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Exploding Chocolate Teacakes

3 min read

Here we are:

When Tony Cunnane joined the Royal Air Force in 1953, chocolate teacakes were the flavor of the month, and employees aboard strategic nuclear strike aircrafts requested the snack be added to their in-flight ration boxes. However, this wasn’t just a sweetness to fuel their Cold War training. Chocolate-coated marshmallow teacakes had become, as Tony Cunnane himself described it, “the subject of some rather unscientific in-flight experiments.”
Shortly after the treats appeared in RAF ration packs and pilots began to notice that as altitude increased, the teacakes expanded. At 4,500 meters, the marshmallow interior had broken up the chocolate shell. So, air crews removed the teacakes from their silver foil packaging and perched them around the cabin for observation. The aerated marshmallow continued to swell as pressure changed, and the sweets became too big to eat in one bite. Many noted that, despite the extreme physical effects, the expansion didn’t compromise the flavor.

However, the expanding teacakes’ fame was short-lived: after a period of marshmallow fever aboard the V-Bombers departing from Gaydon air base, an explosion put a stop to the fun. During the summer of 1965, a captain and student pilot forgot they had placed unwrapped teacakes above their instrument panels. When the captain pulled an emergency depressurizing switch during a training mission, the treats litterally exploded. Shards of chocolate and marshmallow struck the windshield, flight controls, and the mens’ uniforms. Shortly thereafter, the RAF put marshmallows on their no-fly list.


Decades later The Telegraph recounted the incident with an article entitled “Deadly Teacakes”. “The Sixties were a tense time for the pilots and crews of V bombers, the RAF’s strategic nuclear strike aircraft. At the height of the Cold War, after the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane and the Cuban missile crisis, a routine outing could have turned into an active mission at any moment“, the author write.
Hearing a small explosion in one’s cockpit at 40,000ft during an emergency exercise might, therefore, have been unnerving, to say the least. But it was mostly crushing disappointment that Sqd Ldr Tony Cunnane and his crew felt, because the noise meant that their beloved Tunnock’s teacakes had exploded.”
Thankfully, nobody died in the explosion.

Even if it’s never been confirmed, it’s probably that the pilots’ chocolate teacakes were really Tunnock’s, a still-popular brand in the United Kingdom. If you want try it, under normal circumstances, I think they won’t explode!


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