Parkin is a delicious ginger flavoured sponge cake associated with the north of England, particularly Lancashire and Yorkshire. There are regional variations, particularly with the use of spices and sugars – but this recipe keeps it simple and confines the spice to just powdered ginger.
Every Yorkshire family that’s worth its salt can make Parkin (sometimes called ‘Tharf cake’), and this is my mother-in-law’s recipe. As she is 95, and the recipe was passed to her in the family, you can see that it’s been around for a few years now.
Parkin has been baked in Yorkshire since the early 18th century and the early recipes used half oatmeal and half flour. Many Yorkshire cooks still use medium oatmeal as a part substitute for flour, but this recipe produces a lighter, stickier cake.
- Two mugs of self-raising flour (about 8 oz)
- I mug of light or dark brown sugar
- 2 generous teaspoons of dried powdered ginger
- 0.5 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 4 oz margarine
- I beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons of black treacle (or molasses)
- I mug of boiling milk
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Chop the margarine in small pieces and add to bowl
- Add treacle
- Pour the boiling milk over ingredients
- Add the beaten egg and mix all ingredients well
- The boiling milk will melt the margarine and blend the treacle into the dry ingredients to make a sticky sponge mix.
- Bake the mix in a square baking tin in a medium hot oven (around mark 6 gas/175 electric fan) for 30 minutes or until firm in the middle.
You can eat it warm – it’s delicious with custard – or it can be eaten as a cake. It keeps well in a tin and the taste and texture improves with time.
Parkin was traditionally cooked on ‘Plot Night’ (5th November) in Yorkshire and eaten outside around a roaring bonfire. No one really knows why it’s called ‘Parkin’, but as this was a common surname in Yorkshire, it may have gained this name to indicate its general popularity with families in the region.