Rock Cakes, Translating an old recipe

2015-10-19 18.32.50

A recipe from the “Sure to Rise Cookbook.” About 1900. This is a typical Victorian cookie or biscuit, and something that would have dated back to the regency. Modern baking powders only date from 1843, but there were other approaches that would have been used before that.

From P.G. Wodehouse

This is one cook who thinks rock cakes aren’t rock cakes unless you break a tooth over them. (Clara Lippet in Sam the Sudden)

I’ve always been curious to see how they taste.

ROCK CAKES

1 breakfastcup flour

2 heaped dessertspoons sugar

2 ozs currants

2 ozs butter (or lard)

1 oz or 1 round candied peel

1 dessertspoonful Edmond’s Baking Powder

Milk to mix.

Rub the butter into the flour, then add the other dry ingredients, the egg beaten and sufficient milk to make stiff dough. Place in rocky shapes on cold greased oven shelf, and bake in hot oven 10 or 12 minutes.

The first thing to note is there is no egg in the list of ingredients. It’s basically a shortbread with fruit. So time for a little research. I found similar recipes on an Australian web site, and they use eggs. It looks like the idea is to make shortbread-like bits and then suspend them in a looser mix.

Using conventional ratios for flour and baking powder (1 teaspoon/cup) I get:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoons sugar.

Mix, then work in 2 oz butter.  It’s probably a good idea to chill this for a bit so it hardens.

Add 50 g raisins (can’t easily find currants in the US) and 50 g candied peel (I’ll weigh these, but it’s about a quarter cup of each). The Australian recipe uses 115 g of each and a 1 1/2 cups flour but 28 g is an ounce.

beat one egg and mix. Do not over work this. It took 5 teaspoons of milk to make it into a dough.

bake at 350 F (200 C) on a greased cookie sheet. (I use a silicon sheet, but grease will do.) Use lumps about the size of walnuts.

2015-10-19 18.00.55 Before mixing
2015-10-19 18.11.17 After the egg and 5 teaspoons of milk.
2015-10-19 18.13.52 Before baking
2015-10-19 18.32.50 After they’re done.

How’d it do?

  1. They’re not rocks. Very delicate texture.
  2. Not as sweet as modern cookies. Modern recipes have more sugar and vanilla which make them decidedly sweet.
  3. D*mned good.  I’d repeat this recipe.

Author: rharrisonauthor

International man of mystery. Well not really, although I can mangle several languages and even read the occasional hieroglyphic. A computer scientist, an author and one of the very few people who has both an NIH grant and a book contract. A rising author of sweet romantic historical fiction. A booktrope author.

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