Here are recipes for two old fashioned baked treats: Rock cakes and Gingernut biscuits. They are easy to make and moreish to eat. I have taken the recipes from my mum’s venerable 1961 book of home cooking Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Compendium, which was first published by the Good Housekeeping Institute in London in 1952. The book’s aim is to teach the inexperienced beginner or the more experienced cook how to produce the everyday dishes needed in an average home. Although it is produced to meet the needs of every member of the family, there is emphasis on demonstrating home cooking to the young housewife or daughter living at home, as was the custom of this era!
Rock cakes originated in Great Britain. If you have never eaten one, a rock cake or rock bun, is a small fruit cake with a rough surface resembling a rock. During the rationing of provisions in World War II, the British Ministry of Food promoted baking rock cakes, as they require fewer eggs and less sugar than ordinary cakes. Bakers would also use oatmeal in the recipe when white flour was unavailable.
This type of Gingernut biscuit is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and in many countries of the former British empire. It is believed that they were originally named Gingernuts because they were quite hard to break, like a nut. The amount of syrup that you use in the recipe influences the texture of the biscuit.
All measurements in these recipes are in the Imperial system so you will need to convert them if your scales are in metric.
12 ounces self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon mixed spice
6 ounces margarine
6 ounces sugar
3 ounces currents
1 ½ ounces chopped peel
Milk to mix
Sieve the flour, salt and spices.
Rub in the butter and add the sugar, fruit and peel.
Mix the beaten egg and just enough milk to bind.
Using a teaspoon and a fork, place mixture in rocky heaps on a greased baking sheet (modern equivalent is to line a tray with baking paper or use a non-stick baking sheet).
Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees Fahrenheit or 232 degrees Celsius) for 15 – 20 minutes or until they slide about on the baking tray and are slightly brown underneath.
8 ounces flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 ounces butter
2 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
The above quantities should make 8 -12 biscuits.
Warm the syrup in a small pan.
Rub butter into the sieved dry ingredients. Add sugar.
Mix with the warmed syrup to form a dough.
Knead dough lightly in the mixing bowl. Form small portions of dough into balls and put them on onto a greased baking tray, flattening them slightly and allowing room to spread (modern equivalent is to line a tray with baking paper or use a non-stick baking sheet).
Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius). Let them cool a little before removing the biscuits from the baking tray to a wire rack.