Brighton rock cakes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For


    rock cakes

Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

Usually these buns appear as ‘Rock cakes’ or ‘Rock buns’ in old cookery books, but in 1854 two recipes for Brighton rock cakes appeared in George Read’s The Complete Biscuit and Gingerbread Baker’s Assistant. Read gives a recipe for Brighton rock cakes and another for Brighton pavillions. The latter are made the same way as Brighton rock cakes, but are finished with a topping of currants and coarse sugar that, he says, should be ‘as large as a pea’.

You can still buy Brighton rock cakes in the seaside town of Brighton at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe. The open-air kiosk at Brighton Pavilion has been selling Brighton rock cakes since 1940, and possibly even longer if we look at Read’s recipe from 1854. Rock cakes are popular throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and often appear in literature. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid serves them to Harry and Ron, and Agatha Christie also mentions them in more than one novel.

This recipe for Brighton rock cakes contains candied cedro, but most rock cakes only contain currants, so you can easily leave it out.


  • 225 g (8 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 100 g ( oz) raw (demerara) sugar or white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tbsp mixed spice
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 75 g ( oz) chilled butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp full-fat milk
  • 50 g ( oz) currants
  • 30 g (1 oz) candied cedro (optional)
  • 3 glacé cherries, halved, to garnish (optional)
  • nibbed sugar, to garnish (optional)


Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg, then add enough milk to bring the dough together without making it too wet. If the dough is too dry to press together, add a teaspoon of milk.

Fold the currants and candied cedro through the dough. Form six rock cakes using two forks – this will help achieve a rugged, rocky look. Place on the baking tray and decorate with the cherries and sugar, if using. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes until the rock cakes have a golden blush.