Scottish housewives have been making these delicious little cakes for centuries. The name rock cake comes from the fact that they are shaped like little outcrops of rocks, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the texture, which should be soft and melt-in-the-mouth sweet once you bite into them.
In the Harry Potter series Scottish rock cakes baked by Hagrid were definitely rocklike– genuine tooth breakers, but the series did make rock cakes famous again and kids the world over were keen to try them, not as Hagrid made them but according to popular recipes.
These are a favorite little treat to have with a cup of tea or coffee and to add to kid’s lunchboxes when you want them to have a fruity sweet treat that travels well. Grown ups love them too!
There are variations like adding a little mixed spice, nutmeg, or cinnamon to the dough, or vanilla or almond essence. Some dried fruit includes candied peel besides the raisins and sultanas. One of the mixes I used on a batch included cranberries and goji berries.
There is also no reason you shouldn’t add a few chopped walnuts to the mix for some added crunch and flavor.
Apparently the Irish also bake rock cakes so whether they actually originated in Ireland or Scotland is debatable. My mother was Scottish and declared them to be a Scottish treat, so mum, I’m going with your opinion.
With people travelling throughout the British Isles the recipe soon spread anyway and it is safe to call rock cakes a British treat. It is interesting to know that during World War II when food rationing was in place in Britain that the Ministry of Food promoted the baking or rock cakes because they used less eggs and sugar than a traditional cake but were really tasty.
They are also an easy project to get kids involved in baking, as the ingredients are easy to come by and the time from mixing to tasting the finished product all happens within half an hour – well within the attention span of little ones.
What makes them special is the fact that real butter and sugar are used to give them their light crumbly texture. I added icing sugar instead of castor sugar and the result was delicious!
If you don’t have castor sugar at home then put ordinary granulated white sugar into your blender and pulse for 30 seconds – and then you have castor sugar – if you let it go too long you’ll end up with a texture like icing sugar though.
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (10ml)
- 8 ounces (2 cups cake flour) (225g)
- ½ cup castor sugar (or icing sugar) (80g)
- 4 ounces (120g) butter
- 5 ounces mixed dried fruit (140g)– raisins, sultanas, cranberries, or just raisins
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon almond essence (or vanilla)
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) sunflower or canola oil for greasing the cookie tray
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180 degrees C).
- Grease a large cookie sheet with the oil.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together.
- Add the castor sugar, or for a really light texture use icing sugar.
- Rub in the softened butter using your fingers to obtain a light crumbly texture.
- Add the dried fruit.
- In a small jug mix the egg with the tablespoon of milk.
- Add the mix to the dry ingredients. In the beginning you will think that it is too dry but resist the urge to add more milk - as you mix the crumbly particles will start to come together. If you add too much milk the rock cakes will tend to spread instead of retaining their rounded rock-like shapes. I should know - I did this and they looked like flat choc chip biscuits – I may also have added too much sugar.
- Divide the dough into half and then each half into half again so you have 4 roughly equal balls of dough. Divide each ball into five little rock cakes making sure they retain a rough texture rather than smoothing them into balls. Space them evenly on the cookie sheets allowing some room for spreading.
- Bake for around 12 to 15 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack, or serve straight from the cookie sheets onto plates – they taste really good warm but the next day they are just as yummy.
As a child I wanted to grow up and marry a farmer… simply because it was so different from my life right on the shores of the ocean. Well, I didn’t marry a farmer but a surfer instead. The urge, however, to grow stuff and make great food for a big family never left. We are on acreage with a sea view and easy access to fresh caught crayfish and other seafood – the best of both worlds. As an artist and writer I enjoy creating new recipes, tweaking traditional ones, and sharing the results not only with family and friends, but online.