The young person’s guide to a cream tea

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

A growing number of young Brits want to jazz up traditional teatime treats. Pic: The Delicious Dessert Company
A growing number of young Brits want to jazz up traditional teatime treats. Pic: The Delicious Dessert Company

Related tags Bakkavör The Delicious Dessert Company eclairs Victoria sponge Consumer trends Flavours

The days of British icons like Victoria sponge could be numbered, with research by The Delicious Dessert Company revealing that 86% of Brits under the age of 35 consider many of the country’s legendary tea cakes as ‘boring’.

According to a national survey conducted earlier this year by the Bakkavor-owned brand, also in severe need of a makeover are the legendary fruit cake, carrot cake and even scones (no matter how they are pronounced).

Thankfully for The Delicious Dessert Company, cream éclairs are still very much in, along with doughnuts. The brand was launched in 2021 to capitalise on the rise in demand for treats during lockdown, with 75% of Brits regularly indulging to lift sagging spirits, and 14% of these reaching for a cream eclair.

It said, though, that now younger consumers want to explore the new and are back on the lookout for more intense flavours (such as miso caramel, matcha, chilli), exotic numbers (like pomelo) and carefully considered ingredients (bring on the superfruits).

“What this research shows is, whilst the habit of afternoon tea remains – and traditional staples are no doubt ever popular with older people – the younger generation are getting more demanding on the treats they want to enjoy,”​ said Claire Smith, head of Insight at The Delicious Dessert Company.

The top 10 British icons in need of a makeover

1. Fruit cake  ​     

Around since ancient Roman times, this dense, fruit-packed cake topped the list as the most boring cake for 33% of under 35s. This view is not shared by locals up north, with only 15% of the same age group giving the traditional Scottish Dundee cake the thumbs down.

2. Victoria sponge

Made popular by Queen Victoria who enjoyed a slice a day, this light and airy delight is regarded dreary by 27% of young people – but remains popular with over 55s.

3. Carrot cake  ​               28%

A surprise call, particularly among the health conscious, carrot cake also faced the chop with a little more than a quarter of the respondents.

4. Scones  ​                      26%

While no one can agree how to pronounce them, whether cream teas are Cornish or Devonian, or even if its jam topped with cream or the other way around, scones have had their day for more than one in four young Brits.

5. Madeira cake​              24%

6. Vanilla slice  ​               22%

7. Apple turnovers  ​         18%

8. Battenburg​                  16%

9. Dundee cake​               15%

10. Bakewell tart ​              15%

Doughnuts and eclairs faired extremely well, with 86% of under 35s giving these treats the big thumbs up. They are also a favourite among the over 55 year olds, with a massive 94% admitting to indulging whenever the need calls.

Out with the old, in with the new

Smith reiterated the company’s survey revealed a strong move towards more exotic and intense flavours among the younger set.

“The Delicious Dessert Company is bringing the same ethos to cakes and sweet treats,”​ she said.

“Our aim is to re-invent traditional staples and our first three eclair products have already exceeded one million packs sold. As we count down to summer, we have a brand-new range of luscious desserts on the way, with an exciting twist that will bring exciting taste sensations back to summer gatherings.”

The Delicious Dessert Company has injected an exciting twist into traditional favourites for the new generation. It’s loaded eclairs – Strawberries & Cream, Sticky Toffee and Triple Chocolate – are available in Sainsbury’s and Tesco stores across the UK for an RRP of £2.

eclaire 2

But with summer approaching, the company’s flavourists and chefs have been conjuring up new dessert innovations and soon there could be a fruity one, a creamy one and maybe even a crazy one.

“As we count down to summer, we have a brand-new range of luscious desserts on the way, with an exciting twist that will bring exciting taste sensations back to summer gatherings,”​ said Smith.

Watch this space.

Fun facts

Fruit cake was the cake of choice for weary soldiers across the ages, not only for its sturdiness and long shelf life, but also its nutritional value – packed full with many fruits that would be unavailable in the midst of war.

Queen Victoria was famous for serving fruitcake, not only to celebrate her wedding but her birthdays too. The world record for the largest Victoria Sponge n the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest Victoria Sponge was created in 2017 by a Dorset baker. The cake weighed a whopping 50 stone, packed 350,000 calories and fed over 100 people. forklift truck was used to take the tins in and out of the giant oven.

Madeira cake is often thought to have originated from Madeira due to its name but actually has a boozier origin – getting its name from the wine, with which it was traditionally paired.

Eclairs were first popularised in the 19th​ century – translating from French to mean ‘lightning’, as a result of the glistening frosting that was thought to resemble a lightning bolt.

The popularity of carrot cake is said to have originated from the Second World War, when sugar was rationed and bakers and housewives needed an alternative way to sweeten cakes.

The adage ‘carrots will help you see in the dark’ is often employed by parents to encourage kids to eat their veg, but it seems there is a deeper origin. The UK Ministry of Food actually devised this campaign in the 1940s to encourage adults to find inventive ways to include the humble carrot in their diet.

Although their specific origin remains unknown, doughnuts have been around for centuries. In fact, there is even mention of ‘cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried’ in the Bible.

Battenburg is another cake that has its origin routed in the Royal Family, created as a wedding gift for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenburg.

Bakewell tart, which originated in the UK, was actually created by mistake. A cook mistook instructions from the landlord on how to make a jam tart. Instead of combining the almond paste and eggs into the pastry as instructed, the cook spread the mixture on top of the tart. Luckily, it proved popular and became an iconic British cake.

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