or scroll for handy tips and a little nostalgia.
They might be described as humble and rustic, but Rock Cakes are a charming little treat that have stood the test of time.
Table of Contents
What are Rock Cakes?
Rock Cakes, or Rock Buns as they are sometimes called, are a traditional fruit cake that are often served with morning tea.
They’re crispy on the outside and a little less perfect in shape than most cakes. It’s easy to see how they got their name.
But don’t let the name or outside appearance put you off these little cakes.
The crispy outside gets a sprinkling of sugar in this recipe and complements the perfectly soft, crumbly and fruity inside of the cake.
They really are a lovely old-fashioned delight.
A Quick History
Rock Cakes were born in Britain, probably around the 18th century.
It’s thought that they were a result of resourcefulness.
During hard times and rationing bakers came up with recipes which called for not as many eggs and sugar as most cakes. they got creative with basic pantry staples and whatever dried fruits were on hand.
Rock Cakes evolved over time, and by the early 1900s the Australian version of Rock Cakes were close to the recipes we still use today.
Here’s a recipe from 1918 which was published in the Mortlake Dispatch.
(I have borrowed from this recipe but it is NOT the final recipe I’ve used here, so please keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked recipe for Rock Cakes.)
The Recipe for Rock Cakes
Another reason for their enduring popularity – apart from them just being so delicious – is it’s hard to go wrong with this recipe.
In fact, it’s a great recipe for home cooks who are still on their L plates.
I remember first learning how to make these cakes in my home science class in Year 7.
These classes were a highlight of my high school days. Every week we would cook up some simple dish and then eat it or take it home for our family to enjoy.
The cooking was always a nice break from maths, science and the other more academic subjects.
I sadly don’t have the recipe that I used back then, but I did find Nana Ling’s Rock Cakes recipe along with some other recipes in old cookbooks.
I’ve combined my memories of Rock Cakes and these recipes, plus some of the hints in the newspaper clipping above, to come up with the ultimate traditional Rock Cakes recipe.
Ingredients for Rock Cakes
To make these cakes, you’ll need:
- plain flour
- mixed spice
- baking powder
- caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- mixed (dried) fruit
- glace cherries.
All ingredient quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Substitutions and Variations
As I mentioned above, this is a forgiving recipe and there are many variations of Rock Cakes.
Here are some ideas to mix things up a bit:
- Rock Cakes generally have sultanas, abut here I’ve used mixed fruit as I love a little peel and cherries added to the mix
- You can leave out the mixed spice if you prefer and add almond, vanilla or another essence
- I love to sprinkle the extra sugar on top to add to the sweetness and visual appeal, but this is optional
- You could also choose to omit the glace cherries on top or replace them with some peel or a nut.
How do you remember Rock Cakes? Leave a comment below about your favourite variations.
How to make Rock Cakes
This simple Rock Cakes recipe is easy to follow.
Start by preheating oven to 190 degrees celsius/375 degrees fahrenheit (fan forced) and greasing both of the baking trays.
Measure out the ingredients.
Make sure the butter is cold and cut it into cubes.
Whisk the egg.
Sift the flour, mixed spice, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
Combing the ingredients
Add the butter and rub it into sifted dry ingredients with your fingertips, or process in a food processor, until there are no lumps of butter and the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir though the sugar and mixed fruit with a blunt knife.
Add the egg and milk and stir through with the knife until combined.
Add the extra milk, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary so that mixture holds together and has a stiff consistency.
The mixture should be stiff enough that it holds the knife upright.
Next, put heaped tablespoons of mixture onto baking trays, leaving room for spreading. You should have about 12 pieces.
The newspaper clipping describes the size of the mixture to be scooped out for each cake as about the “size of an egg.”
What a great description!
Okay, now it’s time to sprinkle each cake with the extra sugar and place cherry halves on top.
Cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until a golden colour.
Once out of the oven, transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.
Once cool, turn these rough diamonds of the culinary world into something lovely – serve them on something special with a cuppa!
Here’s one of my cakes perched on a lovely set – Royal Albert “Morning Star” – that I picked up from a garage sale.
Q. How long will they keep?
Rock Cakes will last up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Q. Can you freeze Rock Cakes?
Yes, freeze for up to 3 months wrapped in plastic food wrap and stored in a zip-lock freezer bag.
Q. Do you have other similar recipes?
- 2 baking trays
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- pinch salt
- 90 grams butter (cold, cut into cubes)
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 1 cup mixed fruit
- 1 egg (lightly beaten)
- 1/3 cup milk (plus extra 1-2 tablespoons if necessary)
- 6 glace cherries, halved
- extra tablespoon caster sugar (for dusting cakes, optional)
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius/375 degrees fahrenheit (fan forced) and grease both baking trays.
- Sift flour, mixed spice, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Add butter and rub into sifted dry ingredients with your fingertips, or process in a food processor, until there are no lumps of butter and the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir though sugar and mixed fruit with a blunt knife.
- Add egg and milk and stir through with the knife until combined. Add the extra milk, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary so that mixture holds together and has a stiff consistency.
- Put heaped tablespoons of mixture onto baking trays, leaving room for spreading. You should have about 12 pieces.
- Sprinkle each cake with the extra sugar and place cherry halves on top.
- Cook in oven for 15 minutes or until a golden colour.
- Once out of the oven, transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.