Rock Cakes

Rock cakes are probably the biggest running joke of the baking world. As a result of their name they are assumed, mainly by children, to be extremely hard and rather inedible. However, there is a reason why they have become both popular and famous throughout the world; they are utterly delicious.

In my mind, their rather unappetising name derives from the hardening process which occurs on the outside of the rock cake, as it cools. However, this change is only skin deep, as underneath the initially hard layer lies a light cakey texture, not unlike that found in the common scone.

There are a number of different rock cake recipes flitting about the internet, but only a few get it perfectly right. Many recipes add far too much sugar – these traditional treats shouldn’t be incredibly sweet, otherwise they’d be called rock biscuits.

Strictly speaking the ratio of flour, butter and sugar should be 4:2:1-1.5, respectively. As with any traditional British recipe, there are international flavour variations.

However, the basic recipe should always stay the same, since it creates the perfect consistency of rock cake. After all, the rock cake is defined by its consistency and hardening process.

In fact, anyone found to have messed with the basic ratio of ingredients shall receive a rather sharp blow to the head. However, since my rock cakes adhere to the standard, this blow would not be sufficient to cause any damage or pain. I’ll leave the moral deciphering to you.

Rock Cakes

Makes 9-10

Ingredients:

• 200g plain flour, sifted

• 100g butter, at room temperature

• A pinch of salt

• 1½ tsp baking powder

• 75g sugar, golden caster is preferable

• ½ tsp ground cinnamon

• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

• ½ tsp mixed spice

• 100g raisins or mixed dried fruit

• 1 egg

• 1-2 tbsp milk

Method:

1. Grease and line two baking trays, heat the oven to 200C/180C(fan). Rub the butter into the flour, salt and baking powder until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Tip in the sugar, spices and fruit and combine thoroughly. Finally, mix in the egg and bring it all together into a slightly wet, but firm dough.

3. Separate this dough into 9-10 lumps and place on the baking trays. Work the dough with a fork until each lump resembles a rock; one may need to half close one’s eyes to achieve this effect.

4. Bake them for 15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Cost: As with most traditional British tea-time treats, these rock cakes are extremely cheap to produce. Indeed, the entire batch should come in at under £1.20 if one is particularly careful.

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88 comments on “Rock Cakes

  1. creativenoshing
    February 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I have never heard of a rock cake. These look interesting.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks! they were delicious.

    • Malcolm Martyn
      February 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      I used to have them baked for me as a child by my Gran and mother. Being a true Cornish man I luv um they are ansum you.

  2. thesinglegourmetandtraveller
    February 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Nice to see you doing these … I used to make them a lot for my kids when they were little … always on Sundays following my own mum’s tradition.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      You should carry it on, I do love a good family tradition.

  3. spree
    February 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Once again it’s demonstrated how ignorant I am! Sad to say, never heard of rock cakes before, so wouldn’t think of messing with the ratios! But any sort of sweetish thing that’s not loaded with sugar gets my vote for tea time! Nice, Nick!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      OH, I’m sorry :(. I’m glad you approve of their recipe 😀

  4. Amrita
    February 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This is interesting because I’ve never heard of rock cakes. I’m loving the idea of a hard outer layer with soft insides, almost like chunky cookies (forgive me if this comparison is unacceptable :)).

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      The comparison is unacceptable, but at least you realised that it might be :D. You ought to give them a whirl.

  5. Rosemary Mullally
    February 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    cookies?

  6. allythebell
    February 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    You know, I’m re-reading Harry Potter at the moment and all I can think of are Hagrid’s rock cakes, which I imagined as, well, ROCKS. Thank you for disabusing my imagination!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Haha, someone else has mentioned those too. I had forgotten about them. I do like to disabuse.

  7. ceciliag
    February 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    We used to make these as kids and we loved them, thank you for the resurrecting the recipe for us! c

  8. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    February 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Your posts are always so informative! These sound delicious, and I love the name! I would give my right arm for a couple of these cakes with my afternoon tea!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks! I do try. Don’t go that far… you could make them quite easily.

