Jaffa Cakes

Jaffa Cakes are biscuit-sized cakes introduced by McVitie and Price in the UK in 1927 and named after Jaffa oranges. The most common form of Jaffa cakes are circular, 2 18 inches (54 mm) in diameter and have three layers: a Genoise sponge base, a layer of orange flavoured jam and a coating of chocolate.[1] Jaffa cakes are also available as bars or in small packs, and in larger and smaller sizes.[2] The original Jaffa Cakes now come in packs of 10, 20, 30, or 40, having been downsized in 2017 from 12 or 24 per pack.[3]

Jaffa Cakes
A Jaffa Cake cut in half
Alternative namesJaffa
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Region or stateAll Regions
Created byMcVitie and Price
Main ingredientsSponge cake, orange-flavoured jam, chocolate
VariationsVarious limited edition flavours (Lemon and lime, strawberry, black currant)

Because McVitie's did not register the name "Jaffa Cakes" as a trademark, other biscuit manufacturers and supermarkets have made similar products under the same name.[4] The product's classification as a cake or biscuit was part of a VAT tribunal in 1991, with the court finding in McVitie's favour that the Jaffa cake should be considered a cake for tax purposes.[5] In 2012 they were ranked the best selling cake or biscuit in the United Kingdom.[6]


McVitie's entire line of Jaffa cakes are produced in the United Kingdom at the McVitie's factory in Stockport.[7] The Jaffa cake production area covers an acre (4,000 m2) and includes a production line over a mile (1.6 km) long which sits on the Stockport side of the site's boundary with Manchester.[4] Because of the nature of the product – having multiple components of cake, chocolate covering and jam – special hardware accelerators were devised to allow rapid computer inspection of 20 products per second, taking place under four symmetrically placed lights.[8]

Flavour variants

Although Jaffa cakes are usually orange flavour, limited edition flavours have been available, such as lemon-and-lime,[9] strawberry[10] and blackcurrant.[11] McVities launched limited-edition pineapple flavour Jaffa cakes in early 2020.[12]


In the United Kingdom, value added tax is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes.[13] McVities defended its classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes at a VAT tribunal in 1991, against the ruling that Jaffa cakes were biscuits due to their size and shape, and the fact that they were often eaten in place of biscuits.[14] McVities insisted that the product was a cake, and allegedly produced a giant Jaffa cake in court to illustrate its point.[14] The product was assessed on the following criteria:[15][16]

  • The product's name was regarded as a minor consideration.
  • The ingredients were regarded as similar to those of a cake, producing a thin cake-like batter rather than the thick dough of a biscuit.
  • The product's texture was regarded as being that of a sponge cake.
  • The product hardens when stale, in the manner of a cake.
  • A substantial part of the Jaffa cake, in terms of bulk and texture, is sponge.
  • In size, the Jaffa cake is more like a biscuit than a cake.
  • The product was generally displayed for sale alongside other biscuits, rather than with cakes.
  • The product is presented as a snack and eaten with the fingers, like a biscuit, rather than with a fork as a cake might be. The tribunal also considered that children would eat them in "a few mouthfuls", in the manner of a sweet.

The court found in favour of McVitie's and ruled that the product should be considered a cake, meaning that VAT is not paid on Jaffa cakes in the United Kingdom.[13][17]

The Irish Revenue Commissioners also regard Jaffa cakes as cakes, since their moisture content is greater than 12%. As a result, they are charged the reduced rate of VAT (13.5% as of 2016).[18]


  1. "Labelling rules". Food Standards Agency. 9 April 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008.
  2. "Jaffa Cake's lemon squeezy bar". Thegrocer.co.uk. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  3. "Jaffa Cakes packet size reduced in latest 'shrinkflation' move". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  4. Harry Wallop (6 May 2012). "Jaffa Cakes - definitely not biscuits - prepare to take on imitators". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  5. "VAT Tribunal case LON/91/0160 (United Biscuits)". Archived from the original on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  6. "Jaffa Cakes - definitely not biscuits - prepare to take on imitators" Archived 17 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 December 2014
  7. "The factory where life is sweet". Manchester Evening News. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  8. Mark Graves; Bruce Batchelor (2003). Machine Vision for the Inspection of Natural Products. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 403. ISBN 978-1-85233-525-0.
  9. "McVitie's Jaffa Cakes Lemon and Lime". Snackspot.org.uk. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  10. "McVitie's launches limited edition Strawberry-flavoured Jaffa Cakes". Talkingretail.com. 27 April 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  11. "Jaffa Cakeover". The Daily Record. 12 December 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  12. Abernethy, Laura (27 January 2020). "McVitie's launches new pineapple flavour Jaffa Cakes". Metro. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  13. Lee, Natalie (2011). Revenue Law Principles and Practice. A&C Black. p. 1009. ISBN 9781847667663.
  14. "What you do – and don't – pay VAT on". Which? Magazine. 24 June 2010. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  15. "United Kingdom VAT & Duties Tribunals Decisions – Torq Ltd v Revenue and Customs [2005]". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  16. "Excepted items: Confectionery: The bounds of confectionery, sweets, chocolates, chocolate biscuits, cakes and biscuits: The borderline between cakes and biscuits". hmrc.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 17 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  17. "The borderline between cakes and biscuits". Archived from the original on 17 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 January 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)