Rock cakes are culinary symbols of both my and my children’s childhood. My mother made them most Sundays for tea. So adept was she at baking them, I don’t think she used any scales to measure ingredients and just threw everything in, judging the right consistency by look and feel. When my own children were young, I also took to making them often on Sundays. I did use scales! And I used a Katie Stewart recipe that made just the right kind of rock cakes.
Rock Cakes are sometimes called Rock Buns. They originated in UK and traditionally are just piled onto a baking tray in little lumps of dough that resemble a rock. The dough should be very stiff and that’s why they manage to hold together without the restriction of a mould of some kind. They are little fruit cakes and generally contain raisins or sultanas and a little mixed spice. They were once known as economy cakes and promoted during World War II by the Ministry of Food because they contain less eggs, sugar and butter than usual cake mixes. This results in a fairly dry texture but that doesn’t matter because they are truly delicious.
Rock cakes definitely aren’t muffins – hence the title of this post, rather than ‘blueberry muffins’. They don’t have the light airiness associated with muffins. But I decided to fill them with blueberries rather than raisins as I was making them for a picnic tea with family and neither of my daughters-in-law like raisins, and I put them in muffin cases because I wanted to transport them to the local park and thought that would make it easier to carry them.
Ingredients – makes 9
- 4 oz plain flour
- 4 oz wholegrain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- big pinch of ground cinnamon
- 3 oz soft butter
- 3 oz light soft brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 oz blueberries, plus 9 extra for decoration
This is such an old recipe – from The Times Calendar Cookbook by Katie Stewart (published 1976) – that I adjusted my scales to imperial measurements rather than use metric. I know from having converted a lot of cookery books to metric when I was a young editor, and we were just changing to the metric system in UK, that there was a lot of guesswork and approximation! Hence, with old recipes I always think it’s better to use the original imperial measurements. I’ve adapted it slightly from the original – for instance using half white and half wholegrain flour, and of course using fresh blueberries instead of sultanas, and cinnamon instead of mixed spice.
Put all the ingredients except the blueberries into a large bowl and then beat together with a hand mixer. Don’t overwork it. It should be a stiff dough. If you feel it’s too stiff to mix in the blueberries, add a little more milk, but take care to keep it all fairly dry.
When it all comes together, carefully fold in the blueberries. Put 9 paper muffin cases into a muffin tin. Using two teaspoons, put heaps of the mixture into the muffin cases. Don’t press down or try to even out the top. Leave it just as it is! I then put an extra blueberry on top and sprinkled over the tiniest amount of golden granulated sugar.
Put into a preheated oven – 200C/180 Fan/Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Remove the cases from the tin and stand on a rack to cool before transferring to a plate.
Unfortunately the picnic didn’t happen at the last minute as poor Freddie developed conjunctivitis in an eye and had to go to the doctor instead of the park. However, Nicola and Rachael still stopped by en route to Gatwick where they are spending the night before catching a very early plane to Crete tomorrow morning. We three sat in my garden. The sun was hot, the sky a clear blue – it was a gorgeous afternoon. Tea was made and we each took a little cake into the garden and sat down. Then we broke them open …
And they were so good. The blueberries were wonderful; they’d retained their shape but had burst just a bit so that a little of their juices seeped into the cake. Nicola declared the cakes to be very light and said they tasted really good with the wholegrain flour which gave them a nice nutty flavour. They were so successful the girls disappeared back into my kitchen to take seconds. Then I had to declare an end to cake eating as I’d promised to save some for Jonathan, Lyndsey and Freddie. I can see though that I’ll have to make more very soon!