  9. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    February 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hee, hee. I didn’t realize there actually were rock cakes. I thought the biggest joke in the baking world was fruit cake. These look really good to me.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Fruit cake is lovely :D. They were properly tasty :)

  10. notesfromrumbleycottage
    February 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Well, this explains something mentioned in Harry Potter during one of the visits to Hagrid’s hut. He offers the kids ‘rock cakes’ and they push them to the side. I assumed it was because the cookies were as hard as rocks, never realized it was a real name.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Hah, yes, I had forgotten that. It is a real name :D. They aren’t cookies though!

  11. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
    February 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I’ve never had a rock cake before! Something I shall have to remedy, thanks for the inspiration.. :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Ah interesting – I thought everyone had!

  12. Black Dahlia
    February 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    These look sooo yummy! They look similar to apple ba bas!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Haha, I shall google them and see what they are.

  13. Lisa Shozuya
    February 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    yum! these sound delicious! i love the density of things like this. in hawaii we have something called stone cookies and some variations remind me of what this looks like. i’m gonna try it!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Yes! The density is SO satisfying. They must be similar!

  14. thelittleloaf
    February 9, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I LOVE rock cakes (or buns as we always called them). My granny made incredible ones and this post has just brought back so many memories. Yum!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      I’ve heard both buns and cakes – I prefer the latter, I don’t know why though. Perhaps tasting them would bring back even more 😀

  15. Shira
    February 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    I have never seen these before but they look super yummy and easy to make – have you ever tried with alternative flours? I might try them with a spelt flour instead. It will drive the price up a bit but wow, they are super simple as far as ingredients. Will let you know. Thanks!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      They are exactly those things :D. That’s a great idea. I occasionally bake with rye flour. Please let me know!

  16. Running For Today
    February 9, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I have never heard of Rock Cakes either, but am definitely intrigued :) Looking forward to putting your recipe to the test!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Ah, well you should satisfy your intrigue :D. I’m glad you like the post.

  17. marieomarie
    February 10, 2012 at 2:27 am

    These look and sound amazing. I’ll have to add these to my list of recipes I have to try :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks! You should – you won’t regret it 😀

  18. Cara
    February 10, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Nick Nick bo Bick… Silly, Nick. *Cakes* are sweet and *biscuits* are more savory. British people :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      That really is silly… Don’t get me started… the English language is called English for a reason…

  19. Razel Rull-Navarro
    February 10, 2012 at 4:55 am

    I have to try this recipe. I used to make rock cakes for my husband and son. Hubby loves rock cakes coz like what you have said, they shouldn’t be too sweet…and he likes it that way :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Oh please do, they are lovely. I hate overly-sweet treats.

      • Razel Rull-Navarro
        February 13, 2012 at 8:10 am

        Thanks. And I will mention your blog of course and link back the recipe to you. Cheers! :)

  20. HealthyHomemade
    February 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

    These look wonderful! I only wish that I had heard of them sooner!

  21. alternative eating
    February 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Never heard about these before:) Love cookies:) Going to give them a try:)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      They aren’t cookies :D. But they are delicious.

  22. Catherine
    February 10, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Your timing is excellent! We’re doing Timon of Athens as our next Shakespeare and I was thinking that rock cakes were an absolute requirement (since rocks and water are what he feeds his unwelcome guests at the final feast). These look lovely.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Ah, thanks! Oh yes, Timon of Athens. I studied him a little bit during my degree… He was an unfortunate character wasn’t he?

  23. wutheringbites
    February 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    My dad used to make these all the time when i was young, such memories:) I love them. Great blog, as always!

  24. Shu Han
    February 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    you know what, I’ve never had a rock cake before, it’s a very british thing i must say. and yes i always assumed they were hard and not very delicious at all, but now I know better. your description of it, crispy on the outside and soft like a scone on the inside, makes me want to really try them now!

    it’s my first time at your blog, and i really like your emphasis on frugal food. i’m a student who wants to eat well, so alot of my food and recipes have to be cheap too(:

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Oh yes, it is. You should definitely try them though. Please come back, I’m glad you like my blog :)

  25. Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy
    February 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    these are so interesting!!! I need to add them to our repertory…

  26. Purely.. Kay
    February 11, 2012 at 4:51 am

    I am trying to figure out why I haven’t heard of Rock Cakes before.. they look delicious. I think I may just make this. Thanks for this recipe

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      I have no idea, I’m actually rather surprised!

