I know there are questions here already about Quick bread vs cake, or muffins vs cupcakes. But I'm not asking about the sugar, fat ratio thing. I'm more interested in the "bread" part of it. To me whether it is American white bread, or Italian or French bread, it is a sugarless loaf used to make a sandwich. Even biscuits and rolls that can be made with baking powder instead of yeast can be used for breakfast or lunch sandwiches with sausage and eggs. But you can't make a sandwich with banana or pumpkin bread, you treat them as a cake. so why "bread"?

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    Sweetbreads are gonna blow your mind, though you can make a sandwich with them.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 13:31
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    If you never have bread without making a sandwich... you should! Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:50
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    Historically bread was often eaten plain, or with some spread, and/or as a side to another dish - even flavored or sweetened breads. Sandwiches are not all that historically common (filled or topped rolls being easier to make, travel with, and store, and sandwich-level bread needs quite specific levels of flexibility to sturdiness). I would suggest sandwich-ness is not a primary definer of what makes a bread. Maybe something between "baked grain starches" and "is a good primary food".
    – Megha
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 0:03
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    @Megha it's good but you have to be careful not to accidentally include pastry but possibly include pastries! To put it in a less confusing way: exclude a blind-baked pie crust, but include croissants.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 5:47
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    I had a thought -- I've seen pound cake used for sweet sandwiches (nutella, jam, or other sweet filling, typically). Therefore, by the requirement of sandwich making, pound cake is bread. Also, cookies are bread because of ice cream sandwiches. (and I've had some 'sugarless' cookies that used fruit as the sweetener)
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


Cooking terminology is vague and has evolved to suit the avilable ingredients in various places at various times. This means that the categories are not clearly defined. Here are some examples to indicate the continuum between bread and cake.

There's a whole range of unsweetened soda breads (note: most yeast bread isn't completely sugarless). Many cornbreads fall into this category (though the one I make has some honey in it).

Teabreads, banana bread etc. are usually baked in a loaf tin and sliced like bread. They may be buttered; similar loaves are even served with cheese in case you're not confused enough.

But teacakes are bread, in that they're yeast-based. Not all have much sugar in the dough, though the recipe I've linked does. Chelsea buns are an unsweetened yeast dough with a sweet filling rolled and baked in.

Brioche is undoubtedly a bread (yeast), but is often sweet.


There are many different types of classification, and you can't use classical classification for most things, especially when the concepts have been around for a long time, and spans multiple cultures.

What often happens when two cultures have similar things is that to explain the concept more easily to their culture, a group will explain the concept in terms their culture will understand. So you come across a leavened, wheat-based baked product, it's a 'bread'. You may later add a qualifier to differentiate if the cultures mix (eg, 'yeast bread' vs. 'soda bread').

With classical categorization, you come up with defining characteristics of the group, and anything that matches is in the group, while things that don't aren't. This was my setup for my question about types of pancakes, and the resulting demonstration and presentations

The problem is, everyone can come up with their own defining characteristics -- people wouldn't have cared about defining bread by sandwich-making in the centuries before sandwiches were invented.

Most categories that aren't strictly defined for some specific purpose are defined by prototypes -- you may have a 'protypical' item, and you judge the categories by how close things are to the prototypical items. So penguins and ostriches are birds, even if they're not the first things that most people think of when you say 'bird'.

And in this sense, soda breads are breads. So are muffins. So are most cooked starch items that you can toast.

The problem comes as what you select as your categories that you're sorting things into. Is cake is own category, or a sub-type of bread? Well, that probably depends on why you're sorting things.

So, if you're really interested in 'sandwich breads', then you might consider things differently. Cake won't make a good sandwich, but tortillas would. But would everyone consider tortillas to be 'bread'?

If this sort of thing interests you, see if your library has/can get George Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things

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    Over at english.se: Is a hamburger considered a sandwich?
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 15:12
  • @ChrisH : Yes, yes it is. But is a hot dog? (hinged bun) or a german wurst at a festival? (bread is just small roll to hold it, does not encase it). People can make all sorts of arguments for/against, but then you start getting into the question of soft tacos, burritos, bao, pepperoni rolls, etc. on where you finally draw the line.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:42
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    that was rather my point (and I suspect yours). English, and culinary English is a striking example, has few hard boundaries. I consider corn tortillas/soft tacos bread, but wrapping them round a filling doesn't make a sandwich (a burrito maybe). Oh, and what sort of muffin? English? Or the cupcake type? At this rate the OP will be more confused than they started.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 21:23
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    RE: tortillas. Surely they are a kind of flatbread?
    – The Photon
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:09
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    Thus, you have authors of fantasy exploiting culture–shock for comedy in regards to ad hoc naming of uncustomary comestibles. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 6:22

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