- Oct 29, 2002
- East of Suez
Cake or biscuit?
Under UK law, no VAT is charged on biscuits and cakes — they are "zero rated". Chocolate covered biscuits, however, are classed as luxury items and are subject to VAT at 17.5%. McVitie's classed its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991, this was challenged by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise in court. This may have been because Jaffa Cakes are about the same size and shape as some types of biscuit. The question which had to be answered was what criteria should be used to class something as a cake or biscuit. McVitie's defended the classification of Jaffa Cakes as a cake by producing a giant Jaffa Cake to illustrate that their Jaffa Cakes were simply mini cakes.
They also argued that the distinction between cakes and biscuits is simply that cakes go hard when stale, whereas biscuits go soft. It was demonstrated that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale and McVitie's won the case.
The issue was revisited in an article entitled 'Are Jaffa Cakes really biscuits?' published in the Journal of Unlikely Science (Volume 1, issue 7, 2005). The article attempted to classify biscuits via a scientific analysis of various features (size, shape, filling etc.) and determined that the Jaffa Cake should be regarded as a biscuit, or 'pseudobiscuit'.
When the shelf life of an average biscuit product is exceeded, the texture begins to soften and dampen, thus determining a key difference between defining a 'biscuit' from a 'cake'. Furthermore, when the shelf life ("Best Before Date") of jaffa cakes has been exceeded, the texture begins to harden and go stale, not unlike bread and common sponge cakes etc., Thus Proving that jaffa cakes are in fact cakes.
Which leads us to:
ARE JAFFA CAKES REALLY BISCUITS?
The Affinities of Jaffa Cakes: Using Cladistics to Classify Biscuits
Fig 1. Cladogram of biscuits based on a cladistic analysis
By Adam Stuart Smith
A classification of biscuits is proposed, based on a scientifically sound cladistic methodology. The most important factor in the broad classification of biscuits is their shape, not the presence of absence of a chocolate coating, as endorsed by previous phenetic classifications. Of perhaps the greatest significance in this analysis is the unexpected confirmation that in a simple dichotomising classification of cakes and biscuits, the Jaffa Cake is a biscuit. As a logical solution, these results suggest that the implementation of a three-way classification is necessary, including a new group of biscuit-cake intermediates, the pseudobiscuits. This study may have much significance in our every day lives, not only because of the novel terminology, but also because of the link between government food classification and tax brackets.
When Carolus Linnaeus first devised his classification of life in 1735, there was no underlying phylogenetic justification. His system, like all classifications biological or otherwise was ultimately a utilitarian tool – simply put, a classification of life should be useful (Benton, 2000). It is from this viewpoint, that I came to construct a concise classification of another group of disparate objects, albeit a little less diverse than life itself – the biscuits. Biscuits are not the first inanimate objects to be subjected to taxonomic analysis. Mobile phones and volcanoes (Hone et al. in prep) are other examples. Cladistics has also been applied to those idiosyncratic cartoon characters, the Mr Men (Braddy pers comm. 2003).
Aims of the paper
The only other classification of biscuits, I am aware of, is given by Nicey and Wifey (2004a). The scheme is constructed using simple phenetics. Although the detailed interrelationships are not discussed, they give two broad types of biscuits: biscuits and chocolate biscuits. These are each subdivided into three smaller groups; entry level, midrange, and luxury. These categories represent the increasingly complicated form and constitution of the biscuits. This paper aims to test this taxonomic hypothesis using cladistic methods, whilst illustrating the potential of this method for constructing other classifications of everyday objects.
Materials and Methods
A cladistic analysis was performed to ascertain a scientifically valid and robust classification of biscuits. A data matrix (Appendix 1) composed of 20 morphological characters (Appendix 2) and 20 biscuits and biscuit-like snacks, was run through the computer program PAUP (Swofford, 2000) (phylogenetic analysis using pastries?) (Heuristic Search, 1000 random replicates). The simple sponge cake was chosen as a conservative outgroup and used to determine the polarity of the characters. The resulting strict consensus tree is depicted in fig 1.