  27. Julie @ happygoodtime
    February 11, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Add me to the list of commenters that have never heard of a rock cake. They look absolutely delicious. I do agree with you on the over abundance of sugar in many recipes out there. It’s just too much!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      I shall – the list is on my wall… Sugar really is overused!

  28. kitchentraveller
    February 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    These were the first cake I ever learned to make. Due to their rough appearance, they were considered suitable for cooking class (as in, hard to get wrong…) I just love them.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Oh awesome. they are VERY simple. But the simplest things are often the best.

  29. Bob Vivant
    February 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Yum! I’m always looking for hearty treats that travel well. Next trip I take, I’m packing these in my carry on bag.

  30. Granny
    February 11, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Greetings! As a token of appreciation for your Blog, the words and ideas you share and the many ways in which you inspire, I would like to offer you the Versatile Blogger Award. Please visit the article below, at Granny’s Parlour, to see easy instructions regarding how to accept this award and how to pass it along, should you wish to do so (no obligations). Have a great weekend!
    http://grannysparlour.com/2012/02/11/writing-from-the-heart-seven-random-things/

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks! I don;t tend to pass these on, but I do love getting nominated for them :D. Thanks, Granny!

  31. thehomeheart
    February 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve never heard of these- they look great. Can’t wait to try them!

  32. Shumaila
    February 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I only got acquainted with the term rock cakes during last month’s daring bakers’ challenge, where the host for the month, who is Australian, mentioned that rock cakes were similar to the American scones. But, you say they are slightly different. Is that so? Whatever the term these look great. I am getting a new interest in English baked goods, after eating at this Cornish Pasty place in Phoenix. I wanted to try my hand at Pasties. I think I am tempted to try these as well.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      What is an American scone like? I can’t remember. They are a bit like a British scone… perhaps your Australian baker was a little mistaken? give them a go. Pasties are really fun to make – I shall try to do a recipe.

  33. Ragamuffin Diaries
    February 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve also never heard of rock cakes before, but I’m liking the sound of them! I especially love the messy rock look of them, and the low amount of sugar – I try to use as little of the stuff as possible!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 14, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Oh, they are lovely – you’ll be glad I’ve highlighted them. Sugar is too often overused.

  34. Lonely Wife Project
    February 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    This is completely new to me. Just added to my favorites!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Awesome! I do hope you enjoy them if you make them :)

  35. Lesley
    February 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    If I had a pound for every batch of rock cakes I have made for my hubby in 40 years I would be rich, fantastic standby treat.

  36. Vicky
    February 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I made these but they turned out flatter than the picture and were not very crispy on the outside by the next day. I suspect I added too much milk tot he recipe so will try again this time with only just enough to bind it so they remain ‘rock like’.

    • frugalfeeding
      March 2, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Yes, the mixture wants to remain fairly stiff – hope they work better next time.

  37. Emi
    April 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Just my two cents. I have seen this post before and I am still drawn to it. I’m going to have to try this because I like not-so-sweet cookies to dip into my coffee in the morning.

    • frugalfeeding
      April 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      I hate overly sweet treats – it isn’t necessary.

  38. Gary H.
    January 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I heard “Rock Buns” mentioned on “Doc Martin” and I tracked down your recipe. I baked these cakes last Sunday. They are fun to make and delicious. Thank you!

  39. Gary H.
    January 27, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Also, I believe I made some of them too large, as they were slightly brown on the outside but still appear to be somewhat “wet” on the inside.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 27, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      How many did the recipe make? Perhaps your oven was too hot? It can be hard to work out some issues, because there are so many variables!

      • Gary H.
        January 28, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        I made a double batch, so 18 cakes. I’ll double check the accuracy of my (electric) oven setting. Thanks!

        • frugalfeeding
          January 29, 2015 at 12:07 am

          You could perhaps have stretched it to 20. I hope you manage to get it entirely right :).

  40. Carol
    February 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

    My Nan taught me to make rock cakes when I was a child, and I’ve made them with my own sons. We also made a variation with cocoa powder and chocolate chips to create ‘Choc Rocks’! I still make rock cakes because they are so quick and easy and as you say, they are delicious. Sometimes a simple cake is enough. If they get a bit dry after a couple of days, split and spread with butter and jam if liked is perfectly nice too.
    Love the recipes and the blog. Thanks

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