Note: This recipe is part of our Harry Potter-themed dessert menu.
Did you know that rock cakes were real?
I’d always assumed J.K. Rowling made them up for the Harry Potter series, where they recur as these awful, heavy, tooth-breakingly hard treats that Hagrid serves for tea, but rock cakes have been appearing in British cookbooks since the Victorian era.
They are the definition of old-school.
But Brits generally don’t make them much anymore, probably because they are so closely associated with the strict food rationing they endured during and after World War II. Back then, the Ministry of Food encouraged people to make rock cakes, since they didn’t require as much butter, sugar, milk and eggs as other cakes and cookies.
It’s safe to say, they ate A LOT of rock cakes. And passed on some serious familiarity-bred contempt.
Given Rowling’s descriptions and the fact that these treats have fallen so far out of favor, I scratched them off my list a few times. But the recipe was only going to take 20 minutes of baking time, and I had the ingredients, so I decided to belly up to a batch of Cinnamon Rock Cakes, and people…
THEY ARE GOOD.
They’re called “rock cakes” because of their craggy, rock-like looks, but once you bite through that sweet, crisp exterior, it’s like sinking your teeth into a big buttery pillow, studded with fruit and heady with spices. Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg usually seem as pure as a prayer, but in these rock cakes, the mixture is positively seductive.
The texture is a lot like a scone, so you can serve them with butter or clotted cream and a hot cup of tea, but I found myself just grabbing them off the plate and treating them like oversized cinnamon-raisin cookies.
I’ll be more civilized with the next batch.
Cinnamon Rock Cakes
Adapted from Beckie Jones (via BBC Good Food website)
- 1 cup (8 ounces; 226 grams) self-rising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (such as nutmeg, clove and ginger)
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) raw sugar (demerara or turbinado), plus some for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 113 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) dried mixed fruit (currants, raisins, cherries, apricots, apples, etc.)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons of milk (plus more, if necessary)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift the flour, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
- Add the butter, and mix with a pastry cutter or your fingers to resemble fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar.
- Add the egg, milk and dried fruit, and mix until it forms a sticky, dough ball. (Add more milk if it’s too dry.)
- Place the mixture in 8 generous lumps on a baking tray, and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
- Serve warm from the oven with butter or clotted cream and tea.