I think we all know a cream tea can quickly get controversial down in the Westcountry, jam first? cream first? As long both are involved, so are we! Whichever is your favourite it’s safe to say cream teas have been served across Devon and Cornwall for 100’s of years and we, and all the visitors to our county sure do love one in the summer sun. But did you know it didn’t all start with scones? And we are big fans of the traditional split. Join us as we take a dive into the history of Devon splits and why we love and still serve them today.
So what is a Devon split?
A traditional split is an enriched dough, so we are talking about a yeast bread that is kneaded, risen and baked over a few hours to craft the perfect casing for all that jammy and creamy goodness. This makes for a much lighter sweet bun than the scones you are used to. I don’t know about you but as much as we love a scone, we are always pretty full by the time we take the last bite. The much lighter and airy texture of Devon splits makes for a much more refreshing afternoon treat and keeps that delicious cream and jam centre stage.
Where did Devon splits come from and what about scones?
It’s pretty contested and the history books are unclear if a Devon or Cornish split came first, but it’s clear that the first time jam, cream and bread appeared together was at Tavistock Abbey in the 11th Century. So does that mean Devon takes the crown… we will leave that up to you! It is believed that splits were served across Devon + Cornwall throughout history, but this all took a change when the main train line down to the Westcountry was put in. This led to a big surge in tourists flocking to the sunny west coast from across the UK and suddenly the demand for cream teas surged. With such high demand and taking hours to make, splits sadly lost the battle to the much quicker to produce scone which is thought to have originated in Scotland of all places. So there you have it, a scone based cream tea was born out of the need for a quick commercial solution, rather than the much more crafted split.
Devon splits in the vines
As we love a split, it’s no surprise they make the base of our cream teas in the vines. We make all our splits fresh every morning and they are usually risen and baked to perfection for the day ahead by mid-morning. Really taken in by their light fluffy texture we prefer to serve our splits with freshly whipped cream for a truly refreshing bite (don’t worry clotted cream is always on hand too!). We shape our splits to be small bite-size buns, creating a trio with each filled with a different jam from the wonderful Devon-based Clare’s Preserves.