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Old Fashioned Rock Cakes – It’s Fete Season

It’s Fete Season and that can only mean one thing. Cooking for the Cake & Sweet Stall or, if you have a really posh school, cooking for the Cake Stall AND the Sweet Stall.

A fair ground ride spins in Luxor Egypt with happy fair goers enjoying an afternoon ride

I recall many aspects of my own school fetes, a particular stand out being the White Elephant Stall. Who would give that stuff away? Were they crazy? I was only too happy to pay to 10 or 20c for those glass dishes and bring them home to someone who really appreciated them. I also recall the ‘best fete ever’ when my mum made a last minute batch of butterscotch and asked me to take it up to the church fete. I attempted to donate the ice cream container full of butterscotch to the stall but for some strange reason, they were unwilling to accept it. It seems odd, even now, that they would refuse a donation of home made goods. As a result, I was forced to wander the fete lugging around a container of butterscotch. I specifically remember riding the chair-o-plane with the container tucked under one arm and a huge chunk of butterscotch in my other hand, crunching away as I circled the play ground. Good times.

Do Yourself A Favour
Despite the fact that you may be a competent cook who can turn out a meal for your loved ones every night and still find time to bake the occasional cake at weekends, the thought of cooking for the school fete may give you a crisis of confidence. Why? Is it because we have so many fond memories of fetes from when we were children and want to recreate that magic? Maybe it’s because in this Instagram Pinterest world, every recipe appears to be perfect. Emphasis on appears. We all know that those pictures have been primped and styled and filtered to the max but it doesn’t stop up having performance anxiety. Today I saw a very funny ad for the movie ‘Bad Moms’. After being advised of all the ingredients that could not be included in cake stall items, a member of the PTA questioned whether the doughnuts brought along by one Mum were ‘store bought’. Quelle horreur!

So why not make something that’s a bit of a Plain Jane and take the pressure off? Rock Cakes. Is a rock cake a biscuit or a cake? It’s a little bit of both but leans towards biscuit territory. I was never sure exactly why they were called Rock Cakes but now realise the baked biscuit is jagged and looks like a rock. They are incredibly quick and simple and look cute packaged up in some cellophane. These are not the show pony of the cake stall but they are the one that parents like buying as they remind them of their own childhood. The original recipe is from that high school stalwart, The Commonsense Cookery Book. This is a very economical recipe, making approximately 24 smallish biscuits. Make up eight packages with three biscuits in each and you will look like you have been baking all night. If it’s good enough for the Australian education system, it’s good enough for a school fete.

Do you have a school fete story from your childhood or more recently? And, what’s your favourite cake stall item?

Old Fashioned Rock Cakes

old fashioned rock cakes with currants


  • 2 x cups self-raising flour (I used a mix of white and wholemeal)
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp currants, sultanas or mixed fruit
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk


  1. Sift flour into mixing bowl and rub butter through (texture should be similar to sand)
  2. Add sugar, ground ginger and dried fruit. Stir so fruit is dusted in mixture. I used a combination of currants and chopped glace ginger but you are probably best to omit the ginger if you are selling these at a fete – it’s a bit of an adult taste.
  3. Whisk egg in a bowl and add the milk. Whisk again.
  4.  Pour egg and milk into flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon to form a rough dough. If the dough doesn’t come together, use you hand to pull together.
  5. Roughly tear off pieces of the dough and place then on a lined baking tray. I wanted mine to cook evenly so weighed each at approx 25g.
  6. Bake the rock cakes in a 200c oven for 12 minutes. Watch for the last minute, so they don’t over brown.
  7. Remove from oven and cool on cake cooler

Makes approx 24 biscuits

rock cakes packaged up to be sold at a school fete

14 comments… add one
  • Sherry from sherryspickings May 7, 2016, 6:14 am

    Rock cakes? Not sure I remember those but I bet mum used to make them. My niece tells me of all the food stuffs you can’t take to school anymore so she has to make vegan everything for her son and his mates. What is this world coming to when you can’t enjoy a normal cake?:). A must watch is the video by J P Sears on gluten intolerance. So funny!

