A favourite British classic recipe, these old-fashioned rock cakes use simple ingredients and are easy to make.
A small single-served cake so named after its similar appearance to a rock, but don't let that put you off. Despite their appearance, these simple rock cakes are wonderfully crumbly and sweet!
How to make rock cakes?
You can't go wrong making these easy English rock cakes; even the kids can help out. Check out the recipe slideshow below.
Continue to read for all the pictures, tips and tricks showing you how to make rock cakes at home, or use the below link to jump straight to the recipe card!Rock cakes recipe card - printable
Rock cakes were trendy during World War 2; they used fewer rationed ingredients like egg and sugar than other English cake recipes.
Enabling families to have a sweet treat during the strict wartime rationing. Sometimes oatmeal would be used instead of flour.
More recently, they have been featured in the Harry Potter books, where Hagrid made them numerous times, but they were not enjoyed due to Hagrid's poor cooking skills. They were too hard!
Rock cake ingredients
Ingredients for rock cakes are plain flour, baking powder, mixed spice, salt, sugar, butter, sultanas, egg and milk.
We make our rock cakes with plain flour, salt and baking powder to give a slight rise to them.
You could use self-raising flour instead for a similar result. Remember, no baking powder or salt will be needed if using self-raising flour (as it is already added to self-raising flour).
You can substitute the mixed spices with a mix of your favourite spices instead.
You can use a bag of mixed dried fruit instead of sultanas. Or any dried fruit you prefer, such as apricots, cranberries, apples or dates.
You could also switch the dried fruit for chocolate to make chocolate rock buns.
The rock cake mixture should have a thick and sticky texture. The mixture will make nine large cakes.
Remember, these do not need to be smooth, neat and tidy.
I encourage you to rough them up with a fork before baking to help achieve the rough rocky cracks. Perfect for sprinkling sugar into once cooked!
We like to cook our sultana rock cakes on a silicone sheet, but you can use parchment or greaseproof paper instead on a baking tray.
I recommend cooking rock cakes in a conventional oven; even if you have a fan oven, turn it to a conventional setting or cake setting if you have that option.
This will give you the crispy outside and soft crumble in the middle that rock cakes are known for.
Cook at 190°C / 375°F (if you must use a fan - 170°C) for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them; they should have grown a little and been a light golden brown.
Don't let those sultanas or dried fruit burn! I find about 18 minutes is just right!
Straight from the oven, it is normal for the rock cakes to be a bit soft to the touch. They firm up as they cool.
Keep them on the baking tray until they have cooled enough to touch. Then transfer to a wire rack so they don't get a soggy bottom!
Before they cool too much, it's time to take these simple rock cakes to the next level with a sprinkle of sugar, which gets into all the grooves and cracks.
There you have it, the best rock cake recipe; you must try it to believe it!
What are rock cakes like inside?
Inside the crispy sugary shell of rock cakes is a marvellous crumbly texture with an even scattering of your chosen dried fruit.
Makes a fantastic addition to a British afternoon tea cake stand.
It can also be served similarly to British scones, with clotted cream and jam.
What is the difference between scones and rock cakes?
British scones and English rock cakes have similar ingredients, but the scone mix has a dough-like texture that is shaped with your hands and cut with cutters to be smooth.
Rock cake mixture, on the other hand, has a sticky cake texture, which isn't handled or shaped, helping to create the desirable rough and crispy cracks on the outside,
They have a lovely soft sweet crumbly texture which is washed down perfectly with a cup of tea.
The kids love to help make these cakes, and they are a great addition to their lunch box or for a family picnic.
📖 Step by Step Recipe
Rock Cakes Old Fashioned Recipe
- 300 grams Plain Flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
- 80 grams White Sugar + extra to sprinkle on once baked Caster or Granulated can be used
- pinch Salt
- ½ teaspoon Mixed Spice
- 150 grams Butter
- 200 grams Sultanas Can use any dried fruits
- 1 Large Egg
- 1 tablespoon Milk
- Preheat Oven to 190°C /170°C fan/ 375°F.Add flour, salt, baking soda and mixed spices into a bowl300 grams Plain Flour, 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Powder, pinch Salt, ½ teaspoon Mixed Spice
- Add sugar and mix all together80 grams White Sugar
- Add butter and rub together using fingertips into the dry cake mix150 grams Butter
- It should resemble breadcrumbs
- Add sultanas200 grams Sultanas
- Stir through
- Whisk milk and egg together in a separate bowl1 Large Egg, 1 tablespoon Milk
- Add the whisked egg and milk to the rock cake mixture
- Use a fork to mix well together until moist and sticky
- Separate into 9 even-sized cakes use a fork to rough up the cakes a little.
- Leave space between each rock cake as they will grow during cooking! Cook in preheated 190°C /170°C fan/ 375°F oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.
- Remove from oven, it is normal for them to still feel a bit soft at this point. They will firm up whilst cooling!
- Once cool enough to touch with hands, transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool further.
- Sprinkle with extra sugar.80 grams White Sugar
- Eat whilst still warm, or allow to cool then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.
Updated on 10/04/2023 to include frequently asked questions.
If you love this easy rock cake recipe and want more sweet, easy recipes suitable to make with children, try our thumbprint cookies and oat flapjacks or the kids will love this no-bake edible cookie dough recipe.
Or stick with the sultana theme and make our large sultana cake similar but even more impressive!
Please let us know how you get on, and remember to share this recipe with others to bring these fantastic old-fashioned rock cakes back into fashion again!
How to make rock cakes - old fashioned British recipe using simple ingredients. Easy and quick, and the kids can help too!
The mixture should be dry, but if it is too dry to even form together you can add more milk 1 tablespoon at a time or use another egg.
Yes you can use self-raising flour instead of plain flour. Self-raising flour already contains baking powder so remember not to use additional baking powder when using self-raising flour.
If your sultanas are sinking to the bottom the mixture is too runny.