I ate a fat rascal for the first time when I travelled oooop North. My priority – of course, was checking out Betty’s tearooms, because I am so cool and in with the hipsters, and all that.
Betty’s, I have to say, is fabulous. It has a well-deserved reputation as the grande dame of tearooms in Yorkshire. The food was generous, glorious, set in surroundings as olde worldly and quaint as you could wish for.
So, I had no idea what fat rascals were before I actually ate one, but it’s like a cross between a rock cake and a scone, stuffed full of pannettone-esque flavours. According to Wikipedia, they used to be made from leftover bits of pastry, that Yorkshire housewives would stuff with currants for a bit of bedazzle. Now, they are most recognisable in the Betty’s incarnation, which has a cute face on the front, fashioned from glacé cherries and almonds.
Of course, I had a hankering for a fat rascal as soon as I got home. You can order them online, but at £8 for a box of four? Eeek, I was going to try making them myself.
The only problem is that the Bettys’ recipe itself is a closely guarded secret. All you have to go on is the knowledge it is based on a rock cake recipe, and the ingredients themselves, which are listed on the Betty’s website. So armed with these, I decided to do some kitchen experimentation.
First, I considered the proportions of a traditional rock cake recipe:
- 8oz flour
- 3 oz butter
- 2/3 oz sugar
So I could use 8 oz flour as a starting point. Butter forms 17% of Bettys’ fat rascals. So if I measured up all the ingredients for rock cakes, accounting for dried fruit too, there would be around 4 oz butter in the recipe.
So flour and butter proportions seemed pretty clear. There was less sugar than butter, so I decided the rest of the recipe could run along standard rock cake proportions, and I would see how it turned out.
My first batch of fat rascals were rather craggier than the ones for sale in Bettys’ but they were scrumptious with a wonderfully short crumbly texture, and magnificent flavour. With all the dried fruit, I thought I could include less sugar next time.
Then I started on my second batch with less sugar, and decided to eggwash half, and leave the other half plain. I baked this entire batch at 200˚C. The glazed fat rascals were slightly shiner than the unglazed ones, but they were all equally well-coloured. With the reduced sugar, they tasted even better. However, they did still look pretty craggy, and when I compared them to the Betty’s fat rascals, they were a lot smaller.
For comparison purposes, here is the actual fat rascal from Bettys, look how enormous it is!
So for the third batch, I split the dough up into fewer portions, so each fat rascal would be a lot fatter. To compensate for the increased baking time the larger rascals would require, I reduced the oven temperature to 180˚C, and chose not to eggwash them, in case that contributed towards cracking on the surface. They still looked a little cracked, and I realised towards the end of baking I forgot to throw in any zest, but they still tasted good!
Well, until I next trek up to North Yorkshire, there’s plenty of substitutes in the cake tin to keep me busy for a while!
Makes 6 small rascals, or 4 large rascals
- 8 oz/225g self-raising flour
- 4 oz/110g salted butter
- 2 oz/50g caster sugar
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- zest from 1 lemon
- zest from 1 orange
- 2 oz/50g currants
- 2 oz/50g mixed peel
- 1 egg
- 50ml whole milk
- 12 glace cherries
- 18 blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
Rub the butter and flour together form fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar, mixed spice, citrus zest, currants and mixed peel.
In a jug, beat together the egg and milk. Pour in 3/4 of the egg-milk into the rubbed in mixture and stir together with a knife to bring together into a slightly wet, soft sticky dough. Don’t overwork or it will toughen the texture.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, and divide into four or six portions. Form each one into a ball. Lay them out on a baking tray, well spaced apart.
Glaze each fat rascal with the remaining egg-milk, if desired. Then stud two glace cherries for eyes, and three blanched almonds for a mouth, very closely together, to account for spreading during baking. Pop into the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until fragrant and golden brown.