|The Marmite cupcake recipe from my book Supper Club|
The recipe was also published in my book Supper Club; recipes and notes from the underground restaurant. See the proof above.
The recipe, ostensibly created by an outfit called Lola's Cupcakes, seemed remarkably similar to mine. They dug out the centre of the cupcake and filled it with Marmite caramel and topped the cupcake with a buttercream version of the same plus Marmite chocolate ganache.
Lola's cupcakes received an enormous amount of publicity about this, claiming in the press release that they were the first to make Marmite cupcakes.
But I ran my Marmite cupcake recipe text through a plagiarism checking site and the following links came up:
Daily Mail, 9 June 2014, "Love it or hate it... the MARMITE cupcake is here: Baked treat mixes salty yeast spread with caramel and chocolate"
My Daily, 10 June 2014, "Marmite Cake: The Latest Food Fad, But Would You Try It?"
Metro, 9 June 2014, "The Marmite caramel cupcake: You'll either love it or hate it"
Evening Standard, 9 June 2014, "Marmite cupcakes? Got to give it a try."Rather a coincidence, wouldn't you say?
I tweeted Lola's cupcakes and got back some very patronising tweets full of kisses attempting to bat me away. I persisted and they eventually sent me this email:
In Shortlist magazine:
For the insert (in the cake) their ingredients say:
Caramel condensed milk 240g
But there is no mention of condensed milk in their method. Instead their recipe says:
1. Put the sugar and the water into a saucepan and put on a medium heat and boil without stirring until it becomes a deep amber colour.
2. Brush down the sides of a pan with a brush dipped in water to prevent crystallisation.
3. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the cream slowly and carefully this may spit. Stir in the marmite. Leave to cool and make an insertion in the cupcake with an apple corer. Fill with the cooled marmite caramel.
Just to remind you, my blog post says:
Make your caramel.
- Combine the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan until it dissolves.
- Bring it to the boil, without stirring, until it's a deep amber colour.
- Brush down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water to prevent crystallisation.
But the biggest 'coincidence' is that the genius who runs Lola's Cupcakes came up with this quote which is in all the newspaper stories and is almost verbatim what my blog post says:
Asher Budwig, managing director of Lola’s Cupcakes, says: ‘Marmite’s saltiness complements the caramel extremely well, but the centre will either be a shock or a pleasure depending on where your Marmite sensibilities lie!’
Let's compare and contrast with my blog post of 2010 which says:
"It was important to have that salty intense Marmite hit peeking through the sweetness and this was achieved by creating a strongly Marmite flavoured 'centre' in the cupcakes. This 'centre' would either be a shock, or a pleasure depending on where your Marmite sensibilities lie..."
They are big, I am small. So Lola's Cupcakes feel that they can do what they want with impunity. But have they no pride? And to be sooo lazy that they actually steal the words from my blog and pretend that their owner said this? If you are going to nick someone elses idea, cover your tracks a little better.
Let's discuss the whole matter of recipe copyright. It's the subject of a talk that I'm giving with Lavender Bakery and Maison Cupcake at the Britmums conference next weekend "How to make a recipe your own".
Most recipes are not original. Recipes are like Chinese whispers, every time someone cooks them, they turn out slightly differently. You cannot copyright, for instance, a classic recipe such as a Victoria sponge or a recipe for hummus. These dishes are in the canon. All we can do as cooks is slightly tweak them. A Vicky sponge needs certain ingredients in a certain quantity combined and baked in a predetermined order. You can put a different flavour in there, you can add a different fruit, you can make it smaller or bigger, but basically a Victoria sponge is still a Victoria sponge.
Ditto hummus. Hummus needs chickpeas, tahini, salt, lemon, olive oil. You can change the bean. You can change the oil. You can dick around with the recipe but hummus is hummus is hummus.
Now Marmite/caramel has been done before by Signe Johansen in the Marmite Cookbook while Marmite/chocolate ganache has also been done before by Paul A Young.
But neither has put both elements into a cupcake. My recipe is not the same as their recipes either. I started from scratch.
I would argue that Marmite Cupcakes is not a classic recipe, it's an original idea, even a gimmick. While a cupcake is a basic recipe, adding Marmite is unusual, and digging out the centre or the 'insert' is another idea, and combining Marmite/caramel and Marmite/chocolate ganache in that cupcake is too close for comfort. As a unique recipe, Lola's cupcakes could, at the very least, have credited me. David Lebowitz in this article, talks about recipe attribution, how to give a polite nod to those who came before.
Legally, note that ingredients cannot be copyrighted. The method cannot be copyrighted either. Minor changes and rewriting the method is not illegal, however it is not terribly ethical.
But words can be copyrighted. If you copy the exact same words in the method of a recipe from someone else, that's a breach of copyright. Using the exact same words in the exact same order from somebody else's blog post, without crediting them, IS a breach of copyright.
Update: they have also used my recipe on their facebook recipe app without permission or credit.
New update: I had a phone call with Marmite in which they responded with weaselly words and refused to explain how this 'error' happened, they then threatened me by saying that Lola's were going to pursue me for libel. Marmite promised me some work in recompense but never followed through.