Image of a jaffa cake

Tonight sees the second episode of the eagerly-anticipated Great British Bake Off 2016. The first didn’t disappoint, with gin flavoured icing so strong it made Mary cough, an unprecedented (though undramatic) number of binned cakes and the controversial replacement of the much-loved squirrel with a pheasant. But of course, what really took hold was Jaffa Cake Gate (to dunk or not to dunk? That is the question). It also – inevitably sparked off the debate of whether a Jaffa Cake is a cake or a biscuit. It’s a cake (as ruled by a judge no less) on the basis that stale cakes go hard whereas stale biscuits go soft. And Jaffa Cakes go hard when stale. Ergo, they are cakes (it is good that the legal profession is concerned with such weighty issues).

Why does it matter?

Two gingerbread men

But why does that even matter? Well it’s all to do with our old friend, VAT. Cakes are not subject to VAT, even if covered in chocolate (like a Jaffa). Biscuits on the other hand are not subject to VAT if they are plain but – and here is the rub – once covered with chocolate, they are considered a “luxury item” and thus do attract VAT (why a chocolate digestive is considered a luxury item and a black forest gateau is not, I have no idea). If you want to get really detailed, two eyes piped in chocolate on gingerbread men are ok, but a full coating is not. (Imagine having a job where you get to make this stuff up.)

A café with a difference

And now you are probably thinking, why does someone who works for a disability charity even know this? Well, it’s all thanks to Café West, our social enterprise in York which provides the in-house café and catering for all of York City Council’s 1300 on site employees. And so knowing what to charge VAT on becomes pretty important when balancing the books! Much more importantly of course, Café West gives people with learning disabilities the opportunity to work in a real café whilst learning skills in catering and customer service to enable them to go on to mainstream employment. And with only 6.8% of people with learning disabilities in paid employment (as compared to 47% of all disabled people and 80% of the population as a whole), projects like Café West play a vital role.

But projects like Café West are few and far between and so many people lack the opportunities it provides. That’s why we fundraise for employment and skills related projects that give people the kind of chances in life that most of take for granted. It doesn’t have to cost a lot either; we’re currently piloting a traineeship programme, that for just £1800 provides someone with a learning disability or autism with 13 weeks paid work to learn on the job and receive job coaching to move into employment.

Get involved

If you’ve read this far you probably like cake. So one way you can help is by hosting a 4tea party raise money for projects like Café West. It’s really easy to do – all you need to do is invite your friends, family, neighbours around for tea (and cake) and ask for donations in return. We don’t mind if you serve cakes, biscuits or Jaffa Cakes but please do tweet or post a picture on our Facebook page of how you get on!

Find out more information on 4tea

On your marks, get set, BAKE!

Diane Lightfoot, director of policy and communications (and cake)