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Food And Drink : Cornish Classic Recipes : The Split

The Split

Let’s face it; there isn’t much in life that isn’t better with a cup of tea. That certainly seems to be the case with my classics, as I’ve noticed the addition of a nice cuppa is becoming a habit. It certainly makes a firm friend with my latest recipe, for Cornish Splits.

The Split The Split - Picture 1 The Split - Picture 2 The Split - Picture 3

The jury is still out over whether the ‘Cream Tea’ was born in Devon or Cornwall, but the real question is Split or Scone? The Split was always the traditional and integral part of the cream tea, before tastes moved onto Scones (Another inter-county debate that continues to rage). Splits are essentially a sweet bread roll, usually made with sugar or honey to give them sweetness, and yeast to make them rise. It is fairly unusual to see Splits used commercially anymore; they now only tend to grace the tables of Cornish families. It makes sense really that bread would’ve been sweetened to provide a sugar fix, but what about fillings? There is of course the traditional Strawberry Jam topped with Clotted Cream, or for the more daring we have ‘Thunder and Lightning’ where the strawberry jam is replaced with treacle. Interesting, but I think I’ll side with tradition. Now, to start making a mess!

After sifting the flour and the salt together, I add the yeast. The recipe calls for fresh yeast, but I’m afraid my local shop only has fast action yeast sachets so I improvise. The margarine gets rubbed in to form breadcrumbs, before I add warm milk and bring together to form a soft dough.

Kneading is one of the main perks of baking. The mind wanders, stresses are worked out and you can see science unfolding before your eyes. After a quick workout, it’s back into the bowl and into the airing cupboard (glamorous I know) to prove and double in size. After a cup of tea and a couple of chapters of my book, (45 minutes to be more precise) it’s back for another good pummelling to work the gluten in the flour.

Onto a floured baking tray, I shape the dough into 8 small balls, and return to the warmth of the cupboard again to prove for a second time. This helps give a light and airy texture.

After heating the oven to 200c, they go in for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious. As soon as they’re cool. The temptation is too strong, and they are split and spread (very) generously with jam and clotted cream. I’ve abandoned the classic strawberry and gone for plum instead, mainly because it’s all I have in my fridge, but it works a treat. The taste is like a scone, but with the texture of a soft white roll. To be honest, I can’t see why the split ever dyed out, because although I love scones as much as the next girl, the Split makes a fine substitute and actually the lighter texture makes for a jolly enjoyable tea time treat.

The good people of Devon are launching an EU protection campaign to secure the term ‘Devon cream tea’, something which has put a lot of Cornish noses out of joint. I don’t think we need to worry though, because the split is ours to keep, and that’s definitely a reason to celebrate. Cup of tea anyone?


1 lb plain flour
1 oz fresh yeast (or 1 ½ fast action sachets)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 oz lard or margarine
½ pint warm milk


1. Set oven to 200c.
2. For fresh yeast- combine the yeast and sugar to a liquid, add some warm milk and leave to sponge.
3. Sieve the flour and salt together, and then rub in the fat.
4. Add the yeast mixture, (or stir through the dried yeast sachets), followed by the warm milk and mix together to form a soft dough.
5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well. Replace into the same bowl, cover and put in a warm place and leave to rise until doubled in size.
6. Knead again and shape into small round cakes or buns. Put onto a floured baking sheet, leave to prove again, then bake for 15-20 minutes until browned on top.