Jaffa Cakes have seemingly been around forever. They are without doubt a legendary British snack; enjoyed by most people at one point in their life or another. Ask your average person about a Jaffa Cake and I’l guarantee you two things- 1) they’ll know exactly what they are, and 2) they will have eaten them too. I’d go as far as to say that they’re entrenched in British eating.
Jaffa Cakes normally come in a box, but I saw this 3 pack in a vending machine and picked them up. McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes are probably one of the most recognisable food products in Britain- maybe not quite as much as the McDonald’s golden arches or ‘Coca Cola’ in red writing, but definitely close behind. The orange writing on the blue background is memorable, recognisable and attractive.
Whereas Jaffa Cakes normally have the protection of the outer box, this ‘snack pack’ relied on a plastic tray within the thin wrapper to avoid the cakes getting smashed about too much. And it actually worked- the three Jaffa Cakes arrived home in good nick, despite the battering they took in my pocket and then in my bag.
I was amazed that they even resembled Jaffa Cakes to be perfectly honest- I’m pretty sure I sat on them for a whole lecture whilst at university that day.
They smelt terrific- the outer layer promises an ‘unmistakably zingy orange centre’ and the dominant smell was a pleasantly fruity orange aroma, along with a hint of sponge. There wasn’t a chocolate scent at all which surprised me a little- had I been blind testing these, I would have guessed that the product was a plain orange cake of some sort.
My favourite thing about the entire Jaffa Cake experience is undoubtedly ‘Jaffa Cake surgery’. This consists of breaking the sponge off the bottom, peeling the chocolate from the top and being left with the orangey centre. Dignified and sophisticated perhaps not, but it’s fun to do.
Speaking of the orangey centre, it was the topic of much discussion between me and a mate. He was insistent that it is thick jam. I disagree- it is texturally ‘wibbily-wobbily’ so I think it is more like orange jelly (Jell-O for any American readers).
The dark chocolate doesn’t really taste of anything. If you remember me mentioning the smell earlier, the taste was a similar situation- had I been blind testing this, I would (hand on heart) not have even been able to tell you there was chocolate in/on it.
The cake part isn’t brilliant- it is a tad dry and very firm. It certainly isn’t what you’d call a traditional sponge cake; rather than soft and melt in the mouth, it was hard and a bit chewy.
The ‘zingy orange centre’ is the best part of the Jaffa Cake by far. It’s fruity, moist and sweet, which is essential given the dryness of the sponge. The texture is nice too- as mentioned earlier, I think ‘wibbily-wobbily’ is the best description of it; not an out and out jelly but stretchy and bouncy.
As you’ll have read, the individual components of the Jaffa Cake aren’t extraordinary. In fact the chocolate is barely (if at all) noticeable and the sponge base is lacking wow factor. How, therefore, has the Jaffa Cake become almost legendary (and over multiple generations as well) in the UK?
The answer to that, in my opinion, is that the Jaffa Cake is much greater than the sum of its parts.
When you bite into a Jaffa Cake you get a load of contrasts, which overall work really nicely. The light and moist, fruity centre is fantastic against the heavier (even bordering on stale some might say!) and chewier sponge base. If the orangey centre was thicker, the chocolate was stronger tasting or the sponge was softer, I think that the Jaffa Cake would be much less enjoyable.
Much as many successful sports teams don’t have ‘star players’ in every position, the Jaffa Cake succeeds in spite of the mediocrity of its individual components.
I can fully understand why this is such a legendary snack. Also impressive was the portion size of this 3 pack- it was perfect to have with a cup of tea and also stopped me from polishing off a whole box of 12 which can easily be done when the box has been opened!