Maybe you had to be a certain age to have grown up with them but even though there are no shops dedicated to it nor cookbooks singing its praises, the humble Rock Cake has survived. Ever since it was first made as a wartime treat in Great Britain (due to the lesser quantities of eggs required, a luxury during rationing), we have been able to buy these from almost every suburban cake store, some supermarkets and the odd patisserie.
Although this is the case, the quality of them differs from baker to baker and I have bought some truly disappointing ones. The best that I could find came from a patisserie but paying $4.50 for something the size of a flattened cupcake made my blood boil. After indulging a few times, I said to myself, they can't be that hard to make so I took up the challenge!
I searched the internet and found a recipe on taste.com.au that was originally sourced from Delicious Magazine's Valli Little. Hers is an orange flavoured one and there are many variations from pear & sultana to cinnamon & choc chip but to me a lemony rock cake, spread with good quality butter accompanying a cup of tea is the ultimate afternoon treat. I also don't like sultanas much so I substituted currants and was very happy with the result.
So here are my Rock Cake Jewels!
Start with the zest of 5 lemons
1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
115g unsalted butter
115g currants (or sultanas)
70g finely minced mixed peel plus a handful of unminced for decoration
Zest of 5 medium sized lemons
1 tsp lemon essence or lemon oil (adjust according to taste)
75g caster sugar plus extra half cup for dusting
Heat your oven to 180 degrees C (mine is a fan-forced oven so adjust the heat depending on your own oven)
Sift together the flour and baking powder
Rub the cubed butter into the flours until it resembles fine bread crumbs
Stir in the currants, minced peel and caster sugar until well mixed
Beat the two eggs with the lemon essence until mixed
Using a fork mix the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir together until well mixed.
Put the extra caster sugar into a small flat dish large enough for dipping.
Using a large round spoon, scoop squash ball sized balls into your hand and dip the top into the extra caster sugar. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, leaving enough room for the balls to expand. (I fit 7 on a regular sized baking sheet). I squashed mine down a little too much in this batch.
Press some of the unminced peel onto the top of each cake and sprinkle with the leftover caster sugar.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden on top.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack (or if you can't wait, split one and eat hot with a little butter).