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noun [countable] trademark

a sweet cake which is a combination of a muffin and a doughnut

'The owner of a small chain of local bakeries has hit out after Starbucks UK trademarked the name of one of her most popular products – a sweet doughnut-muffin called the duffin.'

Independent 8th October 2013

The word bunfight, slang for a squabble or disagreement, doesn't routinely have any connection with cakes, but it's become a particularly apt description in the patisserie world during the past year …

an idea that seems to be particularly fashionable in recent times is the creation of 'hybrids': sweet pastry or cakey treats that combine the features of two conventional bakes

In the perpetual scramble to corner the cake market by coming up with something original and appealing, an idea that seems to be particularly fashionable in recent times is the creation of 'hybrids': sweet pastry or cakey treats that combine the features of two conventional bakes. One of the newest of these concoctions has been dubbed the duffin, a moist cake in the shape of a muffin, but which is reminiscent of a doughnut by being injected with a dollop of raspberry jam and rolled in sugar – yum! If you're finding it hard to visualize, here's a link to a photo of a mouth-watering example.

Though it sounds scrumptious, hearty and innocent, the duffin has, believe it or not, proved a wee bit controversial, provoking a bunfight in both the literal and metaphorical sense. In September 2013, global coffee house chain Starbucks launched the cake in the UK, laying claim to the concept by trademarking the term duffin in collaboration with its UK suppliers. However a small London café has challenged Starbucks over ownership of the duffin, claiming that it was the original creator and had been selling duffins well before their appearance in Starbucks cafés.

The controversy, predictably dubbed duffingate in related online commentary (the suffix -gate is now used productively to denote a scandal), follows in the footsteps of another hybrid – the cronut. The cronut is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, and though now widely available, can only legally be called a cronut in the New York bakery where it was created.

Background – duffin

The term duffin first began to appear in 2011, when American baker Bea Vo, proprietor of London tearooms Bea's of Bloomsbury, crossed a doughnut with a muffin to produce a cakey kind of doughnut filled with jam. This wasn't a new idea – celebrity chef Nigella Lawson had published a recipe for jam doughnut muffins some years before, but Vo's version proved very popular with her tearoom customers, who christened it the duffin. Vo also featured the recipe for duffins in her 2011 cookbook.

Vo claims that her recent challenge to Starbucks over use of the word is not financially motivated, but rather by the principle that no-one should have the legal power to prevent use of a particular term for such innovations, especially if they weren't the original creators.

It's a particularly important argument given the plethora of bakery portmanteau words that have burst onto the scene in the last couple of years. There's the townie (tartlet + brownie), a pastry case with a chocolate brownie filling, the brookie, a cross between a brownie and a cookie, and the crookie, a bizarre mash-up of croissant and cookie in which croissant dough is stuffed with biscuits and sugar. And if none of those appeal, then how about a muffle, a muffin plus waffle combo, or perhaps a macanut, a fusion of macaroon and doughnut. Oh, and cronut (croissant + doughnut) even has its very own lexical variant – the dossant.

Gastronomic portmanteaus aren't confined to the patisserie world however. In the past we've also seen fruit and veg creations such as the broccoflower (broccoli + cauliflower), pluot and pineberry, and even hybrids of world cuisines like smushi (sushi + smørrebrød).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 15th October 2013.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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