Friday, 29 March 2013

FOOD FIGHT - Black and White vs Jaffa Cake

It's Friday and it's FOOD FIGHT time!

What does that mean? We pit two food items against each other - one from the USA and the other from the UK - and decide which is the best.  Previous editions include Toffee vs Caramel Apple, and Haggis vs Scrapple, and so far the UK food items are winning, but it's early days yet. Maybe I'm just  incurably biased…you'll have to find out below.

Today we have two delicious baked goods from the biscuit aisle of the supermarket. Or do I mean cookie? Or, wait, is it actually cake?

In the US corner we have a sweet, fluffy Black and White, a soft lemon-tinged sponge cookie half-covered in vanilla and chocolate fondant frosting. According to the internet, although this has a soft cake-like consistency it is very much a cookie. The key appeal to these desserts is the size which, like many good American food items, is extra LARGE: We're talking the size of my face.

The best place to find these big babies is your local deli, and not a grocery store. We get ours from an Italian gourmet deli in a nearby town. They're an East Coast US thing, and particularly enjoyed by New Yorkers, including comedy character Seinfeld. Seinfeld suggested that this great nation should look to the black and white as a symbol for racial harmony, which is precisely what Obama did (perhaps inadvertently) in 2008, dubbing it the 'unity cookie'.

In the British corner we have the delectably tangy Jaffa Cake, a soft baked item topped with orange jelly encased in a crisp chocolate layer. These are much smaller than their US counterparts, but are not without their controversy.

Legally they must be described as cakes, not cookies. In the UK biscuits and cakes are not subject to sales tax, except for 'luxury biscuits' covered, or partly covered, in chocolate. A famous 1991 court case required the makers of Jaffa Cakes to defend their tax-free status. Folklore claims that they produced a giant 12-inch version of the cake, proved that it went stale like cake and not soft like biscuit, and so preserved their legal position as cakes. Let them eat tax-free cakes, the courts said, or was that someone else?

Now to the fight, here goes…

Black & White Cookie

Invented: Nobody really knows, although there is at least one claim that they were invented by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef's kitchen staff in the 19th century.
How to Make: There doesn't seem to be one particular method or company that makes these. Aficionados see this as a good thing as they've avoided mass commercialization so far.
How to Eat: Apparently the trick to eating these is trying to get a taste of both chocolate and vanilla in each bite. This is no mean feat considering their size.
Rock n Roll factor: HUGE. A Presidential symbol for racial tolerance in melting pot America, and yet haven't 'sold out' to the commercial forces that be.

Jaffa Cake

Invented: 1927 by Scottish firm McVities.
How to Make:  Like this!
How to Eat: Bite the edges of the cake avoiding the jaffa center, peel off the chocolate layer, eat the chocolate and cake leaving the tangy jelly center until last.
Rock n Roll factor: Once embroiled in one of the UK's top ten landmark court cases. Although tiny by black & white standards, they also come in yard-long packs of 60 and in muffin varieties, although the infamous 12-inch court appearance special is not available commercially.

Who is the FOOD FIGHT winner?

…it's a TIE!

This was a long debate in the Gladley household, and we evaluated each cookie/cake on their individual merits and in comparison with their rival. The final decision was that both fall short of their confectionery potential and so neither can be the winner.

Why? Well, the tangy lemon sponge and the sweet fondant of the Black & White trumps the Jaffa Cake easily, but the US cookie fails to deliver the 'wow' factor when compared to the Jaffa Cake's secret weapon, the tangy orange center.

But the McVitie's brand of Jaffa Cake is also trumped in its own field by a lesser known brand sold by budget supermarket Lidl. The orange center in these economy cakes goes all the way to the edge of the cake, and that's something quite special, trust me.

If we combined the Jaffa Cake and the Black & White into one super-sized jaffa-filled fondant-drenched spongecake cookie dessert it'd be the indisputable king of biscuits, I mean cakes.

PS - I didn't take the photo of the Jaffa Cakes myself as I no longer have access to any, but I got permission from a real professional, Edinburgh-based photographer Jon Davey, to use this photo. I met him back in 2011 when I was at the Edinburgh TV Festival (where he took this photo amongst others). When I asked Facebook if anyone had a photo of a Jaffa Cake, he took a box out of his kitchen cupboard, shot it, and put in on Facebook within a matter of minutes!

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