The scone debate: Jam first or cream first for the perfect cream tea? One mathematician decides

Yahoo Lifestyle

For anyone who's had a full blown row over afternoon tea, we are about to solve the scone debate.

The solution to the baffling question that has had Devon and Cornwall at loggerheads for decades has been scientifically considered and mathematically speaking, it is (drum roll please) jam first, topped clotted cream.

For the most satisfying bite, Dr Eugenia Cheng from the University of Sheffield has worked out the ratio of cream to jam to scone to ensure the right amount of buttery, sconey base, fruitiness and creaminess.

The ultimate ratio is 2:1:1, with a freshly-baked scone 60mm in diameter, topped with 2.3mm of jam and 4mm of clotted cream.






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But don't be fooled by the different heights. The amount of both cream and jam should be the same - 35g each, with the jam spread more thinly across the whole scone, and the dollop of cream on top.

And though the jam should be spread across the base, there should be 5mm around the edge with no topping, to ensure drippage is kept to a minimum.

The traditional English treat has been a bone of contention between counties for years. In Devon, cream teas traditionally see the scone split in half with clotted cream spread on both pieces, followed by a dollop of jam. But in Cornwall, they swear by jam first, followed by cream.

And according to Dr Eugenia, it's the Cornish who've got the right idea. By her working out, because jam isn't as dense as cream, it should be on the bottom to prevent it sliding off.






And, as all good fans of the cream tea will know, it's best to use clotted rather than whipped cream - and there's a mathematical reason behind that too.

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Whipped cream is so full of air that it's too light to work with the 2:1:1 ratio. Though it is worth mentioning at this point that the research was commissioned by the country's oldest clotted cream maker, Rodda's.

Dr Cheng said: "Building a good scone is like building a good sandcastle – you need a wider base, and then it needs to get narrower as it goes up so that it doesn’t collapse or drip."


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When fully built, the scone should stand around 2.8cm tall (though this is based on the size of Dr Cheng's mouth), and though piled high, the cream should not be thicker than the scone top or else it may become unbalanced while eating.

Nicholas Rodda, Managing Director of Rodda’s, said: “For a perfect cream tea, you need to have the right quantities of each ingredient and prepare them in the right way.

"The aim of this formula is to help ensure that no matter where you are in the country you should always be able to enjoy the perfect serve for a cream tea."

But what side of the fence do you come down on? Vote in our poll below the video: