My amazing officemate and friend, Lily, made this cake which, after photographing, I devoured with great enthusiasm. However, this simple slice has sparked a cultural lesson here in the office and it’s gotten quite intense. Here’s the deal:
In the UK, cake is not just a dessert. No. In the UK, dessert is but a course in a meal and cake, well, the jolly ol’ Brits sometimes like to eat cake before a meal or between meals. For instance, they often enjoy cake for elevenses (it’s real, you guys, not just for Hobbits) and will have an array of cakes available for tea. Sometimes, as was the circumstance this afternoon, there will be cake but no tea though still, it will be tea. It’s all very mysterious. That being said, you may choose to enjoy cake for dessert if you’d like, but cake is not limited to the Dessert and Celebration categories as it is in the States.
Dessert, on the other hand, could be anything sweet, including a cake, and is eaten after the main course in a meal. A tart, for instance, or ice cream are both perfectly acceptable desserts. To add another element to this delicious confection of conversation, let’s talk about pudding. Pudding is a course in a meal, much like dessert, but the term is generally referencing the jellied and jiggling, such as, well, pudding. Rice pudding, Christmas pudding, spotted dick (don’t Google it unless your safesearch is on), hasty pudding, figgy pudding, sticky toffee pudding… you get the idea.
Suffice it to say that it’s kind of like how all squares are rectangles but rectangles are not squares. All puddings are dessert, but not all cake is dessert. Are you confused? Me too. And I haven’t even made it to pastries yet!