Yorkshire Parkin

God, I love Yorkshire parkin. If you are not familiar with it, it’s a strongly-spiced sticky gingerbread-cum-cake flavoured with treacle and dark brown sugar that is traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes Night (the fifth of November, aka Bonfire Night) and for me, it is what makes that day complete. It seems like it should be a recipe that has always been, but the earliest mention of it I can find from a primary source in my research is from 1842; a certain Richard Oastler wrote a letter to Sir Thomas Thornhill (who would later become the High Sherrif of Suffolk and a Tory MP) telling him that  he’d recieved one on the 1st day of March from Mrs John Leach of Huddersfield.  The recipe does go back a little further than that though; most likely created some time during the Industrial Revolution by working-class folk as oats and treacle were important elements of the diet in those times. The word parkin was a popular surname in Yorkshire and means Peter. There are other parkins – such as Lancashire parkin – but it doesn’t contain oats and is not, in my very biased opinion, as good because of it.

Making this cake, really brought memories of Bonfire Night as a child growing up in Yorkshire and I must admit, I did have a massive pang of homesickness. Fireworks and bonfires are all well and good, but for me it is always about the food.

This cake has to be eaten to be believed; it will instantly make you feel a million times better if you are feeling down, now that the clocks have gone back. It has to be eaten with a piping hot cup of tea in one hand, preferable in front of a roaring bonfire. Failing that, a roaring fire inside with the dog.

The ingredients are very important here – any non-Brits may not be aware of two of the key ingedients: black treacle and golden syrup. Black treacle is essentially molasses so you can easily substitute there. However, many recipes that ask for golden syrup suggest using corn syrup as an alternative. Please, please, please do not do that. They are incomparable, find a shop with a British ‘aisle’ and get the real thing. Accept no substitute. The history of Lyle’s Golden Syrup is an interesting one and I shall tackle that in another post soon, along with some more golden syrup-based recipes. The recipe calls for weights of treacle and syrup – the best way to do this without creating a nighmarish sticky mess of a kitchen, is to place your saucepan onto the weighing scales, tare them, and then add the syrup and treacle directly.

One last thing… almost as important as the ingredients, is the aging of the parkin. No matter how tempting it may be, do not eat the parkin on the day you have made it. It needs to be kept in an airtight box or tin for at least three days. The cake needs a bit of time for the flavours and stickiness to develop.

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225 g butter

110 g soft dark sugar

60 g black treacle (or molasses)

200 g golden syrup

140 g medium oatmeal (often sold sold as quick-oats)

200 g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp mixed spice

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tbs milk

Preheat the oven to 140⁰C (275⁰F) and lightly grease a square (21 x 21 cm) 7 x 7 inch cake tin. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, brown sugar, black treacle and golden syrup. It is important to do this on a medium-low heat, you don’t the sugars to boil, just to meld together.

Whilst they are melding, stir all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and when the syrup mixture is ready, tip it in. Use a wooden spoon to beat the wet ingredients into the dry. Now incorporate the eggs – do this bit-by-bit, or you run the risk of curdling the mixture. Lastly, slacken the mixture with the milk and pour the whole lot into your cake tin.

Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes and cool it in the tin. Once cool, keep the parkin in an air-tight cake tin or tub and keep for at least three days before cutting into squares.



Filed under Biscuits, cake, food, history, Recipes, Teatime

50 responses to “Yorkshire Parkin

  1. I’d heard of a parkin, whether or not that is the same as a Yorkshire parkin I don’t know. It sounds lovely though.


    • Carol Himsworth

      Im a Yorkshire lass and have made Yorkshire Parkin on numerous occasions, the best way is to once cooled wrap in cling wrap or tin foil and put in air tight tin and leave for at least 3 week, Thats if you can bear to leave it that long, ooooh its very painful, taste buds tingle thinking about it. The flavours are devine and the outerside texture should be slightly sticky. Now see what you think, enjoy!!!!


  2. Kathryn Marsh

    If you really, really can’t get golden syrup (and it was unobtainable in Tulsa when I lived there) you can substitute light molasses for all the golden syrup and about half the black treacle. The flavour isn’t quite right but it does get properly sticky. As you say, corn syrup simply doesn’t work – it just won’t mature and moisten properly. I always run scotch tape round the edge of the cake tin to make sure it is fully airtight.
    Those pictures of both the mixture and the finished parkin look absolutely perfect to me – congratulations


    • buttery77

      Thanks Kathryn! I was pretty good I must say.

      I’ve never spotted the light molasses in the supermarkets, but then now I have the real thing I don’t have to worry, but it certainly useful for other folks…


  3. And yummy it was, though I didn’t have any tea. I’m thinking it would go well with bourbon too, an entirely different effect. I don’t have self-raising flour. Is that something commonly used in ancient or modern Britain? Does it just have baking powder and maybe salt in it? Why not start with regular flour? Please advise.


    • buttery77

      Hi Joan

      Self-raising flour is found with the normal flour in the supermarket. I tjust has some raising agents already mixed in it. I expect you can just add an extra half teaspoon of baking powder or whatever to get the same effect. It’s very useful to have in the store cupboard though


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  9. Thanks for this – I’m going to veganise this to make tomorrow. Looking forward to checking out the rest of your blog.


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  12. We made a Parkin (or would it just be “we made Parkin”?) to go along with my kids’ history lesson this week! The recipe in their history book called for molasses and honey, and it didn’t say anything about letting it sit before eating. Nor did it mention the tea and the fire. 🙂 I can’t do anything about the golden syrup at this point, but at least I know to put it away for a day or two before we try it. Thanks for the info!


  13. Hi Buttery77 I am trying to find a recipe for Parkin, to make it as I remember it. The ones we ate had pinhead oats in it (I think) as it was quite “gritty”. I think it had vinegar in it too. Any suggestions ?


    • Hi Marie – sorry for the slow reply. I’ve checked loads of recipes and I’ve not found a single one with vinegar in it! I assume it is there to activate the bicarbonate of soda/bsking powder to get a good rise.

      All the recipes I looked up used medium oatmeal, and it does give a gritty texture to it. Pinhead and fine oatmeal is hard to find these days and I admit to never having used it before.

      Hope my vagueness is some help there!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Pete

      Paul Hollywood has a 19th Century recipe that uses vinegar.


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  20. I love golden syrup 🙂 I made this 3 days ago and have tried a slice – it’s incredibly gingery and sticky, but I think will improve further with age so I’m trying to hold off for a bit longer before eating any more – wish me luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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  22. Jonathan Atkinson

    Parkin Parkin three dogs a Barkin

    Liked by 1 person

  23. alyskatharine

    Forgive the proofreading, but isn’t “want” wanting after “don’t” in this sentence? “It is important to do this on a medium-low heat, you don’t the sugars to boil, just to meld together.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  26. Chris

    Blend your oats if you don’t like the gritty tast

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Anne Leyland-Jones

    I’ve just made this for the second time, it’s absolutely delicious! I love the texture and the flavour is complex and full of depth, just wow! I only managed to wait three days before cutting into it but next time might try three weeks as others have suggested. Thank you so much for sharing! XX

    Liked by 1 person

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