I’m ashamed to say that, despite my Yorkshire heritage, until fairly recently, I hadn’t tried parkin. I knew about it: a ginger-based cake featuring oats and treacle, traditionally using dried ginger as the spice. I didn’t really see how could it be that different from normal ginger cake, and was highly sceptical about it being preferable. It sounded dry, and maybe a bit one dimensional. But how wrong I was.
Parkin is its own cake, rather than a poor imitation, and it works brilliantly: the oats lend a nubbly texture, while the hefty dose of dried ginger gives a real heat to the cake. Parkin is traditionally enjoyed on Guy Fawkes Night, which makes sense: the slabs of smokey, spice-warmed cake are perfect for scoffing around a bonfire – the dense sweetness an antidote to the inevitable November chill.
So it might seem strange then that I’m proffering this recipe a couple of weeks in advance of Bonfire Night, but there is method in my madness. Parkin only gets better with time; OK, it might not quite be in the fine wine or cheese school of improving as it matures, but give it a week or even two after baking, and it will get denser – squidgier, stickier – and more complex in flavour.
Makes: 16 squares
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 50 minutes
160 golden syrup
110 dark muscovado sugar
200g self raising flour
150g medium-cut oats
1.5 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon salt
1. Line a nine by nine inch square cake tin with baking paper, and preheat the oven to 140°C.
2. Heat the golden syrup, treacle, butter and sugar together over a low flame, stirring gently, until melted; don’t allow to boil.
3. Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together. Pour the melted sugar and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula or wooden spoon.
4. Using a fork, mix the milk and eggs together, breaking the egg up, and pour this into the rest of the mixture, stirring to combine.
5. Bake for 90 minutes, by which time the cake should be slightly puffed and quite firm. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling completely.