Biscuits & Cakes Throughout The Ages

Pick your biscuit. Pink wafer? Gingernut? Bourbon? Jaffa cake? We're stepping back in time this Monday and bringing to you the magical creations of biscuits/cakes and how our ancestors made it possible for us to have our favourite tea dunkers. 

(Image credit: Buzzfeed) 

The Middle Ages 

The word biscuit is from the Latin words 'bis cotus' which means twice baked. The idea of making a biscuit came from the Romans. People have eaten pancakes since the Middle Ages (the 15th century). During this period, individuals would fast particular foods during Lent and confess their sins. The old word for confessing is shriven. This later became Shrove Tuesday. Making pancakes was a great way of using fresh ingredients such as butter, eggs and milk before the fasting period took place. 


The Tudors had a rather sweet tooth and if you were lucky enough to afford preserved fruits, gingerbread, sugared almonds and jelly then life was perfect. However, sugar was expensive so honey was used as a sweetener. Marzipan was introduced by the Tudors as it was a paste made of almonds and sugar. At Christmas time, Tudors enjoyed mince pies but had more of a meaning than today. In fact, the recipe contained 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the apostles and it contained fruits such as currants, prunes and spices such as black pepper and cloves. Thrown into the mix was mutton to represent the shepherds. 

Spiced buns were popular on Good Friday, hence hot cross buns now. The first mention of crosses on them was during the 18th century. However, bread and butter pudding made an appearance during the 17th century and is still a British classic today. 

Modern Cakes 

In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution arrived which lead to the production of cakes, biscuits and jelly. New cakes were invented and people began to celebrate their birthday with cake. You may be wondering if Victoria Sponge stems from Queen Victoria and you'd be correct. Swiss roll and Battenberg were others that made an entrance to our favourite sweet treats. 

More facts? Tarte Tatin was invented in the 1880's, pavlova appeared in the 1920's and Jaffa cakes hit shelves in 1927 (wouldn't a Jaffa Gookie Dough be delightful?!). Our dear penguin with the not so hilarious jokes on the back is under 100 years old and was born in 1932. So, what about your favourite tea dunkers? Digestives: 1892, Custard Creams: 1908, Bourbons, 1910. Surely this proves that Custard Creams are better than Bourbons? They hit the shelves first and are a true classic. 

What's your favourite biscuit? Let us know in the comments below!