Posted by: christinelaennec | February 10, 2012

What is a Tunnock’s tea cake?

Recently – and à propos of the work of Scottish artist Gillian Kyle – Karen of Beatrice Euphemie Vintage Cottage Style asked me:  “What is a Tunnock’s tea-cake?”  And here, Karen, is the answer.

I happened to have a few spare minutes and was walking past Rosie & Thistle’s tearoom on Thistle Street in Aberdeen recently.  Not wishing in any way to encroach on Lorna‘s territory, I thought it was an opportunity too good to pass up.  There on the top of a cake-stand was a tempting display of Tunnocks tea-cakes in their distinctive red and silver foil wrappers:

Tunnocks tea-cakes at the top of a cake stand in Rosie Thistle's teashop, Aberdeen.

And I couldn’t resist showing you this, because I do believe it’s true!

"Where there is tea, there is hope" cushion

So here’s the Tunnock’s tea-cake, along with my coffee:

Tunnocks tea-cake still in its wrapper

Under the wrapper...


Basically, it’s marshmallow on top of a plain biscuit, covered with chocolate.  One of the nicest things about them is that if you buy them in a shop they come in pretty boxes, nestled in between little cardboard separators – they remind me of old boxes of Christmas tree ornaments.

The other nicest thing about them is the foil wrappers.  They are “absolutely beguiling,” as my old friend Polly used to say.

In the interests of clarity I should say that there are also plain old tea-cakes, not made by Tunnocks, which are kind of like a flat fruit scone, and are served toasted.

Have a great weekend, everyone!



  1. oh my goodness, how delightful! i have no idea how many tunnocks wrappers i have smoothed out as i’ve eaten those little lovelies. in our house, it was almost competitive to see whose wrapper could be the smoothest.

    i had a look at Gillian Kyle’s work and have bookmarked it for a closer browse later on. it’s so wonderful to see so many Scottish favorites among her work. have you ever heard of Nikki McWilliams? She makes Tunnocks teacake cushions.

    and finally, i laughed at the cushion with the “tea” saying. there’s a lot of truth in that.

  2. I am so jealous of you! Not only do you have those little yumptious, scrumptious treats, but you also have the most wonderful little shops! I love the teapots and the china and the tartan plaids and beautiful display stands and cabinets, and the pillows. Well, now I know what a Tunnock Tea Cake is. We don’t have anything like it here, but I am going to find myself a Scottish shop or website and get my very own Tunnocks. The Highland Games are coming this summer to the local fairgrounds and I will bet I can find them there. Thank you for showing me…very delightful! xx

  3. A firm favourite with our granddaughters, as an occasional treat. A little too sweet for me, though.

  4. I love your photos (how inspired to fill a cake stand with Tunnocks confections) and thank you very much for the mention! When I’m in Aberdeen I’ll have to try this place with the marvellous cushions. You’ve just given me an idea for a post in fact, paying homage to Tunnocks.

    Incidentally, I tried to go to Paula of Farnell the other day and it was all closed up 😦 I didn’t see anything about them being closed over the winter on their website, do you know if they’re still in business?

    • Christine, I’m a buffoon! It wasn’t you who recommended Paula at Farnell, I got confused because it was someone else from Aberdeenshire. Sorry about that remark, which must have made no sense to you whatsoever.

  5. Tunnocks tea cakes are yummy! I love that little dish you’ve put your tea cake on

  6. They look yummy and just the sort of thing I love. We have something very similar in Germany and I wonder if I can find these anywhere down here?? I will go and search..have a lovely weekend x

  7. Mallomars by Nabisco in USA. They’re icky-way too sweet. Your’s look much much better!

  8. I’m sorry, Christine, but you omitted some ver important information. The proper way to eat them is to lightly crack the chocolate – daintily pick it off and eat it first – then let your Tongue set stuck in about the marshmallow yumminess and then crunch up the biscuit base. delicious. There is another brand – Burtons, I think, which are smaller but conceal a little dollop of jelly in the midst of the marshmallow. Not as iconic as tunnocks, but a whole one can be fitted into the mouth, allowing more to be eaten. xxx

  9. Mmm, They were a favourite childhood treat of mine 🙂
    You’ve made me all nostalgic 🙂

  10. I had been trying all week to think of what we called a similar treat here in the US. Just as I opened the post, I thought Mallomars. Then I saw Suze’s post. She even remembered the maker. I used to eat them the way Crofter described, except , after finishing off the chocolate shell, I next ate the cookie bottom. I remember a sort of vanilla wafer bottom, and they were for chewing, not crunching.Then you had a mouth full of marshmallow.

    I realized today that I still tend to separate the two sides of an Oreo and eat or scrape out the filling with my teeth and then eat the two cookie sides.


  11. Have you seen the lovely Tunnock’s Teacake shopping bags you can get

    It’s really lovely. I had a friend at University whose dad worked for Tunnocks, painting the teacakes on the side of their vans!

    • Yes, it was Gillian Kyle’s work that sparked off the whole Tunnocks conversation in the first place. I really like them, and how she’s managed to make them shiny and a bit metallic like the real thing.

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