Monday, 4 April 2016

Rock On 1940s Style

In terms of its storyline, ‘Interrupted Journey’ (1949) is possibly the worst film I have ever seen. I can’t bring myself to describe it to you, it’s so laborious. It starts off right enough, but towards the end, it really does go to pot.  The film stars Valerie Hobson and Richard Todd.  Valerie is stunningly beautiful throughout, but I’m afraid that this doesn’t rescue the utter shambles.

The one bright moment is an appearance by Dora Bryan. She never puts in a bad performance and I always like to see her. She plays a waitress in the Paddington Station buffet, where she flogs Richard and his mistress a coffee and a rock cake each. This was the end of Dora’s delightfully distracted cameo, and so there was no more to do than to fall into a rock cake reverie. I began to wonder why the rock cake is so ubiquitous in 1940s culture. Were there a plate of them on offer in Joyce Carey’s ‘Brief Encounter’ buffet? I feel sure there must have been.  They certainly appear in my favourite book ‘One Fine Day’ by Mollie Panter-Downes (1947).  Here they are referred to as “rock keeks” by the snooty bakery assistant – and this is how I always pronounce them to myself after reading that (using Joyce Carey’s 1940s voice).

I followed up my viewing of ‘Interrupted Journey’ with a baking session – having found a rock keek recipe in my old 1950s Good Housekeeping cookbook. The recipe was simple:
7 oz Self Raising Flour
3 oz Butter or Marg
3oz Sugar
3oz Dried Mixed Fruit
Small egg
Drop of milk
Sprinkle of nutmeg/mixed spice
Just mix it all up, stick a few splats on a flat baking tray and shove them in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Bit too much milk, should be a bit rockier shaped, but you get the idea
The verdict was a good one.  My notoriously picky children, who drive me to distraction with their weird food attitudes (I’ve got one that doesn’t like custard and ice cream, for pity’s sake), shovelled them down like there was no tomorrow. I was able to take one to work for my morning snack for a few days after they were baked. They were so easy to make and they were plain but filling. So I suppose that the answer to the question of why the rock cake was a rationing era stalwart is as follows:
·        Quick and easy to do, no matter how long you’ve been awake fire-watching and queueing for dried eggs you won’t go wrong.
·        Low on ingredients – nothing fancy.  These things are mostly flour and you can probably get away with dried egg and water in them with enough flavouring
·        They can be shoved in the oven with something else and then last for quite a few days afterwards (I made another batch that was still fine 3 days later)

I will be baking more rock keeks. They are very suitable for our new modern day frugality.

Now that we've done baking I'd just like to carry on with the domestic goddess in a headscarf and curlers attitude.  I've done a new book all about sewing with those iconic Sylko bobbins. You can buy it now on Amazon.  Some very nice things have been said about it:

Click here to go to my Amazon page


  1. Is it terrible that this makes me want to bake rock 'keeks' and see how awful ‘Interrupted Journey’ is? ;)


  2. Not at all! Interrupted Journey is still probably better than a lot of modern films. And I've done several batches of rock keeks since writing this. They keep me going at work.

  3. I've made these rock cakes several times since I came across this (fantastic) blog and here is the latest batch: Thanks!