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  Parkin - the ginger cake of the North.


Parkin (allegedly from Yorkshire, but just as tasty in Lancashire) is a traditional ginger cake made around Bonfire Night (November the 5th). It's one of those recipes that your mother or grandmother or a neighbour would make and take to the bonfire that someone had build in a nearby field (this was in the days before they invented Health & Safety and organised bonfires).

I've struggled to find a perfect recipe, but what I can say is that there's many different variations and they're probably nice. The basic ingredients are oats, black treacle (I think Americans call this molasses) and ginger.


The method is very simple: mix all the wet / sugary ingredients in a pan until they melt, then mix with the dry ingredients. Then bake in a well-greased tin at a low heat (I use 125 Celsius (about 260 Farenheit) in an electric fan oven). Bake until set throughout (test by sticking a knife in - it's cooked when no runny mixture comes out with the blade). Most people say you should then leave it to mature for a few days... in my house, it's all eaten within two days so I've never bothered with that!

What varies is the ingredients.

My Mum's Ingredients:

I find this a bit dry, and bizarrely there's no black treacle. And no sugar, just loads of golden syrup.

4 oz (112g) oatmeal (or rolled oats - it makes no difference which)
4 oz (112g) self raising flour (that's wheat flour with built-in raising agents)
1 oz (28g) marg / butter / lard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz (112g) golden syrup
Pinch of salt

My Current Recipe:

This is based on the BBC recipe, but with a couple of tweaks. The things I like about this recipe is that the ginger beer makes it really moist, and the vast amount of ground ginger makes it really gingery (it leaves a slight burning in the mouth). Note that it doesn't really matter what kind of sugar / treacle / syrup you use, but traditionally the darker the better.

200g (7 oz) butter / marg
1 egg (beat well and mix with the dry ingredients)
100g (4 oz) golden syrup
150g (6 oz) black treacle (molasses)
85g (3 oz) sugar (white, brown, whatever)
100g (4 oz) oats (or oatmeal)
250g (9 oz) self raising flour (that's the sort with built-in raising agents)
25g (1 oz) ground ginger (for a milder taste, try 3 teaspoons)
100 ml (4 fl. oz., 1/2 cup) ginger beer (the fizzy drink, NOT sugar-freet)

Fudgy parkin variant:

The recipe is great to experiment with. I wanted to combine toffee sauce with the parkin. So I took "My Current Recipe" above and replaced the ginger beer with 150 ml (6 fl. oz.) of double cream (that's the sort with abound 50% fat content). Then I gently simmered the sugar, butter, syrup, treacle and cream for 10 minutes to create a toffee sauce. Boiling sugar is an art - test the consistency by putting a teaspoon of the mixture into a jug of cold water; when the blob cools down (about 1 minute), it should be soft but not runny. If it's still runny, boil for another minute and try again.

When you have a suitable toffee sauce, mix well with the dry ingredients and egg, then bake as above.

The result is VERY yummy with a hint of a fudgy consistency. However, it's very soft and crumbly - maybe it would be better to add another 1 or 2 eggs.


      © 2008 Mat Bennion