Monday, November 1, 2010


Mike recently said "it's Cinder Toffee Season!". I disagree. It's Parkin Season.

I don't know if there is some regional variance going on in our seasonal baking habits, but I'm a solidly Yorkshire lass and Parkin is so associated with Bonfire night for me that one wouldn't be right without the other.

This recipe is unashamedly descended from Jill Metcalfe's, which I found on the Internet in circa 1999 and have used since, as it tastes just like the cake I ate on bonfire nights throughout my youth.

There are two things I must say about Parkin.

1. Parkin MUST contain oat bran. Any parkin without this isn't right and has probably been made by a non-native (ie someone from outside of Yorkshire who doesn't really understand what they are doing when it comes to Parkin), or a chain bakery who are using bonfire night as an excuse to sell overly-sweet plain ole' ginger cake. The oat bran gives this cake a unique nutty, crumbly texture - it's quite dense without being stodgy or dry, and is just the thing to keep you going on cold nights.

2. Parkin MUST be made AT LEAST one week before you want to eat it. You take it out of the oven, let it cool, wrap it up and leave it well alone (no matter how nice it tastes) for at least a week. This improves the flavour - it gets more complex and rich. I once met someone who said 'I don't make my Parkin a week ahead, I put so much black treacle in it doesn't matter!*". I tasted some of that cake - and whilst it was very nice, it didn't taste like Parkin, it tasted like Liquorice. Which is nice, but not what we are after. If you don't believe me, make 2 batches a week apart and eat them on the same day. You'll see what I mean.

The Parkin Recipe

200g self-raising flour
200g oatmeal (bigger supermarkets sell this, it's usually near porridge oats)
100g treacle
100g golden syrup (you can vary the ratio of syrup and ginger or even do 200g of one without the other if you wish- follow your taste buds here)
100g margarine or butter
125 ml milk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground ginger

Warm the treacle/syrup gently with the butter and milk.

Stir in the dry ingredients.

Pour into a square greased tin (a square one of about 20 cm should be about right) and bake at 160° C (325° F / Gas 3) on the middle shelf for about 1 hour (a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean).

Leave the cake to cool, wrap up well in an airtight container and leave for one week before eating to let the flavour develop.

EDIT: I later recalled 2 variation on your basic Parkin which I consider wrth sharing.
1. Tina Sparkle (the lady behind the Dutch Bonfire Cake who can, by the way, be found here) reccomends substituting some of the golden syrup with half a jar of ginger jam. Sticky heaven.
2. I have been known to swap 25g of the flour for cocoa powder to create Chocolate Parkin. It is quite a popular addition.

*This cake did not contain oat bran and was made by a non-native. I rest my case.

"I'm going to talk about cake..."

A couple of months ago I did a talk at Bettakultcha, an open public lecture series that gives you five minutes to talk about something you're passionate about. That talk is on Youtube, so it would be remiss of me not to put it on T&C!

I'm doing a longer version of this talk in Sheffield on Nov 13th.