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Sugar and Spice Rock Cakes (or Cookies)

We’ve always wondered about rock cakes — they don’t sound particularly appetizing and yet, as often as they make an appearance on the tea tray in a novel, they are almost universally acclaimed. We offer you this recipe for rock cakes from the GoodFood veteran Mary Cadogan because we are hereby convinced that acclaim is well-deserved. Rock cakes are delicious! Moreover, depending on your chosen method of preparation, this recipe will give you cakes or cookies: hand-stirring will yield “traditional fruit buns with a robust texture and craggy surface” that look like, well, rocks; and mixing in the food processor will result in a batter that will spread more and result in delightfully cakey cookies. Take your pick!

Sugar and Spice Rock Cakes

Sugar and Spice Rock Cakes (or Cookies)

1½ cups self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. mixed spice, divided
7 tbs. butter, cold and cut into small pieces
3 oz. light muscovado sugar* (½ cup)
3.5 oz. mixed dried fruit, lightly chopped to uniform pieces (1 scant cup)
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs. milk
demerara sugar, or roughly crushed sugar cubes, for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For cakes: Tip the flour, baking powder, and 1 tsp. of mixed spice into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in the muscovado sugar and dried fruit, then add the egg and milk to form a fairly firm dough. Spoon 10 blobs of the mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving a little room for spreading.

Mix together about 2 tbs. demerara sugar (or crushed sugar cubes) with the remaining ½ tsp. mixed spice and sprinkle over the cakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

For cookies: Tip the flour, baking powder, and 1 tsp. of the mixed spice into a food processor bowl. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Add in the musocovado sugar and dried fruit, mix briefly, then add the egg and milk and pulse to form a fairly firm dough. Spoon blobs of the mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving a little room for spreading, making 10 large or 15 medium cookies.

Mix about 2 tbs. demerara sugar (or crushed sugar cubes) with the remaining ½ tsp. mixed spice and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake for 20-22 minutes for large cookies and 15-17 minutes for medium. Cool on wire rack.

* You may substitute dark brown sugar if light muscovado sugar is unavailable.

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