Food – Sweets and treats

In this podcast, I describe four sweet dishes that you might find in the UK and talk about the interesting language as I go.

At the bottom of the page, there’s a language activity and a task for you to complete in the comments section.

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Learn English Vocabulary

Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.

This is the third in a series of three podcasts that look at different foods and vocabulary you need to talk about food. In the first podcast, I spoke about some popular meals in the UK. In the second, I spoke about snacks and food you can grab on the go and in this podcast, I’m going to talk about some sweets or desserts. 

These podcasts are vocabulary support for a new conversation class on English Focus for B1 and more advanced learners. 

If you are interested in joining the class, send me a message at and I’ll share the course details. Some of you will know that I have been working on English Focus for a long time. This conversation course is the first course that I’m running so it’s still in beta and will be very cheap. 

The course is 6 classes and the first class is about food. In the class, I want learners to be able to talk about food. As well as knowing the names for different foods, it’s important to know how to talk about how the food is made and what the ingredients are and to say when and where you might eat different foods and of course to be able to say what it tastes like. 

In this podcast, I’m talking about traditional sweets or desserts. I’ve got four sweet treats to describe to see if you know what they are and what they are called in English. 

OK … The first is a baked food that’s a bit like a cross between bread and cake. You can get sweet and cheesy versions. The sweet version is often served with clotted cream and jam as part of a cream tea. This is a delicious combination, especially if they are fresh out of the oven. I used to take students to a small tea room in a village called Chilham for these. It was one of my favourite excursions. 

Do you know what food I’m describing?

The answer is scones. In the UK, some people call them scones and some people call them scones. I have looked online and apparently there are versions all over the world. I’m not surprised as they are delicious.

The way a food tastes is its flavour. Desserts are generally sweet, that is they taste like sugar. Honey is sweet and lots of fruit is sweet. The other main tastes are sour, like lemons and unripe fruit, salty, that is, with lots of salt, bitter which is like sour, but more sharp. Really strong coffee can be bitter. Bitter flavours can seem to stab or hurt your tongue. The other main flavour is umami, but this is not commonly used to talk about food. It’s the satisfying flavour of complex fats. It’s what makes a good broth or a piece of meat or cheese taste so satisfying, but it’s hard to describe the flavour on its own. As well as these flavours, food can be spicy, which again is hard to describe purely in terms of flavour as spicy food is often also sweet or sour or salty. 

I said that cream teas are scones served with clotted cream and jam. If something is served with a type of food, then both foods are present on a plate. I was about to say that they weren’t mixed, but if something is served with cream or custard, the cream or custard are often poured over the dessert. 

The next food is a type of cake. It’s square shaped and made up of four square sections held together with jam and wrapped in marzipan. It is really sweet and quite popular. It was first baked to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of … well, the name of the cake. Apparently, the name is from a small town in Germany. 

Do you know what food I’m describing?

The answer is a battenberg cake. When I was younger, I used to love battenberg cake … I mean, I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but when I was younger, I overdid it and ate a whole cake. I was about 10, I think. I won one at a school fete and I tried eating it all and made myself really sick. 

If something is made up of, it is created by combining items that are complete before they are combined. If something is made of something, then the ingredients can’t be seen as individual items in the finished dish. So pancakes are made of eggs and flour and milk, but you can’t see any of these ingredients in the final dish, but a cheeseburger is made up of a burger bun with a beef patty and a slice of cheese and some onions and ketchup. You can easily identify the different items that a cheeseburger is made up of. 

I said that I have always had a sweet tooth. If you have a sweet tooth, you really like sweet things. I mean, everybody likes sweet things, but some people like them more than others. My younger sister, for example, doesn’t really like chocolate. It’s too sweet for her. She doesn’t really have a sweet tooth. My older sister, on the other hand, loves chocolate and marshmallows, which are about as sweet as you can get. She really does have a sweet tooth. We don’t use other flavours with the word tooth to suggest a particular love of other foods. 

The next food that I want to describe, I have selected because the name is quite funny. I haven’t had this dessert for years, but it was a regular dessert in my school dinners in primary school. It is a steamed pudding, basically a cake that’s cooked in a tin in boiling water. I think that it’s just cooked slowly in boiling water – we call it steamed, but it’s not cooked in steam like when you steam vegetables or dumplings. So it’s basically a vanilla sponge cake with lots of raisins in. And it’s served with custard – it has to be custard.

