offered an array of limited-edition variations with fillings like lime and berry. The classic orange Jaffas remain a consistent seller, however, and the brand is the fourth best seller in the market.

These cakes are named for Jaffa oranges, which are sweet oranges native to Israel. The exact composition of the "smashing orange bit" in the middle of Jaffa Cakes is a bit of a mystery, although it originally was a combination of apricot pulp, tangerine oil, and sugar. Jaffa Cakes are a marriage of flavors, combining slightly bitter dark chocolate with complementary sweet orange flavor and a neutral base of sponge cake.

The precise identity of the Jaffa Cake as a cake or cookie, also known as a biscuit in the United Kingdom, has been a topic of heated debate. In fact, McVitie's once found itself in court defending the identity of the Jaffa Cake as a cake, not a biscuit. While this debate might seem unimportant, rates of taxation for cakes and cookies are different in the United Kingdom, so for McVitie's, this was a very serious issue.

Jaffa Cakes are classified as cakes on the grounds that they are soft when fresh and they turn hard when stale. McVitie's actually brought a giant Jaffa Cake to the courthouse for the trial as a demonstration piece to defend the Jaffa Cake's honor. Despite the eventual court verdict in the matter, the debate still continues, with many people arguing that the Jaffa Cake is really a biscuit, based on its size and composition.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On Aug 17, 2014

I have a friend who lives in England, and he turned me on to Jaffa Cakes once during a visit. I love the taste of the cake, orange, and dark chocolate mixed together to make one awesome taste.

I began experimenting to come up with my own version of this unique treat. An easy way to make a cake that is similar to Jaffa is to simply buy a sponge cake, orange marmalade, and chocolate sauce. Cut the cake in slices and spread the orange marmalade on each piece. Top them off by pouring the sauce on top and you have a quick and easy treat with an international flavor.

Though it's not the same as having real Jaffa Cake, this quick version does have the same elements and similar taste. It works in a pinch when you can't have the real thing.

By Spotiche5 — On Aug 16, 2014

Jaffa Cakes are hard to find in my area, but I love them. Does anyone have an easy recipe to make a homemade version of this British treat?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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