The Jaffa Cake has long been a disputed member of the biscuit Order (Pootle, 2004). In his report “Jaffa Cakes are Cakes - Proof from the Courtroom”, Archibald (2004) describes a courtroom battle and the various evidences, leading to the decision of the British Government to classify the Jaffa Cakes as a cake, immunising Jaffa Cakes from VAT. Nicey and Wifey (2004b) leave no doubt that the Jaffa is clearly a cake. The following response is given on their website (Nicey and Wifey 2004a), to the frequently asked question: “Are Jaffa Cakes biscuits?”
“No, no they're not. Apart from being called cakes they obviously have a sponge base. Granted they appear to be some kind of luxury biscuit being chocolate covered and shipping in a box.” [italics added].
The argument that the word ‘cake’ appears in the name is a simple issue of semantics. Using this logic one may argue that shortcake is a cake. Objects are classified based on their appearance. According to the current analysis using parsimony, if the Jaffa Cake IS indeed a cake, then so are Fig Rolls and Jammie Dodgers (an unarguable situation). This is because these two biscuits show closer affinities with the Jaffa Cake than with any other biscuits. So according to this classification, the Jaffa cake IS a biscuit after all. It therefore seems there is no simple dichotomy between cakes and biscuits. However, it is possible to make a compromise between a biscuit and cake affinity for Jaffa cakes, by allocating this group a new name. I propose the name Pseudobiscuits for this clade of three genera, on account of their close kinship with both cakes and biscuits. All other biscuits, can be referred to as ‘true biscuits’.
True biscuits split into two more or less equal sized groups, distinguished by their shape: The Rounds and the Angulars. This indicates that shape is a far more significant factor in classifying a biscuit than whether it is chocolate covered or not (contra Nicey and Wifey, 2004a). However, there is a clear transition within each group from simple to complex, confirming the observations of Nicey and Wifey. The Rounds include, as their most simple members, the rusk and similar forms. This group culminates in the well-known dunking forms. Although double-layered Rounds are known, they are a rarity and have been omitted from the current analysis. In contrast, the Angulars acquired a greater variation in form and colour. Although most angulars, such as the humble shortbread, retained a simple flat structure, some forms exhibit extreme diversions from this condition, exhibiting exotic colours, double-layers and fillings. The Penguin even dons an individual waterproof wrapping. These angulars can be further subdivided into the families Partydae (the children’s party biscuits) and the Bourbidae (the bourbons and close relatives). The party biscuits include colourful members, such as the pink wafer, and unusually for angulars, round party rings.
Future cladistic analyses should include many more genera of biscuits, and more cakes, to confirm a comprehensive classification. Biscuits have a temporal duration and origin, and it would be interesting to see if there are any evolutionary patterns to the origin of biscuits There may also be a link between the evolution of dinosaurs and biscuits, as suggested by Smith (2004). There are obviously other ways of classifying biscuits, such as their respective ingredients, but what this study shows, is that it is possible to approach a classification from a more-or-less objective, rather than subjective standpoint. Perhaps the governments should take note of this, when applying controversial foods such as Jaffa Cakes, to tax brackets. Unfortunately, perhaps they would be successful in their next attempt to add biscuit tax to the Jaffa cake. If so, then…sorry folks!
A cladistic analysis of biscuits shows that the biscuits can be classified as follows:
Pseudobiscuits: Jaffa Cake, Fig Roll, Jammie Dodger.
Rounds: Digestive, Chocolate Digestive, Richtea, Hobnob, Choc-Chip Cookie, Macaroon, Rusk, Gingernut.
Angulars: Shortbread, Chocolate finger, Garibaldi
Bourbidae: Bourbon, Penguin, Custardcream. Nice
Partydae: Partyring, Minigems, Pinkwafer
See here: [url=http://www.plesiosauria.com/dinobiscuits/biscuit.htm]http://www.plesiosauria.com/dinobiscuits/biscuit.htm[/url] - for acknowledgements, appendicies, and notes.[/quote]