Do you know what food I’m describing?

I’m describing spotted dick which is funny because it sounds like an embarrassing medical condition, but it’s really just cake with raisins in. 

I described spotted dick as a dessert. A dessert is the sweet food eaten at the end of a meal. So you can have ice cream for dessert or apple crumble. It sounds a bit weird, but people do describe cheese and biscuits, which is often served after the main course as dessert. Desserts are usually sweet, but not always. One thing to be careful of is the spelling and stress. You see, dessert and desert are very similar words. The sweet course at the end of a meal is spelled d e s s e r t. A desert, spelled the same but with only one s; d e s e r t, is usually a hot sandy place where it very rarely rains. The stress is on the first syllable for the hot sandy place. The sahara desert, the Thar desert, the gobi desert, and for the sweet food, the stress is on the second syllable. I had spotted dick and custard for dessert. 

The word pudding can be used as a synonym for dessert. You might hear someone ask: what’s for pudding? And there are some dishes that have the word pudding in them. For example bread and butter pudding which is toasted bread, baked with sweet milk and cinnamon and raisins and rice pudding. And there are savoury meat puddings like steak and kidney pudding which are normally made by steaming a suet pastry filled with meat. And there are types of steamed cake which are also puddings, like spotted dick and christmas puddings so it’s a tricky word that does mean more than dessert, but only in specific collocations. 

OK, the last dessert food that I’m going to describe is a sweet pastry. It’s like a pie but without a lid. These were originally created in a town in Derbyshire. The name of the town is in the name of the food. So it’s a little pastry case filled with a layer of jam and then a layer of frangipane – this is weird, I’ve been saying that word incorrectly all my life. I’ve checked it on different dictionary websites and I’m definitely wrong. I wonder if I’ve ever taught the word before. If I have, I have definitely taught it wrong. Anyhow, frangipane is a custard made from ground almonds. So this dessert is a pastry case with a layer of jam and then a layer of frangipane with a sprinkling of chopped almonds on top. 

Do you know what food I’m describing?

The answer is a bakewell tart. You can buy a version of these in supermarkets that has a layer of icing on top of the frangipane and a cherry in the middle. I think that the icing on the top actually makes these too sweet. I have a sweet tooth; I do like sweet things, but even for me, they are a bit sickly. These supermarket versions are probably more famous than the original tarts, but if you visit Bakewell, you’ll mostly find tarts without icing. 

Earlier, I spoke about the difference between made up of and made of. To make things more complicated, when I spoke about Bakewell tarts, I said frangipane is made from ground almonds. So made from is not the same as made of. Ground almonds are the essential ingredient in frangipane. If something is made from an ingredient, it is the most important ingredient, it’s like the food comes from the ingredient. It’s not just one ingredient, it’s the most important part of it. 

Icing is a paste made from very finely ground sugar and water or sugar and butter. The sugar in English is called icing sugar. It’s a really fine powder that can be used to make a thick paste that can be shaped and is used to decorate cakes. In American English, it’s called frosting. 

Icing is very sweet. My wife doesn’t really like sweet foods, at least not very sweet foods. So she doesn’t really like icing on a cake as she finds it sickly. Sickly means so sweet it makes you feel unwell or makes you feel sick. We use it to describe food that is too sweet and also figuratively to describe love stories or sentimental stories that are too sentimental. 

OK – so that’s 4 sweets or desserts that you can try if you come to the UK. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love them.

Over these last three podcasts, I have spoken about lots of vocabulary that you can use to talk about food. The language from these podcasts is all for the vocabulary input for an intermediate conversation course on English Focus. If you are interested in joining the course send me an email at and I’ll send you the course details. I have already received some emails and will get back to you with the course details this week. 

I hope you have enjoyed this podcast. As always, I love reading your comments so please leave me a comment on the site or a rating or a review on Apple podcasts. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. Thank you also to those of you that have bought me a coffee or left me a tip. I really appreciate it.

If you are interested in joining my beta conversation course please do get in touch or if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you so please visit and say hello.

Thanks for listening. 

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