Last week's Big Food Story was that Starbucks launched a new bakery item, a doughnut/muffin hybrid they were calling the "duffin". Only problem is that Bea's of Bloomsbury have been selling duffins for almost three years. Starbuck's described their duffins as "filled with a raspberry jam; we’ve added just a hint of nutmeg to our buttermilk base and then covered it in sugar once baked". Bea's ingredients include nutmeg, buttermilk and raspberry jam - she published the recipe in her cookbook in 2011. Even that seemingly-blatant appropriation wouldn't have been a big deal necessarily, except the factory who supplies Starbucks trademarked the name, claiming they couldn't find a prior use.
The outcry was swift and loud. It got a lot of media coverage (each of those is a separate link). Starbucks adopted the position that they never said Bea's would have to stop using the name. Which I suspect means that they just hadn't got around to sending her the cease-and-desist letter yet, because they definitely have form for going after the little guys. And anyway, why would you register a trademark if you had no intention of protecting it?
So Starbucks manages to look even worse than usual and Bea looks like a plucky but modest hero for standing her ground and wanting the name duffin to be available for use by everyone.
I don't patronise Starbucks, making a boycott from me a bit of an empty threat, but I was pretty keen to be on the side of the angels for this one. I popped into Bea's on Thursday to buy a couple of the controversial cakes. I was actually a bit surprised they had any left, but the young woman who served me said they were on their third bake for the day because they are so hot right now. And I tell you what, they are absolutely delicious. The subtle hint of nutmeg and crunchy sugar coating makes them taste doughnutty, but the texture is like the lightest, moistest muffin and the raspberry jam gives a good tang.
So over the weekend when I felt like baking, Bea's duffins came to mind. I don't actually have her cookbook, but I do have Nigella Lawson's How to be a domestic goddess, containing a doughnut muffin recipe. I read Nigella's recipe and was unsatisfied by the lack of buttermilk and nutmeg. I flicked through the rest of the book and saw Nigella's blueberry buttermilk muffin recipe.