If I were to list my top ten Cadbury’s chocolate bars, the following three would certainly be in it: Twirl, Flake and Time Out.
Each of these bars exists as the result of a serendipitous event. Back in 1920, inside the Cadbury’s factory, one of the employees noticed a curious phenomenon. When the moulds used for making chocolate bars were full, excess chocolate dribbled over the edges in a thin stream. When it cooled, the stream formed thin flaky layers of chocolate. These layers proved to have a nice texture for nibbling. Enter: Cadbury’s Flake.
Ten years later, someone had the bright idea of combining Flakes with ice cream, and the ’99’ was born.
There’s an entertaining newspaper article about 99s here, which refers to the problem of ‘angle-angst’ suffered by those who are concerned about how the Flake is stuck into the ice cream. But I digress. Back to the treats in question.
Flake, Twirl and Time Out all contain the same flaky, layered milk chocolate to a greater or lesser degree.
For an unadulterated flaked chocolate sensation you need look no further than the original creation, the Flake. In its usual form it comes as a single length of flaky chocolate that crumbles very easily.
The Twirl is more or less a Flake coated in a smooth layer of milk chocolate. It usually comes in a twin pack with bars that are shorter in length than Flake.
Like Twirl, Time Out used to come in a twin pack, but nowadays I see it far more frequently sold as single bars in a multipack. Unlike Flake and Twirl, Time Out could arguably be categorised as a biscuit rather than a chocolate bar. My local supermarket stashes it in amongst the biscuits and not in the confectionery section. The reason for this is that in addition to the folds of flaky chocolate there are two layers of wafer, as seen below.
Here are the three items together for comparison. At the top is the Time Out, in the middle is the Flake and at the bottom are the twin bars of Twirl.
For many years I declared my favourite chocolate bar to be the Twirl. Although passionate about the taste of the Flake, its crumbly nature has often been a source of anxiety. I find it more or less impossible to eat one without dropping minute crumbs of chocolate onto my clothes, which then melt into small brown blobs in the fabric, which upsets me. In the past year or two I’ve rediscovered the Time Out, which virtually disappeared from British confectionery shelves for ages, and I began to ask myself if this old friend was a real rival to the mighty Twirl. The Twirl, incidentally, is one of Cadbury’s bestselling items.
There was only one thing for it: a taste test.
Having more chocolate than would be advisable to eat on my own, I issued an invitation to the delightful assistants to join me in this endeavour. They graciously accepted.
Hot beverages were made and bits of chocolate bar were put on a tasting plate.
We each tasted them in the same order: Flake, Twirl, Time Out, sipping at our tea and coffee between chunks.
As always, the delightful assistants took their jobs seriously. They tasted each morsel carefully,
before making appropriate notes about the experience.
Starting with the Flake, delightful assistant no.1 described a “pleasant texture”. Delightful assistant no.2 also mentioned the texture, with the following observation: “the taste comes late because the initial sensation is dominated by the texture, the roughness, the crumbliness, the dryness…”
Of the Twirl, delightful assistant no.2 wrote that the “taste of chocolate comes with the first bite” while delightful assistant no.1 noted that the “chocolate coating creates a more solid, less transient impression”.
Finally, the Time Out reminded delightful assistant no.1 of a Kit Kat and was, in her opinion, “less distinctive than Flake”. Delightful assistant no.2 had this to say of it: “the biscuit in the centre suggests that this is more than a chocolate treat: it is a meal, full of essential nutrition.”
When asked to rank the three in order of preference this is how they fared:
Delightful assistant no.1 - Flake, Twirl, Time Out
Delightful assistant no.2 – Twirl, Flake, Time Out
Lorna – Flake, Time Out, Twirl
In my case, there was quite a tussle for top spot and Flake only just edged it past Time Out. What surprised me a great deal about this was that, having tasted all three at the same time, the Twirl – for many years my preferred chocolate treat – was positively lagging behind the other two in third place. However, as I said to the delightful assistants (who have become well trained in purchasing the odd Twirl for me as a treat), I shouldn’t like this ranking to make anyone think I’m no longer interested in Twirls. I am extremely happy to consume Twirls and I still think them a tip-top confection.
Is this how things will remain from now on, I wonder, or will my allegiance change again the future? I think it would be wise to conduct regular taste comparisons to keep tabs on the situation.