I must’ve been about 5 or 6 years old when I first and last encountered a rock cake. My mother let me choose among the plastic-wrapped pastries (probably wrapped for freshness in Singapore’s humid climate) in the shop near our housing complex. I chose the rock cake. It was quite large (or that could have been because I was small) and had a glace cherry on top. How can anyone that young resist a glace cherry? But the sad thing is, I can’t remember what it tasted like; I don’t remember opening the packet nor do I remember consuming the cake itself. But very clear in my mind is when I selected that rock cake and holding the precious pastry with my presumable stubby and grubby hands. It made quite an impression on me.
Then I moved to Canada, where I never saw a single one of these geological specimens. And so it stayed that way until that memory came to me recently and I couldn’t stop thinking about them – I had to make them! I had to know how they tasted! A quick search online revealed that they don’t usually have any topping other than sugar and they’re also called rock buns here? Bah, I like the word cakes and I like putting that glace cherry half on top; it sounds and looks all twee and smacks of tea parties and pinkies out.
These treats were thrown together in almost no time at all – in about half an hour, you’ll have freshly baked rock cakes for your tea. Any dried or preserved fruit can be used in there. For me, it’s all about the mixed peel and the currants and next time, I’d even chop up a few glace cherries for inside as well. These were quite tender and weren’t too sweet with much of the sweetness coming from the fruit but if your sweet tooth is particularly strong, I’d up the sugar content or eat them with jam. We like them just as they are.
220g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice
100g cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
3 tbsps milk
100-150g mixed chopped dried/preserved fruit
golden caster sugar to sprinkle on top
glace cherries to go on top (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a baking tray or line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and mixed spice. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them into the flour mixture. Use your hands to rub in the butter until it all looks like large breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together and then pour the liquids into the large bowl. Use a table knife to mix everything together just until they come together. Fold in all the mixed fruits.
Dollop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto the baking tray and top with half a glace cherry if using them. Sprinkle with the golden caster sugar (or whatever sugar really). I did six at a time on the tray. Bake for 15 minutes. When done, cool on a rack. Eat immediately (so good warm!) or store in an airtight container for up to two days.
I did bow to tradition and made a few without that glace cherry but they just weren’t as loved. How about you – would you have the cherry on top?