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Parkin for bonfire night

November 4, 2011
Sparklin’ for Parkin

Parkin is a traditional Yorkshire cake, much like gingerbread but more solid due to the addition of oatmeal. There are, as with most British traditions, many variations (wikipedia says so) It can also be known as “perkin” and there are all sorts of treacle/dark-sugar/egg-no-egg/golden-syrup debates surrounding it. I’d never come across parkin until I met Mr B who always and only ever had it on bonfire night as a child. So, since tomorrow is the time of bonfires I thought I’d give it a go, and look – you’re just in time to make one too.

The BBC “cook the perfect” programme  has recently tackled parkin but I decided to go with a National Trust recipe as it looked closest to what I was expecting and sounded as if it might be slightly less brick-like than the cook the perfect recipe. Also, if the National Trust can’t be relied on for a British tradition, who can be?

As is so often the case with my baking, things did not go entirely to plan, mainly due to my forgetfulness. I failed on three counts:

1.Having written a shopping list I failed to look at it and therefore forgot to buy the pretty key ingredient of oats. I had some plain granola which wasn’t too sweet so I thought I’d use that instead and leave out some of the sugar.

2. My baking powder ran out at 1/2 a tsp so I consulted the internet and then made do with a little cream of tartar and a bit of bicarb

3. I didn’t have as much treacle as I thought, so ran out of treacle. I made up the rest with a mixture of golden syrup and dark muscavado sugar.

So here you have it, my entirely unscientific and very cobbled together parkin recipe. [there are more photos here]

Put some mittens on, pack a slab of parkin and get thee to a firework display


Courtesy of Beningbrough Hall and the National Trust

8 oz fine oatmeal (or not-too sugary oat granola if you are super forgetful like me)
1 tsp baking powder (or a bit of baking powder, a bit of cream of tartar and a bit of bicarb of soda)
3 tsp ground ginger (I managed that bit)
8 oz [Yorkshire] plain flour
8 oz brown sugar (I only used 7oz because of the sugar in the granola.)
8 oz black treacle (or half treacle and the rest made up of golden syrup and dark muscavado sugar)
4 oz [Yorkshire] butter
1 large [Yorkshire] free range egg
250 ml milk

Grease and line a large tin (25 x 15 x 8 cm ) / 2 lb loaf tin
Sieve the flour, baking powder, and ginger together.
Add the oatmeal.
Put the treacle, butter and sugar into a pan and melt slowly. Beat the egg with the milk.
Add the treacle mixture to the flour and beat well. Finally add the egg and milk.
Mix thoroughly and pour into tin.
Cook for 1/2hr at 170°c/325 F (gas mark 3) and then continue to cook 150°c/300 F (gas mark 2) for a further 1/2hr. Test with a skewer.

If you have time, it’ll improve when left to mature for a few days before cutting into squares or slices. 

I roped Mr B into helping me take photos and we had a lot of fun with mini sparklers.

General consensus was that the granola worked well because it gave a bit of bite to the cake and brought out the taste of golden syrup. I really liked it, especially the edges where it went crunchy. However, if authenticity is your aim, then the parkin that Mr B remembers was drier and  when asked if it was heavier he replied “yes, in fact it’s not possible for it to be too dense really”. So, if you want to be true to parkin’s roots maybe you should be brave and go for the brick-like recipe after all!  

Safe sparkling, and happy bonfire night.
Love from Pigling Bland

Give me a sparkler and I’ll grin like a loon

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 8, 2011 9:32 am

    Yum. I have to say it felt really nice eating the right cake on the right date – I’m not usually one to bother with such things but I did enjoy it. Parkin is so lovely – everyone should have it!

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