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Sat, 10 December, 2022

Yorkshire parkin is a ginger cake on steroids. It’s far too nice to be eaten only on Bonfire Night!


‘Parkin’ apparently derives from the name Peter. They are an odd lot up there in Yorkshire, ee by gum.

But one thing is certain: they don’t do things by halves when it comes to sweets.

Parkin is seriously sweet and twice as spicy. Traditionally served on Bonfire Night in England, to go with toffee apples after baked potatoes and sausages, it goes back to 19th century.

yorkshire parkin

Bonfire Night treat

Bonfire Night used to be a huge holiday in England, commemorating the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a group of Catholic rebels led by one Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Houses of Parliament with Protestant King James attending.

Ever since then the failed coup has been celebrated throughout the country by lighting huge bonfires to burn ‘the Guy’ in: an effigy of whoever gained the most public animus in a given year.

Sadly that cheerfully defiant festivity has recently been dampened by all kinds of fire and safety regulations.

And it’s been overshadowed by Stateside-imported Halloween, with its commercialised and obesity-inducing trick-or-treating that has replaced going for the ‘penny for the guy’ rounds. After which the ‘guy’ would end up in the bonfire and standing round it, nothing would taste quite as good as a piece of parkin with a steaming, strong cuppa.

ginger parkin

What’s parkin made from?

Yorkshire parkin is made with oatmeal, and those folks from Lancashire don’t know nowt, making theirs with just flour. They can keep their Bosworth victory – York parkin wins every time.

Apart from oats, there are two intrinsically English ingredients in parkin: black treacle and golden syrup.

If you swap them for molasses and corn syrup, you might end up with a decent cake but it will be nobbut middlin’. Kiddin’ aside, honey will be closer to the mark as a substitution for golden syrup, and molasses for treacle when needs must.

Apart from the two above sweeteners, there’s also brown sugar in parkin, for a good measure.

The fat element used to be beef drippings, these days replaced by butter and eggs.

But the copious amount of spice, with ginger the most common and cheapest, remains unchanged from ancient to modern recipes, the latter my inspiration.

spiced parkin cake

How to make parkin?

It’s a saucepan cake: melting all the sugars with the butter then adding all the dry ones is all that’s needed for parkin batter.

parkin mix

It bakes forty minutes or so, until cooked through but not overbaked. If it pulls away from the sides ever so slightly, it’s there.

Parkin is the better, the longer it stands. Not quite in the realm of Christmas cake maturing time, but it’s gorgeous after a couple of weeks spent wrapped well in parchment and foil.

And there is absolutely no reason to restrict its serving to the 5th of November, especially now the holiday is in decline.

In my view it’s a wonderful Christmas bake, very well fit to replace the pudding that nobody likes anyway.

baked parkin cake

More Bonfire Night recipes

Cassoulet is not from Yorkshire or even England but it’s the ultimate comfort dish, perfect for a cold November night.

A version of parkin, ginger and molasses cake with fresh grated ginger added for the zing, and you don’t even need an electric mixer to make it.

Instead of baked potatoes, try crispy, smashed and roasted potatoes with tangy cream topping, so glorious you can skip the meat from your Sunday or Christmas roast.

bonfire night parkin

More ginger recipes

Thin and super-crunchy, spicy and melting, old fashioned ginger snaps are a snap to make! Grab that jar of stem ginger from the back of the cupboard and put the syrup to good use.

Orange and ginger flavoured flapjack, soft and chewy, buttery and slightly sticky. Make it plain as it is or add a handful of dried fruit or coconut flakes.

Ginger cake with marmalade or jam filling and a maple syrup glaze. My ginger cake with stem or crystallised ginger pieces and maple syrup icing is a perfect holiday cake and it’s stupidly easy to make.

parkin cake


Servings: 25Time: 50 minutes


  • 200g (1 stick plus 6 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 200g (23 cup) golden syrup
  • 50g (2 12 tbsp) black treacle
  • 200g (1 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 200g (1 23 cups) plain flour
  • 12 tsp baking powder
  • 12 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 12 tsp salt
  • 150g (1 23 cups) porridge oats
  • 2 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 160C no fan/300F/gas 3. Line a 24 x 24cm (9 inch) brownie tin with parchment.

2. In a medium saucepan place the butter, golden syrup, treacle and brown sugar. Melt over medium heat.

3. Stir the spices together with the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and oats. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mix in the saucepan, followed by the eggs. Whisk until smooth.

5. Pour the batter into the tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the parkin pulls away from the sides of the tin.

6. Cool completely in the tin, then wrap with the parchment in foil. Cut into small pieces on the following day.

7. Store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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