Baking rocks for the Holidays is a tradition in our family. The name “Rocks” sounds kind of iffy. But trust me, they are delicious.
Liz had never had them before. I turned off the computer, turned up the Christmas music, and convinced her to bake up a batch to take to Solstice. I was the right-hand cook, chopping dates, locating the buried hand mixer, digging out the muffin tins, stealing tasty swipes of raw batter while Liz rolled together the ingredients.
Mom sent me the recipe a few weeks ago, adding all the little tips and tidbits Aunt Cassie passed down to her. Recipes weren’t written down in the past. They were passed from mother to daughter by story and word of mouth. (When I called to ask my sister the baking time for smaller muffin tins, she was making Rocks, too! And was only a few steps behind Liz in the mixing.) Now recipes are passed on to fathers and sons. My brothers are as apt to bake as I am.
I searched high and low for the history of Rocks. I came up empty. They seem similar to the Rock Cakes that originated in England (and are featured in one of the Harry Potter books). The batter has some of the same ingredients. But, no, they’re not Rock Cakes.
Rocks are not cupcakes, cookies, or cake. They aren’t fruit cake either. They seem to be a variation of all of these recipes. I am sure they are Southern. But when I was surprised by a call from my Aunt Annette in South Carolina this morning, and told her I was making Rocks, she said, “What, Honey? Rocks?” She had never heard of Rocks in her family. That caused me to scratch my head since I thought they were well known and widespread across the South.
If anyone knows the history of Rocks, please feel free to chime in in the comments. Meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open and continue to research as I write my memoir.
There was another little surprise today. While I was working on this post tonight and watching the Vikings play the Redskins, my brother called from Pennsylvania to say they had just taken a family portrait and I was included.
“Hmmm, that’s curious,” I said, “since I’m sitting on the couch in Minnesota.”
“Oh,” Mom said when he passed the phone to her, “you were here alright, QuoinMonkey. Even had a cute little bow in your hair.”
“We’ll send you the photos,” my sister said. “We’re having a blast taking family Holiday portraits.”
Same sentiments when the phone passed to my other brother, step-dad, and sister-in-law. There was laughter all around. Stay tuned.
And now, Amelia’s Rock recipe. Southern style.
BAKING ROCKS – SOUTHERN STYLE
1 1/2 scant cups sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 1/2 cups nuts (chopped) (I always use pecans in my recipes)
1 box dates (about 2 cups, cut up) (Dromedary are best around here. Buy them whole and cut them into quarters; store-bought cut dates are coated and dry.)
2 1/2 cups plain flour (not self-rising flour) (sifted or fluffed with a fork; not packed or thumped; should be light and airy)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice (sift/fluff spices into flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda (in 2 tablespoons sour milk or warm water)
Cream butter and sugar.
Then gradually add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Gradually add flour and spice mix.
Mix soda in sour milk (or warm water). Fold into mixture, just until combined.
Stir in nuts and dates to coat all the pieces.
Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full.
Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 25 mins (or until toothpick comes out clean).
Rocks keep well and are better after the second day. Keep in covered container (you can also wrap in cloth towel). If they become too dry, add a slice of bread, broken up, to the container. They will absorb moisture from bread.
My recipes were written by Aunt Cassie and didn’t have any directions. We were suppose to know all the extras, so I wrote them in for you. Mixing really well makes a difference with a lot of cakes.
That’s Mom’s recipe for Rocks. I like them warm. Right out of the oven. But the best part of baking Rocks? Rocks smell like home.
-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
-related to post, Southern Banana Pudding – A Family Tradition