    • Fiona Ryan May 7, 2016, 9:50 am

      Well that just sent me down a You Tube spiral. Where have you been all my life JP? I particularly liked the point about the level of intolerance being directly proportionate to the number of people around you. I’m off to watch his wisdom on coconut oil.

  • Jan Rhoades May 7, 2016, 9:28 am

    Oh such happy memories of rock cakes. My Dad used to make them in a flash, often using the heat in the oven once the Sunday roast had finished. Of course, we couldn’t afford butter so good old, cholesterol-developing, artery-clogging dripping was used. Not even ‘new’ lard…but beef dripping drained from aforementioned Sunday roast. Strange combination, beef dripping into sweet cakes…but it worked. Or maybe I just didn’t know any different.
    There was always a dripping pot sitting on our bench top (I loved the clear jelly underneath).
    The bench top which, by the way, was actually the cover over the cement washing tubs which also sat in our kitchen. And that was the only bench space we had…no $5000 piece of black granite in the Lyons Road kitchen. A copper in the corner, cement washing tubs, a gas stove and a small porcelain sink (with no hot water). We managed! But no longing to return to those ‘good old days’

    • Fiona Ryan May 7, 2016, 10:20 am

      I’m glad I could conjure up some memories. Yes, the good old days can stay back in the good old days.

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime May 7, 2016, 3:11 pm

    I have not made these since high school home economics. I have the recipe book at work and I wonder if our recipes are the same?

    • Fiona Ryan May 12, 2016, 3:05 pm

      I’m sure it would be the same. It looks like the type of book that would have been printed in the 1000s and distributed to highschools in all the Commonwealth countries!

  • Glenda May 9, 2016, 1:44 am

    Fiona, I love rock cakes. I make them periodically, not for any fete but for my tummy.

    • Fiona Ryan May 12, 2016, 3:04 pm

      And as you would know Glenda, these are a far cry from those bright yellow tasteless cakes that are sold in most commercial bakeries.

  • Mimi May 16, 2016, 12:04 am

    Have so much fun reading about things in your world. Things that I’ve never heard of. I do know what the word “fete” is, but there is nothing here that is called a fete. And rock cakes? Another unknown.

    So glad my daughters grew up pre-Pinterest!

    • Fiona Ryan May 18, 2016, 9:18 am

      I’m glad I can entertain you Mimi. I wouldn’t say rock cakes are in the ‘Top 10’ of cakes and biscuits in Australia but they are delightfully old fashioned. You often see rock cakes in bakeries as I think they are quick and cheap to make but for some reason, they have weird yellow food colouring in them. As to fetes – they are a fundraising activity that schools hold. The idea is to showcase children’s art, dancing, skills etc but we all know that people really go for the cakes and sweets and to buy an overcooked steak sandwich at the BBQ stall.

  • Gretchen May 29, 2016, 9:46 am

    I’ve learned so much today! Rock cakes, new to me. Feted also new. I’m thinking it would be similar to our school carnival. We don’t have food stalls though. You can’t even take treats into school anymore unless they are prepackaged due to allergies. What happened to good old homemade goodies?! As for Pinterest, I’ll decorate the boys’ birthday cake but nothing over the top. It’s good for inspiration, not imitation in the real world!

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2016, 12:04 pm

      Yes, a fete is like a carnival. Sometimes (rarely), they are called school fairs. It’s a chance for kids to display their art, singing and dancing (or lack thereof); for raffles to be run; there’s usually a book stall, white elephant (2nd hand) stall, cake stall and handicraft stall; there’s often rides and local community representatives such as the police or fire bring along their vehicles for kids to look at. Once upon a time it would have been about the kids but these days I would guess it’s the biggest fundraiser for a school, both public and private.

  • Liz Posmyk (Good Things) May 29, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Ah yes, good old Rock Cakes… I do so love these.

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2016, 12:06 pm

      It’s funny though Liz – so many people have no heard of them. Must because we are ‘old fashioned’.

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