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.
• 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
1. Grease and line two baking trays, heat the oven to 200C. Rub the butter into the flour, salt and baking powder until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 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.
2. 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. 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.