The Great Cake Debate


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!

4 thoughts on “The Great Cake Debate

  1. Justin Erswell

    Well explained there, I am sure that it is a difficult thing to get a handle on as a Lady from across the water, I am sure however us English get a little confused about Twinkie’s which are, if I am right in thinking, cake based treats. ;)

  2. oddlyactive

    Spotted dicks should never be described as ‘jellied’ or ‘jiggling’. If properly boiled in a cloth a spotted dick may be sticky and squishy on the outside (but always firm in the middle), and a good dollop of golden syrup will only enhance that stickiness. As will custard (or ‘Creme Anglaise’ as the French would have it). Sadly, boiled dicks are few and far between these days, with most home cooks and the odd pub restaurant still serving them electing to steam, microwave or even (heaven forfend!) bake rather than boiling for hours on end. Do not mistake any of these puddings, however spotty, for spotted dick; they are but pale imitations of the noble boiled beast on which our once great Empire was built…

  3. oddlyactive

    Always a pleasure, never a wossname. My book ‘Everything you wanted to know about spotted dick (and some things you probably didn’t want to know)’ will be available on Lulu and kindle as soon as I finish uploading it. Lavishly illustrated, only £19.99.


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