Sunderland's love affair with the pink slice - what makes us adore this simple treat so much?

It's possibly Sunderland's favourite treat, and an item hankered-after by homesick ex-pat Mackems.

By Ross Robertson
Saturday, 23rd February 2019, 1:56 pm
Updated Saturday, 23rd February 2019, 2:27 pm

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A pink slice
A pink slice

But what makes the pink slice so loved in Wearside?

The sugary wonderstuff was one of the highlights in our feature on Sunderland foods, drinks and dishes earlier this week and is frequently gushed over with affection on social media and message forums.

The premise is simple: jam sandwiched between two sliced of shortbread, and smothered with indulgent bright pink icing. And perhaps it's this simplicity which makes the pink slice such a winner.

In the days when food often seems to be prepared as much for how it will look on Instagram as how it will actually taste, something simple, tasty, inexpensive and easy to eat can be just what we fancy.

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The pink slice is an antidote to the over-iced flamboyant cupcake we feel we need to dislocate our jaws to consume. They're inexpensive to buy, and you don't have to be a qualified chef to bake your own at home.

Where did they come from? And why can you only really get them in Sunderland?

I'm afraid we not quite sure of the origins of the pink slice - but if there are any pink slice historians out there, we'd love to hear from you.

Perhaps it was the relatively inexpensive and simple nature of the recipe, which produced a snack packed with calories, which made it a good treat for hardworking families in Sunderland's past.

The pink slice recipe was said to feature in the Be-Ro cook book, first published by the North East company in 1923, so this may also have helped popularise the treat in the region. But that wouldn't explain why they are so specific to Sunderland in particular.

One thing we can say is pink slices have been around in Sunderland for decades, and they do seem to be particular to Sunderland - with Mackems living elsewhere in the country (or oversees) pining for a pink slice, and being sure to pick one up when they're home.

Sylvia Roberts said on our Facebook page: "It’s true , I’ve lived up and down the country and I’ve never seen it outside Sunderland. I’ve seen similar, but not quite as distinctive as my fave cake from childhood, yummmm."

Some of you told us your older relatives made the best pink slices at home, others recommended the best places to get one.

Joanne Gordon said: "My Nan used to make THE best pink slice from the Be-Ro book! I absolutely love this cake. McCoys in Hylton Castle make a mean one, but none come close to me nana's."

Claire Knox said: "No one can make it like my Nana Henry used to. She always had a pink slice on the go."

Emma Willis said: "Mam, you make the best pink slice!"

Tracy Pell Foster said: "My nana Pell made this every Friday for the family."

Kathleen Ryans said: "I now live in Cambridgeshire. When I was a little girl the highlight of going to my nanna's on Merle Terrace was to get a pink slice from Walkers Bakery, it's now Carter's but the slices still taste the same 60 years on. Delicious"

David Baker said: "My mother called it Pink Lint. I still do."

Amy Doyle Said: "A pink slice everyday for my breakfast on the way to school never did me any harm."

Laura McLoughlin said: "I could murder one of those right now!"

Gemz Lou Moss said: "Juliet’s Deli in Sea Road make amazing pink slices and always have some in stock."

Libby Greenwell said: "Haversham's in Fawcett St. Been buying them from there for years."

Chris Melville said: "The best one was that store in Jackie Whites, but since that shut closest it's McCoys on Chester road."

Rachel Elizabeth Marshall said: "The Greggs’ “Pink Jammy” donut is like a donut version of a pink slice. Wish they’d sell actual pink slices!

"My dad loves them. Used to get them from the bakery on Newcastle Road until it closed. Now we get them from Haversham's.

"The Newcastle Road bakery made the icing layer so thick!"

Indeed, Haversham's, Carters in Pallion, McCoys, and Juliet's in Fulwell were all recommended by a number of others for their pink slice prowess.

The Bakers Oven in Holmeside, Deli and Dips in Silksworth, Marshall's in Penshaw, and The Bread Basket in Ryhope were also among your recommendations. Sue's Cafe at the seafront is another spot you can expect to find them.

Is it a cake or a biscuit?

Good question. It feels a bit too fancy to be categorised as a biscuit, but its texture is definitely more biscuity than cakey.

The pink slice sits in a similar bracket to the Jaffa Cake when it comes to categorisation. We're not quite sure which it is. Of course, McVitie took this debate to the next level when it won a court case to have the Jaffa Cake classified as a cake for tax purposes.

There is no VAT on cake or biscuits. However, if a biscuit is partly or wholly covered in chocolate it is subject to standard VAT.

But, as the pink slice doesn't contain any chocolate, we don't have this issue. So just enjoy it. If the cake/biscuit dilemma is really troubling you, you could always call it a traybake and be done with it.

But mostly, we recommend you just eat it with a smile rather than getting sucked into a pedantic argument over it. Enjoy!