Food News

The British Scone Debate So Big the Queen Got Involved

March 26, 2018

There is a great debate happening in England, and it’s all about scones. Or rather, how to eat them. It’s caused such outrage online that the Queen herself was called upon to weigh in. The issue at hand? Should one cream then jam their scone, or vice versa? A sweet and stratospheric debate for an era of internet ire.

Scones topped with clotted cream and jam are a British snack known as cream tea. They have a history that some claim dates back to the 11th century and are most traditionally served one of two ways. In Devonshire, scones are only ever topped first by clotted cream, then a dollop of jam. In Cornwall, eaters of cream tea abide by an opposing philosophy: jam then cream, always.

The dietary divide came to a head earlier this month when a restaurant in Cornwall advertised a Mother’s Day afternoon tea on Facebook. “Show your mum you care,” the post read beneath a close-up photo of a scone adorned first by cream and then jam, per Devon tradition. A Cornwall institution serving Devon-style cream tea? The post incited nothing short of a fierce online dispute, one that brought to light not only the differences in the two methods of scone dressing, but the importance of adhering to one’s preferred preparation. Comments, often inflammatory ones, were tossed about. So many, in fact, that the people behind the faux pas followed up with an official apology.

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Well, it seems, amidst all the hubbub, one voice has emerged to join the conversation: the Queen’s. Darren McGrady, a chef who worked for the British royal family from 1982 to 1993, stepped up via Twitter to share the Queen’s cream tea preference. Over the course of two tweets, McGrady revealed that the Queen always opts for her cream tea per the Cornwall tradition, topped first with jam then cream.

Hers is a rather stately opinion to be made aware of. Regardless, the scone debate brings to mind many other bread and topping quandaries: What’s the best schmear to dress a bagel? The standout method for perfectly buttered toast? Should butter really go on bread before cheese? (The French think so!). It’s really, at the end of the day, for you to decide.

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Top Comment:
“And to muddle it further, if you are talking about the village of Scone in Scotland then it's pronounced 'Skoon'...”
— Michael C.

What are some of the biggest bread debates you can think of? Tell us where you stand in the comments.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Kathleen May 30, 2018
Other countries have their heated debates, too. My Grandfather was Norwegian the roaring debate there was: Butter only or Butter and Sugar on Lefse? Don't know what lefse is? Think crepes made with potato flour! (Our family tradition has always been firmly in the Butter only camp!
Rachel G. April 5, 2018
They eat round scones? I thought clotted cream was like cream cheese.

Kt4 March 30, 2018
What exactly is clotted cream? In appearance (in the photos) it looks like whipped cream (I'm guessing it's without sweetener & just plain).
fricky1 March 30, 2018
Definition: "thick cream obtained by heating milk slowly and then allowing it to cool while the cream content rises to the top in coagulated lumps."
It is not at all like whipped cream. The richest versions strike me as almost plastic-like in texture. (And I mean that in a good way...)
Kt4 March 30, 2018
This sounds very interesting. I will be searching for it very soon. Thank you!
fricky1 March 30, 2018
And this doesn't even address the partisans of Cornish Cream vs Devon Cream!
Jackie S. March 30, 2018
I only ever butter my scones and add a dab of clotted cream. Don’t hate me! 🤗
Deborah March 30, 2018
The real problem is finding Devonshire clotted cream in San Antonino, Texas.
Lauren M. March 30, 2018
Central Market! A lifesaver.
Deborah March 30, 2018
Thank you Lauren!
Kathy March 29, 2018
Who really cares whether the jam is first or the cream, as long as you get to enjoy fresh home-made scones (or scones from a good bakery) with delicious jam and clotted (never, ever whipped cream). So many more important things in the world to debate that it is rather silly to get up in arms about afternoon tea.
Phyllis W. March 29, 2018
I'm with the Queen on this matter
Anne Y. March 29, 2018
This also pales beside the southern tea cake controversy in the US, which also reflects divides within the region. Should tea cakes (think of a variation on cookies, not "cake") be crisp (my people) or soft (other people)? Perhaps F52 could investigate the question.
Michael C. March 27, 2018
Ha! This is nothing!
The real debate is how you pronounce it in the UK.
Is it to rhyme with 'cone' or to rhyme with 'gone'?

And to muddle it further, if you are talking about the village of Scone in Scotland then it's pronounced 'Skoon'...
Robby H. March 26, 2018
Scone topping order is just the warm up round. Next you must address if you take your tea "milk in first or tea in first". And watch the fur fly over that discussion.
Rhonda35 March 26, 2018
Who knew scone-dressing would cause such a stir?!